I knew this was how all this was going to play out, I fought my ass off against Dane and Ryan, hell to be truthful the two of us did. Zion and myself worked better than I ever thought we could possibly together but my own demons, my own loathing of my “HOW career” doomed me…doomed us before the match even started.
Noah is shown sitting at the bar, sitting there drinking a beer and munching out of a bowl of peanuts. He has a very melancholy look on his face as he tosses in a small handful and then takes a long drink of his beer and waves at the bartender.
“Another?” the bartender asked coldly.
“Yeah….” Noah replied matching the bartender cold for cold. “The kitchen open?”
The bartender nodded.
“Could I get an order of chicken strips, some fries and some ranch dipping sauce?” Noah asked. “Peanuts aren’t doin’ it for me.”
“Sure thing.” the bartender replied, he wrote the order down walked to the window, hung the order up and ran the bell for the chef. A hand would soon be seen snatching the piece of paper.
“Ah I see the tradition of Noah Hanson sitting around in some dive bar after losing and he still drowns his thoughts in beer and let me…” the man sarcastically spat as he sat next to Noah. “….lemme guess chicken strip basket…”
“Pfft…” Noah scoffs as he picks up his beer and moves down one seat with his peanuts being dragged across the counter-top. He looks at the man, glaring at him the entire time. “Do I know you?”
“Has it been THAT long Noah?” the man remarked almost disappointed that Noah did not recognize him. “We used to team up together back in the day…”
Noah shakes his head, smiles and chuckles a bit. “You know that I have a few tag team titles under my belt and you’ll have to be a little more specific if you want my attention.”
“Wrestling Midwest….” the man replied coldly as he motioned to the bartender. “ Two Holy Waters one for me and one for my buddy there…”
Noah looked at the man curiously, his forehead wrinkled as he heard the name of the fed and then the drink. He turned and looked at the man, his eyes narrowing as he tried to put a name to the face. “Did you say Holy Water?”
“Yep.” the man chirped, a smile clearly on his face. “That was the drink we had the first night we held the tag team titles.”
“We?” Noah asked. “Well you’re not Demetrius Burrell and that means you’re Johnny Blaze….”
“In the flesh buddy.” Johnny said smiling. “Took some work to track you down, some of the guys have said they have seen you around Cleveland and I just had to see you and see how my old tag team partner was doin’.”
Noah shrugged. “Livin’ the dream…”
He heard the words come out of his mouth, one of the most overused, cliches in the history of the English language and it made him cringe at the sound of the words that came off his lips. But honestly he didn’t have anything else to really say. Even someone that he had not seen in literally years is sitting right next to him, trying to reach out to his old tag team partner. Noah was still being his standoffish self. Ready to put up a wall faster than the Trump Administration. But that was just a natural reflex for him these days. He had grown used to having someone like Darin Zion continually in his ear, trying to win him back over like a love struck former girlfriend that just hasn’t gotten over the fact that getting back together wasn’t a good idea and that the nostalgia part of working together was not working. But Noah was still polite to Johnny, he couldn’t be cold to a man that got outta the business, just dropped it and never looked back, in fact, truth be told he was jealous that he couldn’t do what Johnny did.
“I know better than that man.” Johnny said as he took a drink from his glass and smiled. “We were best friends, not just tag team partners, we still talk on Facebook and I know better than you just throwin’ out that generic comment. I know how you act, I know you pretty well bro.”
“Did I miss something?” Noah asked as he took a drink of his beer and seemed to be growing a bit irritated. “What brings you here Johnny? Life hasn’t really been treating me well lately and all of a sudden you show up reminding me of another failure in my personal life. I should have been there to help you more, should have been there to help you with everything you went through but back then I was all about myself, getting myself over at any cost once we went our separate ways. I hated the fact that you walked out of Wrestling Midwest and just left me hanging. On the outside I presented this whole “I was happy for you” put the smile on my face and put on a real good show for everyone. But on the inside I felt betrayed.”
Noah knew that he was being brutally honest, just tellin’ it like it is and something that back in the day he would have never done. He just would have pushed it all done and pushed forward, his uncle Mark would always push that, “You have to be tough kid”, “Can’t show emotion kid”. You know the type and that was how Noah dealt with personal tragedy back then, just pushed it all down. But these days he just feels like giving up, he feels like the fans don’t care, the promoters in HOW don’t give a shit and his partner….seriously his partner is just basically a scrawnier version of himself when he was in Wrestling Midwest and maybe he does it better and colder than he ever could.
“What do ya want me to say man?” Johnny asked takin’ another drink. “I realized that I wasn’t meant for this business for the long haul. I looked at you and I saw that fire, that passion for this and I looked at myself and it wasn’t there. I mean did I have success ya part of it was because of you, you were different back then, you had fun, you had charisma, you made the fans love you even when they hated you. That’s rare man. But you, you let all the haters in yer head, you let promoters tell you you’re doin’ it all wrong and you fucking believed them.”
The chicken strip basket arrived and Noah looked at Johnny and smiled and then looked at the bartender again. “Can you make my friend here some hot wings and blue cheese?”
“Sure.” the bartender said and then walked to the window and barked at the chef.
“WHAT?” the chef can be heard yelling from the back. “DOES THIS LOOK LIKE BUFFALO WILD WINGS?”
Noah rolled his eyes at the comment and looked at Johnny and pushed his basket towards the middle of them. Johnny grabbed a couple fries and dipped them in some ketchup. “So again why are you here? Can’t be because of the nostalgia of the old days, A few months ago I was able to get some of the old guys together and we trained for a while. According to Evers you’ve been hard to reach, Demetrius said he used to talk to you all the time then you just disappeared. So what is goin’ on?”
“Well to just put it bluntly man I’m dying. Inoperable tumor, not really gonna go into detail about it but basically I have a few months to live and I was trying to reach out to some of the people that impacted my life, like you.” Johnny explained. “I mean to be honest, watching you all these years, all the success, all the legendary matches, I just wish we could have done more as a team sometimes, sometimes I wish I coulda been a better friend.”
Noah’s shoulders slumped, his head followed slowly. He had thought about death so much over the years, some days he wanted death to embrace him as warmly, as lovingly as it had so many of his friends and family over the years and now it was claiming another victim. It tugged at his heart, it hurt, Johnny got out of the business, he did it the right way. He didn’t hang on to it to long, he didn’t overstay his welcome in the sport. He saw that this business wasn’t for him and he checked the fuck out. THAT is the way to do it, the best way to do it.
“Is there anything I can do?” Noah asked.
“Just live your life for you before it’s to late.” Johnny answered with a smile and took a long drink from his class and then his wings arrived and the smile grew wider. “I’ve watched some of yer matches, sometimes it looks like yer just mailin’ it in like you don’t wanna do it anymore then I see other matches where you just have this fire in yer eyes. So what is the difference?”
“Knowing that you matter…” Noah said with a sigh. “I know it sounds cliche and over used but knowing that you matter even in the slightest can change a persons’ mood, it can change everything you do. But the moment you feel like a cog, like you can be inserted and pulled out and re-inserted anywhere and no one misses a beat. THAT is when things turn bad for you. I’ve just realized that sometimes the bright lights and big marquee doesn’t always translate into being taken care of. Sometimes it just means all you are is a name on a piece of paper, a person to help fill seats. Some promotions are only interested in getting their pals over at all costs. See I was in a tag team match with someone that I’ve worked with for years, years ago we would have taken care of business and for one night I thought we were clicking on all cylinders just like the old days but some people just look at other things, they look at making themselves happy instead of the ones that have come and busted their asses each and every show.”
“Sound bitter….” Johnny replied. “…sound like someone that has just had enough of the business end of this sport.”
Noah nodded. “Yeah grown real tired of just bein’ used as someone that can be plugged and inserted wherever and they know full well that I’ll show up, tip my hat and wait for my money with my hand out like a good little monkey. I’ve grown tired of it, it makes me angry to know that people that I’ve taken under my wing are just using me, just putting me close enough to them to benefit their agenda but not close enough so that they actually have to care.”
“So what ya gonna do about it?” Johnny asked.
“What am I gonna do about it?” Noah replied with a smile. “How bout we get shitfaced?”
“You serious bro?” Johnny asked, he looked incredibly happy.
“How bout I make a couple calls we get the old crew together like the old days and we just bury this place?” Noah declared as he pulled his cell out of his pocket and dialed a number. “Hey D? Noah wanna get shitfaced with an old buddy?”
Maybe this was a way to make things right for one more night for Johnny, for Wrestling Midwest, the last time Noah really felt alive in this business, the last time he really had fun and didn’t care about anything else. Getting wasted? He looked at Johnny and wondered what the hell was he doin’? He’s not this young kid anymore, he has a kid, he has a life that he has basically ignored basically because that road, that road is where the end is and that is a bad thing in his head. So the two sat there and started drinking, first it was just beers, then a few shots, then hard liquor,. Noah hadn’t drank like this in years. After a couple hours Noah looked in bad shape, eyes bloodshot, and he looked like he was ready to pass out by Johnny kept handing him shot glasses and well that just never ends well. The tab had to be unearthly but to be honest Noah probably couldn’t tell you his last name let along pay for something at this point. Noah finally starts to fade and then his head slowly comes to rest on the counter. Johnny doesn’t look any better but he just smiles and grabs his buddy by the arm and pulls him to his feet. The two stumble and struggle to make it to the edge of the bar where Johnny pulls wad of money out of his pocket and tosses several hundred on the counter and then shakes his head some more as the two make their way to the entrance and hail a cab. “We need to get you to bed?”
“Bed….” Noah mumbled.
A cab pulled up and Johnny opened the back door and kinda shoved Noah in and then sorta pushed him in and then went around to the other side and pulled him in the rest of the way and then leaned across Noah and pulled the door shut.
“Where ya staying buddy?” Johnny asked.
Noah seemed to be fumbling with his thoughts. “Motor…..Motor…City….Casino…”
The cabbie nodded and started to drive.
“I shouldn’t have drank so much Johnny, I feel like shit man…” Noah warned as he covered his mouth.
“Are you gonna throw up?” Johnny asked.
“Maybe….” Noah said with a shrug of his shoulders. Noah’s cell buzzed and he picked it up and then smiled and showed it to Johnny “CASSANDRA!”
“Yer girl right?” Johnny asked.
“Da best bro…” Noah exclaimed. “Da best…”
“Why you talking like that?” Johnny asked.
“Like what my brutha?” Noah said and then covered his mouth and giggled like a little kid. “Shhhh I can’t talk like that right homie…”
“Imma all white and stuff, I can’t talk like that right?” Noah said as he held his pointer finger over his mouth like he is trying to be especially quiet.
“Careful he might work for Al Qaida?” Noah warned pointing to the driver.
Johnny looked at the driver and shook his head. “I don’t think that is a problem bro…”
“Really?” Noah asked sounding confused. “I thought they all drove like trucks, taxis or worked at convenience stores?”
“Dude just shut up, before he throws us out.” Johnny warned.
“Sorry my nizzle….” Noah said with a smile and then giggled some more and then sorta slumped against the door and then started to snore loudly.
Johnny looked at the driver and rolled his eyes. “Sorry bout that.”
“Heard worse…” the driver replied. “After nine eleven people just loved talking like that. But you have to have the strength to move past all the hate and just let it go.”
“Very true.” Johnny replied.
“Your friend is quite the character.” the cabbie remarked.
Johnny nodded. “He’s been through a lot, had to suffer more than most people should have to and then I break even more bad news for the man. Life has not been kind to the man, he deserves more, he should be out of the business, he should be raising his kids. But he keeps giving to a business that doesn’t give a shit about him. He has a couple matches coming up and then who knows what is going to happen. Lindsay Troy is tough, she has been in this business a long time. I’ve heard that name around the wrestling world and she runs with Eric Dane and that man is a damn living legend. I dunno why he keeps doin’ what he does because most of the promoters don’t care they just want asses in seats.”
Motor City Casino Hotel
Later That Night
The cab pulled up and Johnny opened the door and Noah finally sprung to life and slowly pulled himself outta the cab. Noah handed the driver the fare and a sizable tip and apologized for anything he might have said and then started to stumble towards the hotel. The casino was alive with lights, music and the chattering of casino machines and money clinking in metal containers. Noah finally seemed to be sobering up slightly as he was a bit clearer than he was before. As the two made their way through the casino Noah turned to Johnny. “You deserved better man…”
“Naw, I did just fine but bro you have always deserved better than you’ve been treated. People shit on ya all the time and ya keep getting up off the mat and ya keep comin’ back for more.” Johnny explained. “Like ya the pain is something ya crave, ya know like some sorta pain druggie…”
Noah looked at his friend it was the first time someone had really spelled it out for him like that, someone told him what his issue was to his face and Noah respected him for being open and honest. “I know I don’t like the pain but maybe it is a way of me coping with all the pain I have had in my life and it is the only thing that feels natural to me is to feel MORE pain.”
“That’s deep…” Johnny said with a smile and then patted Noah on the shoulder. “You need to sleep some of this off, we need to get you to your room.”
Johnny helped Noah to the elevator and the two made their way in and the door closed. Noah leaned against the side of the elevator. “When do I get to quit all this?”
“The business?” Johnny asked. “That’s up to you man…you can only let this shit pull you down or it’ll bury you.”
“I know…” Noah quietly replied. “I just love doin’ this so much….”
“But IT doesn’t feel the same about you…” Johnny reminded Noah.
Noah nodded his head. “I know, sometimes I have to really remind myself that the business really has changed so much but I really haven’t. I mask everything so much, only peel off layers for people to see.”
The elevator dings and the Noah stumbles his way towards his room. He fumbles through his pockets and finally produces his car key and tries to hit the slot but misses it badly many times and then finally with Johnny’s help hits the spot. A green light flashes and Noah turns the handle and walks in a few steps. “Ya gonna tuck me in bro?”
“Naw dog I’ll see ya in the morning, go get some sleep.” Johnny said with a smile and then hugged his friend.
Johnny closed the door and Noah started turning around and as he did he smelled cigarette smoke. As he turned all the way around he could see the flare of the end of something lit and then a pillar of smoke rising into the darkness. Noah tilted his head slightly and tried to find the light switch.
“Hey babe?” a voice said from the darkness. “Been a while…”
Noah’s forehead shriveled in confusion, his eyes narrowed as he seemed to be searching for an answer and in his current state that was a real challenge. “That voice…I know that voice…”
“You should lover….” the voice replied.
Noah smirked and then finally found a wall and his hands kept searching in the dark for the switch and finally found it and then flipped it on.
“How is this even possible?” Noah shockingly yells.
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