Walking home from a neighborhood tavern after too many drinks, and too late at night I became aware of myself lying on the ground as a large, young black man hit me in the face yelling, "Where's the money?"
I tried to push him away, so I could get to the pepper foam I carry in my front pocket. He was immovable, and hit me harder, yelling again, "Where's the money?" and feeling my pockets for a wallet.
Before he could tear my wallet out of my pants a larger black man appeared. He kicked my assailant in the ribs. When my assailant turned around, my rescuer hit him in the jaw, knocking him out. "Are you hurt, sir?" he asked me in an African accent.
"Not as bad as he is," I replied. "Thanks a lot. You came just in time."
"I wish I had come sooner," the black man said. "I think he hurt you."
"It could have been worse," I said. "I might have died. I took karate lessons in high school, but that was awhile ago."
"I like to watch karate tournaments," the black man said. "I am from Uganda. My name is Araali Baruli. My ring name is The African Lion. I am a professional wrestler."
I shook his hand. "My name is Larry Crawford. I am a computer programmer."
"Do you live near here?" Araali asked.
"Yes. My wife and I moved in several months ago because of affordable rents. This is close to where I work."
"This neighborhood can be dangerous after dark," Araali said. "You must be careful, Sir."
"Yes," I replied. "I admit that I need to learn some street smarts."
"Do not be out after dark if you can help it," Araali told me. "Do not drink too much."
"Thank you. If someone told me that yesterday I may not have listened. Do you live near here?"
"Yes. I train at the Stillman Weight Center. Perhaps some evening you and your wife will watch me wrestle."
"We would enjoy it."
"I would be honored, Sir."
I was not used to being called "Sir," and it made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but if Araali wanted to call me that, I did not feel like complaining.
By now my assailant was beginning to stir. "What happened?" he asked.
"You hurt a good man," Araali answered. "If you try to run I will hit you again."
I got my cell phone out of my briefcase and called the police. Two police cars arrived. One took my assailant to jail. The other took me to the emergency room of a hospital. I had a bad black eye in my left eye, and my left eye was bloodshot, but an examination revealed no permanent damage.
When my wife came to pick me up she had obviously been crying. When she saw Araali she hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "You're our hero. My husband might have been killed. I cannot thank you enough."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Araali said, obviously embarrassed by my wife's public display of affection.
I marveled at the physical contrast between my wife and my new friend. My wife is slightly over five feet tall, and slightly under 105 pounds. Araali looked like he was at least six feet four inches tall, and he must have weighed about 220 pounds. My wife has dark brown hair, and brown eyes, but her skin is pearly white. Araali is so black he is almost purple.
The trial was brief. There was no doubt about the guilt of the defendant. Araali and I testified against him. For evidence there were photographs of what I looked like after the attack, as well as a doctor's report. The defendant had been in and out of reform school and prison since he was ten years old. He attacked me while on parole for an earlier crime. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.
After the trial Araali, my wife, and I went to a restaurant. Araali was shy and seemed uncomfortable in the presence of my small, delicate, shapely, and very pretty wife. His shyness was difficult to understand in a man who was so physically impressive. For that same reason it was touchingly appealing.
I had wanted to draw him out and get him to tell us about himself. Instead, he was as tongue tied as a fifteen year old boy on his first date. So I began, "My wife Alice and I dated in high school and attended the same college where we both studied computer science. After working for several years with different companies, we both got jobs with the Bank of America in this city, so we moved in six months ago.
"As I am learning, the neighborhood can be dangerous. Nevertheless, other young professionals are moving in. The area seems to be gentrifying a bit. Alice and I prefer the cultural amenities of a big city. We would be bored living in the suburbs."
"Please tell us about yourself," my wife began."Why did you move to the United States? Larry tells me that you are a professional wrestler. How did you get into that?"
"I am from Uganda," Araali began. "I am of the Baruli clan, which is part of the Batoora tribe. We are a tribe of mighty warriors. Idi Amin was afraid of us. My father is named Baboya Baruli. He is a head man in my village.
"When I was a boy my hero was your Arnold Schwarzenegger. I wanted to be just like him. I had just learned English in school, so I developed my skill by reading every body building and weight lifting magazine I could. When I was fifteen my father bought me a barbell set for Christmas. I soon began to exercise for hours every week.
"I was always big and strong for my age. Now I became much stronger. I used my strength to protect others from bullies. I never could understand how bullies thought they became big men by picking on boys who had no chance to fight back and win. The bullies had no chance against me. I fought them and won.
"After I finished school a wrestling promoter from the United States who was on vacation in Uganda found me, and offered to establish me in the United States."
"We are very glad you are here," my wife said. "What do you think of the United States?"
"Your country is very beautiful," Araali began. "I am privileged to be here. But it still feels strange. In my country people respect their parents and teachers. In this country many do not. That makes me sad. Many do not even know who their fathers are. When I was growing up my father told me about our ancestors, and how mighty they were in hunting and war. I wanted to become like them."
"Your father must be proud that you are a successful professional wrestler in America," my wife said.
Araali smiled proudly. "Thank you, Mrs. Crawford. He is."
When we were finished with our meals I was going to pick up the tab, but Araali insisted on paying for it himself. "Please let me," he said. "You are good people. I am honored to have you as friends. I hope some time you can see me wrestle."
"We will watch," my wife said. "We will enjoy it."
Although I had been interested in the martial arts, eastern and western since I took karate lessons as a teenager, I had never had much interest in professional wrestling. It is staged. Most of the techniques would not work in an actual fight.
Professional wrestling matches are often morality plays between good and evil. Because Alice and I lived in a city with a large black population, and because the audience was mainly black, the African Lion represented good. He was a crowd favorite. As he walked down the row of the arena he wore an authentic lion skin cape. He was cheered loudly. When he stepped into the ring he began to give a convincing lion's roar. The audience loved it.
.... There is more of this story ...