Failure is something most people will experience. In this story we learn how the main character Wallace reacts to failure and lost. After losing his fighting match Wallace loses control of emotions and uses anger as a coping mechanism. Wallace will come face to face with a man that will challenge his emotions. He makes the decision to go back to his daughter and ex-partner to escape trouble. After meeting up with a mysterious women Wallace makes the realization of what life would be without fighting.

“You’ll Apologize If You Have To” by Ben Fowlkes shows how dealing with failure can lead to aggression.

The main character Wallace experiences loss after losing a fighting match. After being knocked out by his opponent Wallace makes the decision to go out for a walk a, smoke a joint, and process his defeat as he comes face to face with a man : “So you’re the one who’s been smoking weed back here”, the man in the green jacket said. He said it with a smile on his face, but it didn’t look to Wallace like a smile that was meant to convey any form of happiness” (p.85). Wallace got irritated by his facial expressions which seemed cocky. To him it did not come off as being genuine. Wallace was in a bad mood and looking for trouble: “There was no question whether Wallace could take him, but the last thing he needed was to get into something physical. This didn’t seem like the kind of dude you got into scrap with. This seemed like the kind of dude you assaulted” (p.85). He was unable to have control of his thoughts. Wallace being a fighter, I think he gets easily frustrated which boosts’ his adrenaline level. Therefore, he is not use to processing and taking the time to think about his actions. He knew he wasn’t physically capable of fighting, but it still had crossed his mind. This reflects how Wallace is use to using violence to cope with his emotions, and the only way he learned to express them. Wallace was incapable of getting rid of his thoughts which led him to get even more agitated by the man: “Now, now, now went his heartbeat. It’d take him hours to calm down. It’d fuck up his whole afternoon “(p.86). After losing his fight Wallace never got in touch with his feelings and never expressed his pain. Not having any coping mechanisms he made the decision to his go back to his past life, from the fear of having the cops knock on his door. I don’t think Wallace was angry towards the man, I just think it was the first person he came into contact with after the fight which pushed him over the edge. The man in the green jacket was being an asshole and bothering Wallace and ruining his good day, this triggered him. He just wanted some peace and quit. Wallace anger kept rising to the point that he could no longer take it. Wallace then loses control: “ That did it. Wallace clapped his hand on the man’s shoulder, grabbing a handful of his green jacket” (p.86). He politely asked him if they could both go their separate ways. But the man didn’t care. Wallace made the man slip into the mud, as he sunk; he left lighting up his joint without any care in the world. This not only represents how much Wallace has been deeply hurting inside for the past few days. It always had been an issue, when a problem presents itself he runs away and expects everything to be fixed. And come back peacefully where he left off.

Wallace makes the decision to go see his daughter from a past marriage that he had not been in contact with for a while. When Wallace faces loss he finds himself to have no place to go, but to go re visit his past failures, such as his family : “He smiled at her and then kneeled down to Molly’s level. She held the Tupperware in front of her eyes as if she were trying to hide behind” (p.88). Wallace was probably searching for comfort and ended up being more hurt than when he came in. Wallace seems to be a strong person who has gone through a lot. He seems to have had loses and failures in the past. We can see that he doesn’t have a relationship with his daughter she doesn’t notice him and uses her mom as a shield to hide. She did exactly like her father would do, she ran away from him. I think he never allowed himself to feel his emotions. Not having his daughter in his life is a failure to him that’s maybe why he’s so aggressive. Wallace could be in denial and losing his fight made him go back to where he had his first failure in life. Like I mentioned most people fear facing something they’ve been unsuccessful at and try to fix it and the best option would be to run away and not have to deal with the pain : “Wallace watched her go and all he felt was relief” ( p.89). In his daughter eyes he probably could feel the hurt he had caused not only to her but to himself. It was better for him to leave because it meant he didn’t have to deal with it and could move on and just pretend that nothing happened. Because for him it seems easier to let things be instead of trying to make things better.

Wallace meets a mysterious woman who helps him open up and make him come in touch with his own feelings. Wallace realizes how much impact fighting has on his life and emotions : “What he meant was that it was the best he’d done in his life, the only thing he could do well, and what was awful was how it made everything else seem boring and fake” ( p.99). This sport was the only thing he could focus on and succeed in. When he failed it made him feel like the only thing he knew so well wasn’t doing it for him anymore. It made him realize how he put aside important parts of his life, such as family. The only thing he has in his life is his sport and it led him down, he finds himself lost and doesn’t know what to do next : “He told her it was like breaking up. “ You’ll tell yourself, never again. But then, what else is there?” (p.99) Wallace experiences confusion because he’s been fighting for so long. If he makes the decision to not practice his sport anymore what would he become. This makes us realize how much we all have something whatever it is that we hold on too and if it would be taken away from us what would we do ? .

Pamela Rochefort



Works citied

Boyle, T.C. The Best American Short Stories.
Heidi Pitlor, 2015.
Fowlkes , Ben . You’ll Apologize If You Have To.
Crazyhouse, 2015