Compassion and Mercy
The cold beach air sweeps through the room. Rotten eggs linger in your nostrils. I loathe this place. Tattered and torn clothing line the sticky floors of Metropolitan Ministries, the local homeless shelter in Tampa. I loathed serving in homeless shelters. My step-father drug me there daily to serve. I never hated the people; I despised their smells. Garbage! I wanted to vomit. I scowled each time the odors crossed my nostril hairs. Mickey didn’t under my anguish and torture. He pulled my broken ass into the daylight to serve breakfast to the most stinky humans in existence. You could see sweat caking their bodies. Dirt smothered in their faces. Even fecal matter wafted in your nostrils. I couldn’t help but barf all over the floor. Dizziness combined with the sheer smell earned me infinity lectures from Mickey who almost went insane with his Tourette’s. He cast me out of the serving line because he absolutely misjudged my actions.
It angered me. Everyone wants to put me in bubbles, check lists. But they don’t spent time getting to know me. They don’t like picking my brain on learning my interests. They assume my character from ever iota that escapes my mouth. I wanted to punch Mickey and over-react, but couldn’t I care about him.
I travelled around the building, cooling down. I kept breathing in and out slowly so to not suffer any desires for alcohol or drugs. My body tingled as the temptation neared. I witnessed many peddlers selling their goods along the streets. How I longed for the pain medicine in the moment! Suddenly while I turned a corner, my eye witnessed a punk ass 18-year-old emo kid torturing a younger black man covered in dirty and scrambled beard wearing a torn army jacket. Tears rolled down his eyes. “Please…don’t,” he exclaimed to the kid as he knelt down begging. The kid didn’t care. The kid knocked the tray out of the man’s hands as tears rolled down his broken and tattered face.
“Serves you right for attacking those innocent Iraqi scumbags.”
Never have I wanted to strike someone so hard in my entire life. I wanted to fight, but something held me back. Logic took over. I couldn’t strike some uneducated kid who hadn’t lived his life. I couldn’t scold him because honestly, he’d tune me out. I watched as he passed through leaving the old man helpless.
“Why me Lord? Why always me? Haven’t I given you everything? I screwed up, but why do I have to continually pay for these sins. I’ve paid once. Hell, I’ve paid for 10 years for murder. My wife left me and…”
I place my hand on his shoulder. Pulling him up from the ground, his smell hits my nostrils. I contain myself. He needed friendship.
“Hey, I saw what happened, breakfast is on me. You didn’t deserve that after your service, sir.”
Glistening like the sun, his eyes beamed with joy. I reached down to pull him off the ground. He severely limped, so I rested him on my shoulders and guided him. My eyes locked on the pancake shop across the street. He deserved a good breakfast. I awkwardly spoke, and I pulled him a long and grunted in pain: “You definitely deserve some pancakes, bacon, and eggs…whatever your heart desires. You’ve done a good job.”
He laughed, and he began recalling his stories:
“Name was Sergeant Whitacre. You can call me Eric. I bombed many terrorists on the field in my tank. Home’s worse than home. Our citizens don’t understand what we endured. We killed hundreds of innocents’ lives. But Americans now only care about CNN. They don’t care what we sacrificed to get here.”
I patted him on his back, “I understand. I have peers that don’t understand the horrors and habits and try to fit me in their perverse boxes. I follow their formulas; they gripe; I don’t they gripe. I didn’t kill a man or face life threatening situations, but I feel you.” My heart grew as we walked close to the door. “Stay out here, Eric. I’ll come back out. I wondered the streets of California. We will go back to my hotel room and feast like kings. They’ll call the cops on us immediately.”
“I know!” He exclaimed frightened, “they just can’t let people like me eat in peace. Rather my financial status or my skin color. I can’t understand their hate.”
I set him down on the stairs. My heart melted, and I fought back tears. What memories that didn’t slip reflected back to my grandpa who fought in the wars. Emotions drilled holes in my heart as I choked up. “Me neither but watch the window and cash register. You know I am coming back.” He rested against the stoop of the building. I walked in eyes locked in. I couldn’t ignore it; I have a heart for people in general. I can’t change. I can’t become the devil.
And I finally learned what Mickey had been trying to tell me this entire time.
Flocks of fan scurry into today’s Refueled 2 press conference. Everyone comes decked out in their High Octane gear you can find on the HOW Shop website. Eagerly they wait for many of their fan favorites to come striding into meet and greet them. Fan rush towards the stage. Standing in front of a black back drop covered with the HOW, HOTV, and Yuengling logos stands Darin Zion, looking rather defeated. Zion knows in the back of his mind, Kael’s gotten to him. Kael brought Zion to his knees in admitting his issues with anxiety. You can see the pain eating away at him for his mistakes. But while Zion’s stature looks beaten, bruised, and broken; he stands vibrantly, full of life ready to take the challenge. He reaches for the hand-held microphone staring out towards the crowd, rocking back and forth as he cuts his promo. Loud chants of “Zion” flow through the center.
“Everyone here today knows my sentiments and strife with the Empire. We get tired of acknowledging the trite history and beat it like a dead horse. Each and every time I stood one on one with them in the ring; they’ve brought pain and suffering to me. Max Kael’s no exception. He walked straight into that ring, punished me in that ring, and eradicated my dreams of entering solitary confinement to become the HOW World World Champion. He proved exactly why he’s God’s favorite demon and why he deserves the distinguished honor of HOW’s Hall of Fame.
He’s a truly a devil. He has no integrity, no regard for any competitor who steps into his sanctuary. He strides into that ring, punishes sinners and exposes their weaknesses. He’s kicked me down, poured whiskey into my wounds, and expect me to smile and act like a saint. He expects me to snap my fingers healing my wounds, change reality and become Eric Dane.”
Zion grabs his head for a moment as the lights from the cameras flash in his eyes. Dazed and confused for a moment, trying to regain focus. He shakes head. Passion bursts through Zion as he reflects.
“I’m forthright I’m not a saint. I’m not Eric Dane. I’m not built like Max Kael to dish out pain, torment, or suffering on a whim. But I’m Darin Zion. I’m broken, battered, and bruised. I’m not 100% walking into this fight. I’ve had neck injuries for years and I’m on borrowed time. I don’t speak clearly. I’m out of shape due to my poor life decisions. I sin. I struggle and hit dirt day in and day out to earn my paycheck like these fans do. I make mistakes; I’m vulnerable. My heart beats it’s fleshly beats. I fuck up, I take ownership; I admit my struggles with anxiety. But I’m supposed to the next Max Kael, the next Mike Best, the next Scott Stevens; take your pick depending on the day and the Twitter feed you follow.”
The crowd roars in hysteria. Zion motions for them to calm down as chants of “Fuck Defiance” echo. He pauses for a moment smirking. Darin nods in approval, but immediately takes a deep breath. The gravitas of his words pangs at him. He chokes up and locks eyes with the fans.
“But I’m not. I’m the first Darin Zion. I walk out side out of that curtain, down that ramp, and fight for every single blue-collared, hard working American that buys tickets to our shows to keep our lights on. I stand on my pillar fighting the tough fight, tired of watching each and every person getting fed bullshit instead nutritious meal. I grow weary of every single time someone tries to fit me in their own definition and read into my intensions. I tire from giving 110% of everything just for someone to tell me it’s not enough and it’s mediocre. I’m sick to death of sitting on my hands because someone fails; they’re told we need to discard them like trash. “
Zion snarls smile fading. The crowd’s approval swells more as he fervently shakes his fists, rallying the crowd. Hollering his passion to the roof top, Zion animates himself as he focuses straight to his point.
“Max, you don’t know their pain. You don’t know their torture. You don’t know their adversity.”
“Zion! Zion! Zion” resonates throughout the arena, growing louder and louder with each passing moment. Darin’s hunger and drive to win swells. He watches his loyal fans energy burst. Embracing it, he points down towards that crowd. Exclaiming with all his might, he pumps his feet up and down as the crowd continues to eat from the palm of his hands.
“Adversity is giving a career your absolute best and having your peers and friends taking your weaknesses, stabbing you in the back with them. Adversity is the Iraqi year war veteran who fought for the honor of our country, so we can partake in the honors of typing mindless, banal comments on Twitter. Meanwhile we kick him to the curb, hand him food stamps and offer no benefits so his family can survive. Adversity looks like a teacher who works three jobs barely making minimum wage to feed her three kids and comes home to have her husband beat her within an inch of her life. Adversity is when you’re shot first, arrested later only due to the color of your skin. That’s pain, Max! That’s torture! That’s strife!”
Zion’s smile and fury continues to feed the crowd. They ravenously shout their admiration for him as his tone slowly quells towards his cadence. His eyes beam, his teeth shine; he’s glowing building anticipation up for the main event.
“These fans give us our pay checks. These fans fight the good fight. These people gave me more power than they could ever dream. More power than the Empire has lighting up their Twitter accounts 24/7.I threw away that glory, money, and power when I held it in the grasp of my palms last time, Max, I’m damn proud I understand what adversity stands in our fan’s way and each one of their struggles better. I didn’t need self-help books, training, or goals to formulate my opinion. I don’t need your absolution. I needed to step off the throne of pride every single professional wrestler stands on. They have my undying gratitude. I lived life in their shoes facing their struggles because of my mistakes. I homed in, I focused, I improved through sheer will to give these people their dreams. Their accountability and support give me the strength to stand in that ring, battered and broken, to take on the embodiment of hell itself in you.
You think this army supporting HOW concerns itself with having flesh torn, bones broken, or blood poured on the mat? Hell no! That’s temporary. Time heals those wounds. Time doesn’t heal broken egos. I lived it. It tears away at your soul, Max. I will increase Mike’s bounty on my head. I will win, and I will conquer HOW’s own devil.
I have a concussion but I’m telling the truth. I’ve replayed countless hours of footage preparing and studying each move you’ve made. Each moment I could stare at that screen; I watched each physically defecation you made to every wrestler who came before me promising the same thing. I learn the only way to hurt Max Kael isn’t through punches, suplexes, short cuts, or physical torture. It’s for me to roll you up in the middle of the ring and strip your dignity away from you. Sure, you will pummel me and beat me within an inch of my life. You will fracture my bones and challenge me more than any other competitor I’ve stepped in the ring with. You won’t; however, break my spirit. It takes one mistake from the personification from Satan when he looks to harm his victims. I saw the look Max. I saw when your guard comes crashing down and your ego takes over. You grow comfortable, preparing to maim and torture me. Your eye glowing with pleasure. Your smile crinkling while my soul screams for release. Complacency setting in while you cross things off your list.
You will go for the chest, Max. You won’t be satisfied with a simple victor and won’t go for the head like budget Thanos demands. You underestimate my endurance and treat me like a joke…and BAM!
That’s when I strike and turn the devil into a mere court jester.”
Cat calls and praise roar from each of the fans as Zion continues to empathize with the crowd in silence. You can’t help but gravitate towards the message of hope and valor. Zion’s championship pride echoes in him like a gladiator. People continue singing Zion’s name as you see his smile sneer from ear to ear. He knows he will perk Max’s ears. Zion counts of Max’s pride and intellect to over analyze his every word. But he counts on it. He turns and points straight towards the camera.
“Let those words stir in your mind. Let those words insult you. They’re fact. Slowly let your image of High Octane Hell die. I will endure with my army. I will conquer the Magnificent Five’s reign of terror because I’m not focused on winning a High School Popularity contest. I’m focused on winning wrestling’s top prize. I will fight tooth and nail to prove my words aren’t trash and have gravitas in this business. I will take struggles head on thinking brashly. I will step in that ring, give you every ounce of fight I have in my fiber. I will pin you and I will walk one step closer to hoisting good ole’ 97red across my shoulder.
That’s not just my road to redemption. It’s everyone’s road as well.
I will become HOW’s next World Championship.”
Zion sets the microphone down on the table as the crowd whistle and show him love. He sticks his hands up in the air, knowing damn well he just invited fire and brimstone. Most would prepare their eulogies and run off, but Zion looks valiant. He came fully prepared for his war against Max. He knows damn well the Devil will want him to pay for his sins, but we walk off confidently knowing full well Max’s pride in not watching tapes will be the first step in the downfall of the Empire.