“Six. FIVE!” Said the announcer, who I saw standing for the first time, looking at me wide-eyed and pursed-lipped, shaking his head.
The referee was looking at the announcer with his arms in I don’t know position in the air
F*** it. I thought and dropped down to cover Dan.
“THREE!one.” Said the announcer and referee simultaneously.
The bell rang.
The crowd looked at the ring announcer, who looked at the referee, who looked at Dan and me in disgust. Taking his eyes off us he looked at the ring announcer for help, who looked at the crowd for help, who looked at me for help.
I guess I get to decide if I won or not
F*** it. I thought and raised my hands victoriously.
The referee shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and grabbed my wrist to signal his agreement with my decision that I was a winner. The sad sound of the few unsynchronized sympathy claps I got seemed to taunt me with being the opposite of a winner, though.
As I left the ring a heckler yelled, “Thank f***ing God! It’s over! Never-Come-Back!” Then he gave three enthusiastic claps.
I hope I never do. I thought as I hurried myself out of my own nightmare, back to the safe-bed of the locker room.
Once I was in my safe space, I started to think about Dan’s mistakes in the ring and started to get really agitated. My ego started to tell me all about how the whole experience, from bringing me to Tennessee, to how the match turned out, was all Dan’s fault.
Dan came back through the curtain and down the stairs into the basement-locker-room, where I met him with aggression.
“Thank you.” He said meekly, offering a hand.
“F*** you!” I yelled so loudly that the entire locker room of made-for-TV, beefcake wrestlers around us stopped what they were doing to watch a 150 pound teenager scream at a six foot, five inch tall grown-ass man.
“W-wha-” Dan tried to ask.
“That was the worst f***ing experience of my whole f***ing life that has been a series of sh**y-as-f*** events, Dan! The worst! What the f*** were you thinking bringing me all the way down here to have that steaming pile of mule sh** match?” I asked.
“I’m sorr-” Dan tried to say.
But instead I said, “You’re god***n right you’re sorry! You’re a sorry wrestler and a sorry friend and-”
And here’s where I have to cut the younger version of myself off and address him.
Me Now: Younger Jason, do you think Dan took you on a bad trip and had a bad match with you on purpose?
Younger Jason: No. But-
Me Now: But he probably didn’t try his hardest, though, right?
Younger Jason: He was trying hard, but-
Me Now: But not hard enough, right? That sounds familiar, somehow, doesn’t it? Like-
Younger Jason: Like...when I would come up short on early attempts at trying something new to me and be made to feel terribly sad by impatient, angry, aggressive ridicule…
Me Now: How does Dan look, right now?
Younger Jason: Like...an even younger version of Us. Like he wants to run away crying and hide, but too tough to actually do it.
Me Now: *Nods knowingly*
Younger Jason: I-I’m. An. Ass****. Huh?
Me Now: Are you? *shrugs* Maybe, but do you know how to express your emotions any better than you are, right now?
Younger Jason: N-not reall-y…
Me Now: Right. *Grabs a semi-reluctant Younger Jason by back of the of the head and pulls him close for a bro-hug, and touches foreheads affectionately before ending with a firm kiss on the much-better hairline.
Back in the locker room, back in the day, back to a cooler head as I have taken notice of all the intimidating individuals around me looking strangely intimidated by me. I sat down embarrassedly. Dan took a seat beside me defeatedly (on so many levels).
I took way longer to take off my three piece (trunks and boots) gear than even having a serious injury would have justified. Once dressed in mundane existence attire and having worked up the appropriate courage, I told the ground to tell Dan, “I’m sorry.”
The sound waves bounced off of the floor and hit Dan’s ears. I expected this show of weakness to result in the tides shifting and Dan cussing me out in front of monstermen. Instead he said, “It’s okay. I understand.”
Ever almost been in a car crash? The surge of sudden adrenaline and braced for impact energy having no reason to exist? I have. It feels awful. That’s how it felt when Dan punched me in the gut with forgiveness. I wanted to cuss him some more, take advantage of the opportunity he gave my ego to be justified in my temper tantrum. Instead, I stared at the floor and thought about the heckler that had given us such a hard time.
Why would that f***ing piece of sh** even bother to buy a ticket to a small independent event, if he expects everyone to already be f***ing perfect?! Who the f*** does he think he is talking sh** to a couple of guys who are out there chasing their dreams?! F*** him, anyway. What do I care if he doesn’t like me or how I wrestle? He is just some loser-ass wanna be smart-mark that goes home and cries like a little b***h when his mommy burns his ramen noodles. I hope he f***ing-
Here’s where I have to cut my Young Thinking Mind off and address it.
Me Now: Why do you think that guy buys a ticket to smaller events?
Young Thinking Mind: Clearly to be a d**k and to get attention for it. Next.
Me Now: Good. Do you think that he chooses to be a d**k?
Young Thinking Mind: Of Course. We all have control over our behavior, he wants to be a d**k.
Me Now: Very good. Now, why would he choose, why would he want to be a d**k, why would he crave attention for being a d**k.
Young Thinking Mind: Because he’s f**king weak and feels powerless most of the time and wants to feel f***ing safe by being in control for those few minutes and feel connected and liked by those few laughs, and all he really f**king wants is to be happy, and...and-
Me Now: And you get it, right?
Young Thinking Mind: Yeah, I get it. ‘Member when we used to get out of those suffocating classrooms and get to watch those motivational school-talks, with diffused supervision, how f***ing freeing it felt to make the people around you laugh at the absurdness of someone trying very hard to be taken seriously for something that seemed to mean a lot to them.
Me Now: *Sighs* Yeah, I ‘member.
Dan and I were both still silently looking for hope in the dirty basement floor with the final bell of the finally match sounded. By that time, many of the other wrestlers had said their goodbyes and hit the road.
“You ready?” Asked Dan as we watched the last two of the behemoths who were throwing their soaked-in-sweat wrist tape carelessly on the ground, as if it were biodegradable.
“Um. Let’s hang out a little longer. To see if we get paid.” I said.
Dan shrugged consent and so we watched Lord Humungus pack his hockey mask into his rollybag with much care and leave out of the sliding glass door out into the Regular World.
As less-than-impressed by the mess older gentleman, that could have easily been cast as a gas station attendant in every on-the-road horror movie ever, started tidying up the landfill of sweaty wrist tape around us, Dan looked at me even more defeatedly and said most-defeatedly, “I don’t think we’re getting paid, Jason.”
“Me either, Dan. Me either.” I said looking at my old, grey, dirty, concrete comrade.
With that, we slide out of the arena, packed the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and drove back across town to pick up the Wrestlevet, who had fostered this trip, in silence. This for-sure didn’t happen, but I like to think that Dan turned on his radio and before two notes had played I reached over, without taking my glance away from my passenger side window, and turned it right back off.
Anyway, we returned to the event across town that we were supposedly originally booked for, but advised to abandon in the hopes of a “better payoff” across town. As we pulled up to a no place to park parking area, I wonder if maybe the Wrestlevet was worried that they would rob us of all our possessions at gunpoint, at this event.
Dan and I sat in the car and listened to the sound of hundreds of wrestling fans letting wrestlers hear their deep appreciation of their efforts to risk life and limb in the name of creating art, in unison with much gusto.
When the final bell, of the finally match, rang, Dan and I watched the biggest crowd we had seen at an independent wrestling event come pouring out of the venue. Among them, with a towel over seemingly to hide his identity, was our Wrestlevet mentor, his very unique body carrying him to the car with more pep than usual.
The Vet got in the front seat and said, “You boys missed a helluvan event! Those people we’re rabid! True believers! The card was a little overbooked, but-” He stopped, taking notice of the how-dare-you-you-bastard silence that was thicker than even That-guy says his likes his women. “How’re things ‘cross town?”
Dan took a deep breath and said, “Terrible.”
“Hughh-hughh-hughh.” The Wrestlevet laughed.
In the backseat I was fuming mad.
The nerve of this fatherfluffin’ sonuva ingrown opossum pr**k. He’s going to f***ing laugh at our misfortune, that he caused?! We don’t have enough f***ing money to eat with because we drove across three states and across town for a makebelieve ‘better payoff’. We’ll be lucky to make it home without having to call someone to send us gas money and this cocky glob of goblin cocks is going to laugh at us.
I was in no possession to say anything, or do anything, to the Wrestlevet because his status over us meant that to speak or act out against him would be, possibly, an unforgivable breaking of the Wrestlecode, which I prided myself on believing in and upholding. So, instead the urges of self-harm and flight came into my consciousness.
Break the window with your head. One surfaced thought suggested as a relief to my suffering.
Get the f*** out of this car. Run away. Get lost. Never be found again. Another thought thought to itself helpfully.
“Tell me all about it, Dan. Don’t leave out a single detail.” Said the WrestleVet between “hughh-hughh”s.
And that’s exactly what Dan did. (Next Time On Wrestling Horror Story)