Nothing like a good post match hangout, am I right? We all have our different spots. Some like to chat in the locker room. Some go straight to the nearest bar. Bobby prefers discussions and defecating. Cancer ugly cries while sitting in a cold shower putting on magenta lipstick he probably stole from Bobbinette, who’s most likely already at Hot Topic. Solex goes off arguing with himself. You can bet your ass Jace is at a strip club. And Mike and Cecilworth probably fancy themselves a very serious and definitely competitive pillow fight for some silly prize that surely sent them into giggle fits when they first thought of it the other night before going to bed.
For yours truly? I tend to end up at the local hospital. Which, given the fact that this latest beating was delivered on Alcatraz, meant a not so comfortable flight and what I can imagine will be a bill that keeps me coming back for more…“So it’s not broken?” Still a little dazed from what the Doc told me was a pretty severe concussion, I asked the unnecessary question out of confusion since I couldn’t barely move the damn thing.
“Nope.” The word came out of my caregiver’s mouth so nonchalantly it sort’ve pissed me off.
“Well then what’s going on? It’s clearly injured somehow, right?” I wince as I attempt to straighten my right arm and demonstrate my compromised condition.
“It’s just kind of… shitty now.”
The continued lack of compassion sparks a fire inside me. I can feel my eyes burning as I stare a hole through the man in that stupid, white coat.
“So what do we do, Doc?” I nearly spit that last word out at him, which received a sneer in response.
The dickhead just shrugged, “Deal with it?”
And that’s when it hit me. That’s all I can do. That’s all I’ve been doing. Dealing with the cards I’ve been dealt. For some reason, expecting them to change as I sit at the proverbial poker table of my High Octane career. Any card player can tell you how truly fucked you are when that’s the only thought left in your head, “Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, that four will turn into an Ace.”
The fleeting thought of delirious desperation makes me grin. Nothing will change unless I make it. And being in a constant state of getting hurt, having just enough time to recover to the point where I can return, and do it all again for a paycheck to settle the bill from the last hospital visit doesn’t give this old bull much time to improve on anything. Hell, it’s taking all I got just to stay in this constant state of mediocrity.
It’s funny what a few days of solitude can do to the human brain.
After returning to Boston to rest up, and not receiving a single call from… well, anyone… It didn’t take long until I could feel myself falling into the darkness of depression. Maybe it was lingering effects from the concussion. Maybe it was the harsh realization of what’s become of what was once considered a successful career. Maybe it’s karma.
Whatever it was, the ENVY was definitely gone.
I no longer yearn for the successes I see others around me achieving. I don’t pretend to think I should’ve won anything I had no business even being part of. That false sense of grandeur and undeserved gratification were knocked loose from my mind as soon as that zamboni hit.
Thanks, Scottywood. You’ve released me from a personal hell of sorts. Nothing in sports or entertainment is as pathetic as the faded star trying to relive their glory days long after the skills required to do so said sayonara.
Laying there on my couch, staring into the void, I lost track of night and day. I had shut all the blinders in my shitty, studio apartment at first because it helped with the headache. But even after that dissipated, the thought of getting up from the couch to open them just felt like too much work.
As much as I love the guy, I never wanted to know what it felt like to be Bobby Dean.
But there I lay, day turning to night… night turning to day… thinking that maybe ENVY took the rest of my feelings with it. I felt no hope in turning things around. On the other hand, I also stopped feeling sorry for myself at some point. Hell, I hadn’t even felt hungry since I got back… however many moons ago that had been.
I guess there was one feeling.
Some weird sensation combining all of those at once.
Then, there was light.
And a stupid fucking ringtone that made me think of one of my favorite, and one of my least favorite, people at the same time.
Try to be the Best
‘Cause you’re only a man
And a man’s gotta learn to take it
Try to believe
Thought the going gets rough
That you gotta hang tough to make it
I pick up before that upbeat shit makes me gag.
“Yea?” I try my best not to sound too excited.
“Hey, buddy!” The bouncy bellow of Bobby Dean follows as if he didn’t notice my disdain.
“Yea?” I decided to lay it on extra thick with that one.
“Ummmm, hey, buuuu-uuddy…”
He got it that time.
Moments of silence pass like hours.
“Alrighty. Well…” Dean lets out a deep sigh. “Just wanted to check in and see how my old pal Dooze was doing.”
“Yeah.” I removed all emotion from that one.
“Well that’s good, then!” The awk hawk was flying high. “I can tell you’re pretty busy, buddy, so I’ll let ya get back to your match prep. Even though I don’t think you need to study up on Zion by any means. The only booking you’ve had more often than Darin is Hollywood… maybe! I’ll have to e-mail Data and find out for ya!”
“Ye- wait, what?” I couldn’t cover the tiny bit of life that sparked in the tone of my voice.
“I just thought it’d be neat to know who you’ve fought more between our favorite rivals…”
“No, before that.” I try to shake the cobwebs out of my concussion riddled brain. “You said I’m booked this weekend?”
You can almost see the sheepish look on Bobby’s face despite the lack of any light… or him being in the room at all. “Uh, yeah. I figured you’d be all over it, as always, but maybe that bump you got from Scotty’s zamboni really did a number, huh?”
Guess I’m not the only one no-selling the Zamboni.
“Y-yeah…” It was clear at this point, The Beautiful Man from Honalee wasn’t sure how to proceed. “You, uh, need some help getting ready? Got a flight to Glasgow ready? If you just show up there, you might win by default. That dumb shit Darin is headed to Belfast.”
Yes, for the record, that’s Bobby Dean trying to be helpful. That’s just how creeped he is right now.
“Yeah.” And I’ve already slipped back into the darkness.
“That was a yeah to which question, buddy?” Despite the melancholy mood, it was admirable to see Bob try to navigate these unknown waters.
“Yeah.” But I wasn’t even listening at that point.
“Alright, well…” Another awkward pause. “Cool, then! Just give me a ring if ya need anything, Dooze. I mean it.”
Without another word, I bring the phone up to my face and tap on the red button. I turn over on the couch. And that’s when I see it.
That’s when I see… Him.
Or, at least, his outline.
I’m not sure how he got into my nearly pitch black apartment, but there He was.
He didn’t respond.
I moan as I slowly rise to sit up on the couch, not taking my eyes off my guest.
“I should’ve known it wouldn’t take you long to show up again. He always said you’d come around at the worst of times. I just guess I figured he was lying, since I thought I hit my lowest points a couple times already this past year…”
A faint smirk appears.
“So what, you think you showing up now with that dumb look on your face is gonna save me somehow? Turn this all around?”
I spit into the ether.
“Maybe it’s too late, ya know? Maybe you should’ve showed up months ago? Maybe things would be different…”
I rub my eyes, bringing my index finger and thumb together at the bridge of my nose.
“You know what? Why don’t you go out to Glasgow this weekend and fight Darin for me, huh? You always had the confidence. The swagger. The jokes. The words. So many stupid, fucking words. But you had ‘em, didn’t you? Well guess what? Darin will kick your ass and humiliate you, too. He already has. Countless times. He’s taken away more from you than you could have ever imagined. And what’d you do? Absolutely fucking nothing. You just let it happen. You let it all crumble. You let it all go to shit. You were supposed to be so much more…”
I stand up from the couch, my blue eyes almost glowing in the darkness.
“This bullshit existence you live in now?… It’s all your fucking fault. So how about you fucking fix it? Because, me? I’m fucking done.”
Just as those last words leave my mouth, the phone lights up again. I snatch it from the couch and in one swift motion, send it flying across the room, as I make my way to the door. Just as I slip out of the small room, the phone hits one of the window blinders, shooting it up and letting in light.
Left alone, standing in the middle of the studio, is a cardboard cutout.
It’s not Dan Ryan.
It’s a young man in a Superman t-shirt with a backwards, red baseball cap on his head.
His blue eyes staring ahead, determined.
And a note, that went unnoticed, at his feet.