“Somebody needs to teach that woman how to throw a proper fucking superkick.”
My mouth is killing me.
You see, stitches are actually rather fragile things, and under enough stress, they can tear. And if skin tears, it bleeds, and if those stitches happen to be through some of the softer parts of the body - say, the lips and cheeks - they can really do as much damage as a pair of knucks.
“You aim for the UNDERSIDE of the JAW. Goddamn.”
Of course, Marie Van Claudio isn’t here to answer. Nor is anyone else. My apartment is silent and dark and still.
I hit a modified slow-motion tornillo into bed, by which I mean I step over the edge of my racecar, spin on one foot, and drop into bed back first. I lie there, staring at the wood paneled ceiling, and I can literally feel my heartbeat in my mouth. Every pulse of my heart sends a ripple of blood through my body, and a throb through my wounds, and I can still taste blood.
Hey, remember that other girl? Her roundhouse kick was the thing that made her, but her superkick was pretty awesome too.
And now suddenly I’m not in the mood to relax anymore.
“Fuck you, brain.” I sit up with a start and shake my head violently, earning a sharp pain in my face, and then I stagger to my feet and trip out of bed, catching myself on the doorframe. Shuffling my way down the hall, arms against the walls, swinging my feet in hopes that I won’t trip over anything, I make my way to the kitchen.
I haven’t learned where the doors are or where the light switches are yet, and sometimes I get that strange dizzy feeling you get when your subconscious suddenly starts feeling like you’re in a place you used to know instead of the place you’re in now, but I know exactly where my bottle of brown nirvana is. Rye Whiskey may never be trendy again, but it’s got character. And it tastes good. I yank the bottle off the top of my fridge, expertly twist the cork out with two fingers, and slam three gulps down my throat.
“Ah, Knob Creek. A wilderness stream truly worth preserving.”
With the lights off, I just lean back against the fridge and slide down to the floor. This time I fill my mouth with whiskey, savoring the sting of the alcohol against my torn up lips.
Here’s the truth.
I’m in pain, misery, and half drunk, and I’m sitting on my kitchen floor with my eyes wet and a bottle of booze between my knees.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because they can’t make me.
Whoever, whatever they are.
I don’t care if it’s Lorenzo, Paladino, Wolfington, Goldman, Bishop, Kirk, Zanatos, Lansheer or any of the other people I’ve worked for, and I don’t care if it’s Mikey, MVC, Santa, that fat fuck sumo, Dane, Murray, any of them boys and girls and otherwise in the back.
They can’t fuckin’ MAKE ME.
I swallow that whiskey with a gulp.
Even she couldn’t.
I tilt the bottle back, trying to drown that memory out.
And wouldn’t you know, it almost works.
It always almost works. Always. Almost.
The next thing I know, my head’s pounding, my lips and mouth hurt as much as ever, the bottle of whiskey is empty and morning sunlight is pouring through my window. I groan, grab the refrigerator door to pull myself up, and fall over backwards when it swings open, cracking my head on the linoleum.
I can’t even think of any good four-letter words.
The inside of my mouth tastes like rotten cotton swabs, and I pull myself up (successfully, this time) and drink directly from the kitchen sink. My head a little clearer though still painful, I look around.
The light that had looked pretty bright when I was lying there turns out to be the same grey bullshit that Ohio’s been getting all winter long - this stupid thing in between fall and winter where it’s not cold enough for the ground to freeze and so everything stays humid and cool and grey.
I hate it. Mostly.
It reminds me of me.
Doesn’t remind me of her even a little bit, so it’s got that going for it though.
I look out there at the pointless grey sky that refuses to clear up or drop some snow and I can just hear the world saying ‘fuck you, you can’t make me.’ Kinda looks like it’s just sitting there, doing nothing and waiting for something to happen.
But sometimes, it looks more like it’s waiting for just the right moment to make something awesome happen.
I feel something on my chin, and realize that in getting my drink I banged my lip against… something or other. Now it’s bleeding again.
Drip, drip, drip, right in my fucking sink.
I grab a paper towel and cram it to my face, then stumble back into my bedroom and fish my smartphone out of yesterday’s pants. Then back out to the kitchen.
Then a beer out of the fridge, and another one.
Then, on an impulse, I mash my fist right into my wounded lips.
Then power on, and record.
I can’t see what I look like, and I guess my refrigerator’s behind me, but I’m bleeding and double-fisting beers, so fuck all that.
“Hey, you wanna know what the difference between me and you is?”
“You’re a fuckin mooooooovie star and I’m not.”
“You got the face of any random dude who could go be in a RomCom or a Dramedy or any of that garbage.”
“You got your pretty little hair, and your pretty little square jaw, and your pretty little wife, and you’re jes so goddamn precious, boy!”
“An look at me.”
I grin as wide as I can. I curl my lip up around the gap where my tooth used to be, I feel the barely healed parts of my wounds pull apart.
“You wanna put this face on the silver screen?”
“Of course you don’t man, of course you don’t.”
“See, let’s be honest about this, Mikey. You don’t know me, I don’t know you, an a couple weeks worth of research isn’t really gonna matter too, too much. Maybe if something, eh, untowards happens in this match, we’re gonna get to know each other an ourselves a little better, but count on it not. I made it abundantly clear exactly who I am an what I’m doin here already, when I scoop slammed morbidly obese dudes on consecutive weeks and then kicked a woman’s head off her shoulders, and I known who you were afore my name was on payroll.”
I grin, then throw my head back and drain half of one of my beers.
“One of them little Dynasty fuckmuppets.”
“D’joo hear me tell Eric back before this shit happened…”
I gesture at my mangled face with the open beer bottle, sloshing a bunch of it onto the floor and my feet.
“That I started in on the Pantheon cos Dynasty wasn’t here to pick on anymore?”
“Well you little fool, Dynasty may be gone, but I still hear you and your boy Kendrix going on about how you’re what’s left and I just gotta ask…
I finish the rest of that first beer and drop the bottle in the sink. Then I wobble. Out of breath for some reason, I hang onto something, not sure what cos I don’t bother to look and see, and growl my next words.
“I’ve already said this, man. I am not a good dude, and I am not a bad dude. I am just a dude. I’m just Jeff Andrews. But what I can’t stand is all those guys, what with their unreceded hairlines and their square jaws and their pretty ripped abs, and they start talking to each other and are all ‘hey we’re like palate swaps of each other we should hang out’ and then they start some bullshit like Dynasty and invite Simon…”
I can’t help but snicker, but I’m serious.
“They are the dudes I enjoy beating up the most.”
And I toast the thought by popping the lid off the other beer with my thumb, and chugging the whole damn thing.
“And although I’m glad Dynasty ain’t around anymore, and I’m still kind of mad at Eric for running El Masko White-o out before I could, I can smell its’ fucking stink all over you.”
I grin again, and the world briefly goes fuzzy and yellow, and I lurch towards the camera. I don’t know if I’m drunk or what, and I’m hardly making sense here, but…
“I don’t like that. And Mikey, I don’t put up with things I don’t like. And if I have to, I will literally turn you inside out.”
I don’t even bother to turn the phone off, I just slam it face down on the counter, and then slam my own ass down on the kitchen floor before keeling over on my side where I can watch a small pool of blood form as my lips continue to drip on the linoleum.
And I laugh.
That little fucker didn’t make me, either.
"Hell, I won’t let you let us down. I’m going to go out there at Victory and do it all by myself if I have to."
- La Flama Blanca