For five days now I’ve been stuck in Rio.
It’s not that I don’t like the place, hell I love it, it reminds me of home. I came down here early to get myself a mini-vacation in before this International Tour for UTA kicks in full force. What better way to clear your mind before spending two months on the other side of the world than two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, am I right?
Well, so far it’s all been a big kick in the dick.
I’m paying a King’s ransom for a top floor, ocean-view suite at the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort, and thank Christ for that because otherwise these past few days would have been unbearable. Lying in the dark at four in the morning, unflinching as my wake-up call rings away on the table beside the California King that I’ve been clinging to for days now, it occurs to me that if I don’t get my shit together, and quickly, Lisil Jackson is going to be the least of my problems come Monday night.
It all started Sunday Morning, sometime around eight-ish. I’d only been in-country for about twelve hours at this point, and after the pre-requisite trip to every flashy bar from the airport to the hotel I’d gotten myself maybe three, maybe three and a half hours of sleep. Big deal, if there’s one thing I’m more of a pro at than wrestling, it’s drinking.
So I woke up, took a quick shower to shake off those last couple of High Balls, and made my way down to the ground floor where a quick ten minute jaunt would land me on one of the nicer, quieter beaches in the city. The elevator door opened with a ding and that’s where everything went off the fucking rails.
For starters, that dinging bell from the elevator sounded like a cheerleader being raped, and it vibrated through my brain non-stop. I couldn’t shake it, or the dull buzz that came with it. I stumbled out of the elevator and squinted my eyes shut, everything was so bright.
I’m having another panic attack, I tried to tell myself. Then again, I’d been telling myself for weeks that I never had any such thing in the first place. I can tell you that I got a few funny looks from employees and guests alike as I forced my way through the posh hotel lobby to the exit. Looking back, I can’t even imagine what I looked like to those people.
Whatever, I pressed on.
I made it to the glass door, I looked out over the city as it spread out in front of the door and I thought I could make it. I was wrong. As soon as I opened the door the screeching was gone and the buzzing had amplified into a grating, grinding cacophony that felt like it lived between my ears and all around me all at the same time. Not only that, but what I’d perceived to be too bright before was nothing compared to the fresh hell that assaulted my eyes when I looked skyward. There was no blue skies, no fluffy clouds, and no warm and friendly sun.
There was only the unmitigated violation of my eyes.
I never made it fully across the threshold and into the world.
I haven’t left the hotel since.
I woke up back in my suite several hours later in complete darkness. All of the automatic shades had been locked in the down position, and the only noise to be heard was low clicking of the clock on my bedside table. A neatly folded note from the concierge informed me that I’d had an “incident” in the lobby and had been looked at by the staff physician. Apparently I also offered him a thousand dollars to just “turn off the fucking lights.”
So, when I tell you’ve I’ve been stuck in Rio for four days, understand that I mean it in the most literal of ways. I’ve sat here in the dark, surrounded by post-modern decor and the biggest carnival city in the world outside of my own New Orleans and I waited. I’m not sure for what, really. I figured something had to give, eventually.
That, or I’d just live here in the dark for the rest of my life.
There are worse fates, I guess.
My thoughts meandered back to the UTA some time last night. Monday Night would be the first episode of Victory starring the roster that I’d drafted, and my first ever encounter with the self-titled “Jamaican Inspiration” Lisil Jackson. It occurred to me then that maybe, just maybe, dee words of Lisil would be just what the Doctor ordered for me to shake this shit, get out of this hotel, and get the fuck on with my life.
So I fired up my Surface Pro and navigated quickly to the UTA’s website. I searched for Lisil, but rather than inspiration the video I found was full of the kind of hot garbage lunacy that I’ve come to expect from just about everyone anymore. I don’t know why but this sent me careening off the rails into a full-on Rage Fit. I threw a bunch of shit around like an asshole and broke a bunch of stuff that I’ll have to pay double-retail to replace, and then I drowned myself in two bottles of Absinthe hoping maybe the Green Fairy would have all the answers.
The last thing I remember before passing out was the distinct lack of tracers. You know, because I’d had the lights off for four days.
So here I am.
It’s four in the fuckin’ morning. I reach over and grab the shrieking phone and yank it free from it’s wall-mountings. The ringing in my head doesn’t stop, but somewhere in the back of my mind I know at least the phone is done for as I fling it across the room. Bones and tendons pop and stretch as I stand up for the first time today. The two things running through my mind are taking a shit and ordering up another bottle. Something else this morning, Absinthe tastes like green cancer. Slogging through the suite I find the bathroom just where I left it and make my morning penance.
I make my way back from the can and notice my Surface Pro sitting at the glass table in the suite’s full-sized dining room. That I don’t remember leaving this here, let alone leaving it turned on, doesn’t really sink in as I sit down in front of it. I pull on a pair of ridiculously priced shades so that I can stand to look at the screen, and I notice that the webcam is on.
The next thing I notice is the time.
I crank my head toward the sliding glass doors leading out to my ocean-view balcony and notice that while it’s still dark, it is indeed a bit lighter than I remember when I made my way to the bathroom ten minutes ago.
An hour and a half ago?
Maybe I should cancel that next drink.
Or double it.
I turn back to the screen and stare at it blankly for a moment before shrugging and pressing record. There’s no time like the present, right? I lean back in my chair and silently pray for a cigarette to manifest itself before looking back at my face on the screen. I look like shit.
“Did you really call me a bumbaclot?”
My voice is flat. Monotone.
“Did you also just waste mine and everyone’s time by showing us just exactly what you don’t know about wrestling or fighting?”
Sitting here in nothing but a pair of boxers and sunshades I revel in the sheer ridiculousness of it all. I can’t believe he said some of the stupid shit he said, and I can’t even imagine how silly I look with my serious face on sitting in the dark.
“First thing’s first, Lisil, you’re forgetting the cardinal rule of wrestling. With all of your posturing and your droning on about honor and whatever else, you’ve clearly lost sight of the fact that in the sport of wrestling the only thing that matters is whose hand gets raised by the referee when the bell rings.”
That I have to continually preach these same principles is starting to get under my skin. Maybe one of these days I’ll just stop, let the idiots figure it out for themselves. I shake my head in disbelief.
“To the winner go the spoils, Lisil. If you wanna fight for honor, you’re in the wrong sport. Forget what you think you know about fighting, in the UTA we wrestle you stupid bastard. The fact of the matter is simple, kid. I could pull out a hand cannon and shoot you in the face right square in the center of the ring, and so long as the referee doesn’t see me do it, I can get the gun stuffed into my tights before he turns around, and I can cover the gaping hole in your face while he counts to three, I’ll still be declared the winner of the match.”
Behind my shades I can feel my eyes roll. The vitriol is building and I can’t hold it back.
“So you’d rather lose a clean match than win by cheating? Great, enjoy that, it won’t help you on Monday. You see, whether I take out that fork and cram it down your throat or I wrap you up in a submission and make you tap out like a bitch, I’ll make the same payoff. We could put on an hour broadway or I can throw powder in your eyes, roll you up by the tights, and kick my feet up in the ropes for extra leverage and the record books will say the exact same thing.”
I feel almost bad for the kid. I had high hopes for his potential all the way until he opened his mouth and squarely inserted his own foot.
“And let me get this straight. You think that by walking around an empty dojo breaking boards you’re supposed to look impressive? Are you kidding me? And then you wanna go and throw around the names of guys like Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee? Really? Have you ever even seen Enter the Dragon? If you had, you might remember ol’ Brucie-Bruce himself saying something along the lines of There is no challenge in breaking a board. Boards don’t hit back. So you can whine and you can cry about how I might use a weapon, but even Bruce Lee used nunchaks you double-talking dolt.”
Seriously. Do some research next time. At least try to make this hard for me.
“I’m seriously starting to regret drafting you, Lisil. You don’t understand this business at all, not one iota. Maybe after the show I’ll give Cecilworth or Sektor or whoever’s in charge of Wrestleshow a call and see if I can’t trade you for a nice shiny ficus to stand up in the promo room back in Orlando.”
That one brings a smile to my face.
“I’ll tell you what, guy, you think what you want of Eric Dane.”
The smile smoothly transitions into a smirk.
“Tell yourself that I’m a bastard. Tell yourself that I need a weapon to win. Tell yourself that you’re going to walk into a wrestling ring inside of a wrestling venue at a wrestling show, and you’re going to step into that ring with a certified Master of the art of wrestling, and any of that honor and discipline you’ve gained over the years of winning little cloth belts and scoring points in tournaments is going to help you when I decide to wrap your leg in a chair and break it.”
“You see, it doesn’t matter what your narrow view of the world is, little man. What matters is that whoever wins the match gets the bigger end of the payday. Whoever wins the match moves upward in rankings, and whoever wins the match gains recognition and notoriety. It doesn’t matter how, Lisil, just like it doesn’t matter how honorable you are in defeat.”
All of a sudden I’m very tired of talking to Lisil Jackson.
“Winning, kid, by hook or by crook. That’s what matters.”
Boredly, I continue.
“For over two decades I’ve been in this business, Lisil. For all but the very beginning of that, I’ve been on top of this business. I’ve won more title belts than you’ve had fights in your life, and I’ve put down my fair share of martial arts pretenders.”
“So what, you fancy yourself a Ninja Warrior, big fucking deal. Crimson Lord thought he was a vampire, and where’s he at now? I tried to show you a modicum of respect, Lisil, and you threw it up in my face.”
“Rather, you spit in my face.”
“And you’ve got the unmitigated balls to talk about honor.”
“At Victory I’m going to break your spirit, Lisil. And I’ll use all the tools at my disposal. Be that through the prowess that comes from twenty-three years travelling the world and assimilating every useful style of wrestling that I could, or be it through bashing your skull in with a chair. I am going to break you, Lisil.”
“And there isn’t a thing that you can do about it.”
And with that, I’m done. I reach up and end the recording session. A few keystrokes later and the video is uploaded to UTA’s server to be displayed online, on PSE, and everywhere else on the planet that they can get airplay from.
I swear to holy fuck, I think the kid’s dreads are too tight. Something’s got to be the excuse for that pile of word-vomit he sent my way. Whatever. I do what I can to shake it off, he’ll learn soon enough the difference between moving up in life and being honorable.
Or he won’t.
Either way really works for me, I’ll just be glad to be done with him.
A glance at the clock in the bottom corner of my screen tells me that it’s now six o’clock in the morning. A yawn escapes my lips as I contemplate coffee instead of alcohol.
So much for using Lisil as a distraction. As it stands he’ll probably just push my blood pressure up a few more points so another doctor can yell and scream at me about Hypertension.
As if that’s the worst of my problems.
I pull the shades and rub at the pain behind my eyeballs. So much so that I can feel sparklies seeping in at the edges of my vision. I open my eyes and automatically squint at the light from the laptop in front of me. Through squinted eyes and blurred vision I can still make out my face staring back at me, but something’s different.
I try widening my eyes, only to turn away in pain and bury my fingers into my eyeballs once again, hoping in vain to find some way to stop the pain.
“Yer fuckin’ losin’ it, old man.”
The fuck was that? That voice, it was mine, but it wasn’t. It was somehow less gravelly, more agitated. Whatever the fuck else I’ve been going through these last few days not withstanding, now I’m hearing shit.
“Who’s there?” I ask the ether. Nobody answers. “Who’s fuckin’ there?!”
I stand up, trying to force my eyes back into what little bit of working order they were in before I’d decided like an idiot to look at that screen. They refuse to comply.
I take a tentative step away from the table.
“It’s me, ya dopey fuck.” That voice. Again. It’s mine. “Sit down.”
I do. I put the shades back on and stare at myself on the LCD screen in front of me. That the reflection has longer, blonder hair and no beard doesn’t seem to register all the way. The crows feet at the corner of either eye that should be there aren’t. Somewhere deep inside of what’s left of my brain, the synapses aren’t firing correctly.
“You’re welcome,” myself says to me.
“How about for sticking a fork in John Sektor’s shoulder for starters? You don’t think you could have made it through that Chamber Match without me, do you?” The reflection chides.
“No, motherfucker, me!” Myself is screaming at me. “You couldn’t even cut a promo on that big dumb confused Jamaican jerkoff without me. Pay attention, would’ja?”
I am not hallucinating.
I am not talking to myself.
I am not losing my goddamned mind.
“Oh yes the fuck you are.” Myself answers my thoughts aloud. This is too much even for me. I need a smoke, I need some fresh air, I need… something, anything.
Anything but this.
“What you need to do is turn off the computer and go outside. It’s a beautiful morning. And the next time we speak, you need to be ready to listen. You can’t do this without me.” Myself smirked at me and now I knew how a thousand opponents felt staring at that twisting of lips.
Snapping the laptop closed made my heart skip a beat. Turning around to the sunshine full in the sky almost killed me. It was six in the morning ten minutes ago.
Taking off the shades, I stand.
My eyes don’t feel like they’re bleeding.
I slide across the floor to the balcony and ease the door open. My senses aren’t assaulted. The calling of the gulls flying past doesn’t send me to my knees, and the sunlight doesn’t make me want to gouge out my eyes.
I have no idea how long ago my brain stopped processing information properly.
What I do know is that I haven’t had a decent jog all week.
Besides, jogging clears the mind, right?