I walk in and shake hands with everyone. The place is so steamy that you can't see outside the windows. It's kind of like it's the only place in the world,. None of the other places on the entire street of Lombard are like this; the steam is from sweat.

I go to the back of the building and slip on the extra layers that I am required to wear. First the solid plastic chest protector, then the under vest, followed by the over vest. I pick up my mask and glove and leave the clothing area. I walk back out and sit down.

A girl my age walks up and challenges me. I agree, and we walk out to a spare lane. We salute, and then take the en guarde position. She starts forward, I retreat—I parry, I riposte, she parries, she ripostes, she feints, I lunge—I miss, she stabs my shoulder. We continue in this manner for four more bouts, and then take a short rest. As she sits down, I go to the back to wash my hands in cool water and get some water.

I look in the mirror that is conveniently placed over the sink in the back room. I hardly recognize the disheveled girl staring me in the face. Only the eyes tell me that she indeed is me, the light blue eyes now gleaming with passion for my rough sport. A fire blazes in them, and I look at my hand. It is slightly bruised and my shoulder has a slight cut that I promise to get seen to later. I grin foolishly at the strange girl in the mirror, so strange yet so familiar.

What possesses me to do this, I wonder. What fiend claims my heart, soul, mind and body to make me go out there and fight? Why do I force myself?

I'm addicted.

My heart was captured by the clashing steel of the three foot long thin blades that we use to beat on each other. My soul was taken hostage by my want to win. My mind was shoved aside like a meaningless feather by the mad, unstoppable rush of adrenaline. My body is merely punished for my love of the fight.

I'm a fencer, and I'm addicted to my sport. I'm consumed with a passion so great, words are useless. I'm captivated by the shimmering, ringing blades that move so fast you cannot see them, the exhilaration. . .

Twice a week for eight months I've been doing this to myself. I can't stop. Bumps, bruises, scrapes, shed blood, I suffer, but I can't stop.

I am addicted to clashing steel. Life is a second thought when you're behind the mask, because all that exists is you, the sword, your opponents' sword, and the opponent. Whether it is foil, sabre, or epee, all fencers, if they love their sport as I do, have one thing in common. We all are addicted to the shining, graceful, painful blades of our ancient sport.