“Can’t say I’m surprised…”
Little shake of the head, little shrug of the shoulders; even as I’m thumbing through this suitcase.
“… CAN say I’m disappointed.”
Kickpads and boots?
Tights and gloves?
“I was at least hoping you’d pay attention, lass. I never aim to condescend or preach, but I thought maybe – just maybe – I could encourage you to be something better than the snotty brat the world paints you as. But you don’t wanna hear it.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have opened my mouth in the first place.
“I didn’t say looks are all you’ve got, Amy. If you’d LISTENED, lassie, you’d notice that that’s the exact opposite of what I said…”
But I’m not about to repeat myself for closed ears.
I slow myself down and let the frustration drift away. Can’t afford to let that manifest externally again: especially after last week.
“The paranoia’s got you, girl, and it won’t let you hear a damn thing. It’s got a vice-like grip on your psyche, and you can’t pry it loose.
It’s convinced you that the whole world’s against you: that everyone just wants to drag you and everything you’ve done in this business through the mud. Everything’s an insult, nobody sees the good in you, everybody’s out to get you…”
I flip the stuffed suitcase shut and zip it up. Travelling light isn’t really an option in this game, but I do my best.
“It’s an illusion. A convenient little crutch you cooked-up in your head. Something you can lean on when things aren’t going your way, and a barrier to hide behind when the going gets tough. Problem is, you’re so lost inside your own head that it just keeps growing and growing, and if you don’t think about hopping the barrier now, you’ll be stuck forever.”
How else could someone possibly interpret my encouragement as an insult?
“I know because I used to do the same damn thing myself, Amy. I’ve been that insular, back-against-the-wall guy who’s so caught-up in his own ego that he just can’t move forward. Trust me.”
She won’t, of course. Amy Harrison’s anger-o-meter’s gonna go up a notch with every sentence that leaves my mouth, but that’s on her. I’m not gonna stop, and I’m not gonna curb my style to placate her rampant ego.
I heave the case off of the bad, prop it upright, and sit down on-top of it. Gonna shoot myself if I’ve forgotten anything.
“There’s not a hard-working person walking this Earth who I don’t respect, Amy. From the guy flipping burgers in McDonalds to Eric Dane himself. From paupers to princes, blue collar to white, greenhorn to veteran: whatever you’re doing to get to where you are in life, I respect your grind.
Moreover, I recognise that this place is the absolute pinnacle of our sport. This is where the big boys dine, and if you’ve got a place at the table, I know you went through hell to earn it.
I don’t have to like what you do when I get here, but if you’re on the UTA roster, I know you worked damn hard to get here.”
I sure did, and I’ve got 15 years’ worth of scars, bumps and bruises to prove it.
“I respect Amy Harrison. Stop trying to convince yourself otherwise, lass. Please.”
Don’t think I can say it any clearer than that.
“It’s pretty clear that the respect isn’t mutual, but that’s fine. Just know it’s not gonna serve you too well when we get inside that ring, because while you’re getting angry and thinking-up schoolyard insults…”
Marie has a crush on you!
Give me a bloody break.
“… I’m working on my gameplan. I’m figuring out what I need to do to put you away. I’m analysing your strengths and weaknesses against my own so I can put-in the kind of performance that the fans deserve from me.
Because everyone on this roster is a threat to me. Don’t get it twisted, Amy. Don’t get yourself tied-up in a knot because Cayle Murray DARED mention your name again.
I belong inside that ring…”
Hell, I grew-up in the damn thing.
“… and so do you. I’m no better or worse than you, ma’am: just a guy with a different worldview. That’s all.”
Gotta reel myself in before I start getting all cod philosophical, or else I’m gonna end-up a picture quote on somebody’s Facebook wall.
“But I earned my spot too. It took fifteen long years to get here, and I’ll give everything I’ve got to prove I belong here. I didn’t work so hard for so long just to lie down for Amy Harrison, lass. You’d best believe I’m gonna give you the fight of your life in Atlantic City.”
And if my words don’t speak to her, maybe our fight will.
“A lotta things have tried to destroy me over the years, y’know. I lost most of my twenties to vice and excess, but here I am, still standing.
I lost my parents within a couple months of each other. Could’a let the anguish, anxiety and depression takeover and carry me away, but no. I’m still standing.
Colton Thorpe tried to end my career and ruin my life.
Now we’re rolling…
“Madman said promised I’d suffer the consequences of ‘taking the high road.
And Eric Dane? He’s tryn’a bloody my rep and tear-out my throat, but even when the Big Bad Wolf’s done his absolute worst… guess what I’ll be doing?”
At least I drew some fire from the lass. The oddsmakers might disagree, but I know this is gonna be a good match. It’s not Wembley or the Tokyo Dome, and we’re not competing at Black Horizon or Ring King, but that won’t stop me giving anything less than my best.
“You might buckle and bruise me. You might tap me out or pin my shoulders to the mat, but you won’t put out the fire inside me. You’re not the last page in my book, or the final boss on my quest.
I came from NOTHING, Ms. Harrison, and I walked through Hell to get here. You want proof? Google me, check my Wikipedia page. It’s all there in plain English. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
There it is: that familiar sting of whisky on the back of my throat. Every time I draw on these allusions, it’s there.
A constant reminder of the man I used to be, and all the motivation I need to never be that man again.
“That’s what drives me, Amy. Let’s find-out what drives you.”
I get to my feet, grab the case, and get ready to bounce.
“Let’s hope it’s something more than that big mouth of yours.”
"It's hotter than two hampsters farting in a wool sock."
- Luke Dibbins