I can’t believe I’ve been sitting in this stupid chair for almost two hours. I don’t like being forced into something I don’t want to do. I’m selfish. I own that. I don’t care what you think.
Why is Lindsay just sitting there?
If she thinks I’m talking first, she’s nuts. I don’t even know why I’m here — nice day out, a perfectly good afternoon — this is not my idea of a good time.
Hey, are those my old movie posters crammed into a box in the corner?? Alaina told me the movers accidentally destroyed them! We’re gonna have words.
Lindsay’s staring at me.
I don’t give a fuck.
I can do this for-fucking-ever, I guarantee it. I’ll grow old and gray in this very chair if I have to.
How did we even get here anyway. I’m fucking hungry, goddammit.
“Why does talking about it have to be the answer?”
Dan Ryan leaned on a retro 80-ish kitchen island, squinting his eyes in a solid cringe over this suggestion from Lindsay Troy, who was standing in front of him with a frown and her arms crossed, like a teacher trying to problem-solve a student issue or a curly-haired athletic-for-some-reason detective from a nighttime drama on TNT.
Dan noticed a large pretzel on the counter, wrapped in napkins with only one tiny bite taken out of it. A spite pretzel, with crumbs flaking off onto his otherwise clean counter. Who the hell has been eating pretzels? Or not eating pretzels?
Lindsay’s voice broke him from his reverie.
“I’m not comfortable with it either, but what other way is there to figure this thing out?
Ryan pulled a hand to his head, rubbing his eyes. Talking. He hated talking. No…that’s not true. He loved talking. Just not about feelings.
“I don’t know. I just figured we’d punch, kick, and throw people around, maybe throw some weights around, train. That’s what I usually do.”
“Well,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t think that’s gonna cut it this time. Something’s wrong, and we need to talk about it.”
Dan went mock-limp, like a kid who just got told he can’t go outside and play.
She ignored the display.
“We lost the tag titles because of me, Dan. I can’t let that sit.”
He rolled his eyes and tilted his head back, enough for her to notice, enough to get on her nerves. “It’s not a big deal. It was one bad match. We’ve had them before, we’ll have them again.”
His eyes widened. “No?”
“I mean,” She waved her hand and shook her head, looking sideways toward nothing at all. “Yes, it was a bad match, but it’s more than that. Something’s just off right now.”
He grew suspicious, his eyes narrowing as he looked at her. “Yes, something is off right now. And by right now, I mean right now, because it is very unlike you to try and talk me to death when I’d rather do anything but. Typically that’s your sister’s job.”
Lindsay let out a deep sigh but said nothing. A sense of anger started to creep into her demeanor as if someone had taken a lid off of something that should stay covered.
Ryan’s head tilted slightly, and he looked down a bit, blinked a few times, then looked back up at her, a very serious frown on his face.
“This isn’t about the matches, is it?”
“Who put you up to this? Your sister?”
But the voice wasn’t Troy’s. Cecilia Ryan, Dan Ryan’s daughter, and at this moment, an annoying person who gets into other people’s business, walked into the room and took up a position between them. She gave her aunt a knowing look and smiled, and Troy gave a thin-lipped grin back. Cecilia’s look in her dad’s direction was more stern as if explaining to a child how to behave in church, or, like someone trying to communicate a sense of calm to someone she knew wouldn’t be receptive to talk about these matters, or, like someone who was about to be grounded.
Dan sneered, like something out of a Seinfeld episode.
She returned the look.
The voice came from behind her. Troy had been game, but her resolve had begun to break. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
But Cecilia was steadfast. She kept her hand on her dad’s arm, put the other on Lindsay’s, and started to pull them off toward the hall as if she could physically pull either of them if they didn’t want to be pulled.
Dan followed, but his feet shuffled reluctantly as he walked.
“Oh, what fresh hell is this?”
Lindsay gave him an annoyed glance but followed as well.
Cecilia marched them down a long hallway. “You might as well do as I say. I’m stubborn like my aunt, and relentless like my father.”
Dan frowned again but kept playing along, staying only a few feet behind her as he walked down the hall.
“And what do you get from your mom exactly?”
This was Lindsay’s cue. Before Cecilia could respond….
“Well, she’s much, much better looking than you.”
Ryan tossed a glance over his shoulder.
Just then, Cecilia threw open a door that opened into a rather cavernous garage. This old house(™) had a three-car garage, one that had been outfitted with a gray epoxy coating to keep grease from staining the concrete. The slick appearance reflected the lights above and around what appeared to be some sort of interrogation scene.
In the middle of the garage were two metal padded folding chairs, sturdy in construction, facing each other, with a waist-high wooden table in between. On the table were two whiskey glasses and a tall bottle of Buffalo Trace William Larue Weller. The hue of the bourbon left a golden brown reflection on the table’s surface.
Ryan and Troy walked in, and Ryan stood, dumbfounded.
“Oh no… what have you done?”
Troy cringed a little and turned to face her niece, but Cecilia was already at the door. To be more precise, she was already through the door, and it was almost shut.
“It’s me making you two work out your shit.”
She flashed a big gotcha smile. Dan turned back, taking note of specifics of the bottle on the table for the first time.
“Cece, that’s a thousand dollar bourbon. Where did you get that??”
“Yeah right,” he snorted back. “Seriously, where did you get it?”
She waved him off. “Don’t worry where I got it.”
He had given her a credit card to use for emergencies, and it suddenly dawned on him… his shoulders slumped.
She smiled again. “No one leaves this room until the two of you figure this out. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“A few hours??” He protested, but the door was already shut, and the tell-tale sound of a turning latch made it obvious that they wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.
Troy leaned her head back, then cracked her neck to one side and sighed. She opened her eyes, turned to Ryan, and smiled. “Well”, she said, motioning to the chairs. “I guess we better get to it.”
Dan looked at the table and chairs and practically growled under his breath. He swung one of his legs over the back of his chair and took a seat, looking across at Troy, and popped the bottle open. He gave the vapors a little sniff, made a “wow” expression, and poured them both a drink.
So I guess this is how we got here.
Cecilia stuffed us in this goddamned garage.
She’s lucky she’s my only child and even luckier I just redid this fucking garage, or it would be a smoldering pile of Dan Ryan debris right now.
You know what? I’m fucking rich. I could do a running Kool-Aid Man through one of these walls to get out of here, write a check to fix it and my accountants wouldn’t even notice the money missing. It’s not like I’m Andy Murray — one misguided roll of the dice away from selling timeshares at some greasy shit-hole in the Poconos.
It would have taken a half dozen men to put me in a room against my will not so long ago. Time does make soft fruit of us all though, doesn’t it? You get a wife and a family, and one day you look back on yourself punching a hole in a fucking car window, and instead of feeling pride, you feel a little bit stupid.
Just a bruised peach on some shitty produce shelf.
Soft, squishy fruit.
Locked in my own goddamned garage in my own damned house by my own goddamned daughter, and for what? Because Lindsay Troy wants to have a Friennaisannce? It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.
I can do this for-fucking-ever, I guarantee it.
I ALREADY SAID THAT DIDN’T I??
Fuck it. I’m having another drink.
Dan Ryan looked up at a clock sitting sideways on one of the custom garage shelves. He watched the second-hand trudge along, two hours forward from when they’d first taken their seats. He remembered building those shelves by hand. He’d gone to the hardware store, carefully selected all of the wood, metal framing, nuts and bolts, and other assorted items he’d need, then came home and built the entire thing by himself.
And that hadn’t taken as long as this was taking.
“Alright, I give.”
He stared a hole in her forehead and watched as she snapped back to attention. She had dug her heels in as well, and it took her a moment to catch her bearings again.
“By all means,” he sighed, resigned to his fate finally. “Let’s talk.”
Part of her was satisfied at having outlasted him. Another part of her dreaded every moment of what she knew was coming.
“Look,” Lindsay said, taking a sip from the glass, the initial offering poured and presented to her hours before. By now, she’s a couple deep. “I know you hate this, but Cecilia’s right. There’s a knot in this chain right now. I can’t see it but I can feel it every time I put the necklace on.”
Dan leaned back slightly, swirled the drink around in his glass and took a sip.
“Well if you don’t know what it is, I sure as hell don’t. Two hours ago, I was getting ready to go grab some dinner. Now I’m locked in a garage.”
“I just think…” She paused, choosing her words, searching for something. “… I just think I’m out of sorts because this kind of thing doesn’t come natural for me. I’m determined, goal-oriented and I’ve always been good at making plans and seeing them through. But the plotting and the scheming aren’t really my sweet spot.”
“First of all,” he sat the glass down on the table, then picked up the bottle and poured another drink for himself. “Plotting and scheming are the same thing. Secondly, no shit. It wasn’t the play you’d usually call for yourself, but it was the smart play. I was on the verge of making that call myself. Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a relief.”
She nodded, but in acknowledgment, not relief.
“I know. It’s definitely the sort of thing that you’d do. But I’m completely thrown off by it, even now. I really put my neck out there, really put my ass on the line. What if you hadn’t come down after I took that chair shot? What if you had said no to joining the group?”
Dan looked deeply into his drink, then took a sip.
“I do have to admit, that would have been awkward.”
“Well,” she leaned back and crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s awkward anyway. The ring chemistry is off and we’ve been doing this forever. We don’t feel like real partners right now, and I don’t know why. I’ve been hesitating and it’s been costing us matches.”
She looked up. “What?”
He raised a finger to put an exclamation on his words.
“It cost us a match. Not matches. A match. Really, you’re being very hard on yourself here.”
She peered at him sitting there, casually drinking the 120 proof liquor. He stared back, not yet affected by the alcohol.
“I realize that you do this sort of thing all the time and it doesn’t bother you one bit. But I just feel…. off. It’s like I feel this need to have eyes in the back of my head for reasons that don’t even exist.”
He nodded, a serious expression on his face.
“I’ve heard of this. What’s it called again? Oh yeah. A guilty conscience. I’ve never actually experienced it myself, but it sounds absolutely dreadful.”
“Yes, Dan. Those of us with actual feelings sometimes feel things and have to work it out before we can move on.”
He shuddered, then took another drink.
“How do you manage to go through life like that day by day?”
Troy smirked. She figured he was at least half-kidding. Then again, who knows?
“I guess I just manage.”
Dan slammed his glass down on the table, frowning, but not really frowning. “Well, it seems like it’s working out really well for ya. Let me tell you how I get myself out of a mental funk like the one you’re in right now.”
Troy was suspicious as to the quality of the incoming insight, but she was game. “By all means.”
It was he who crossed his arms this time, and, having no drink to sip, trained his full attention on her.
“Let me ask you a question first. Let’s assume you have some anxiety about how all of this went down. Maybe you regret how it happened. Maybe it was too close a call for you and you just feel like you’re mentally out of whack. Can you go back and change it?”
She gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head.
He pointed in her direction, then let his hand drop to the table with a thud.
She seemed unimpressed.
“That’s your brilliant insight? You can’t go back and change it, why should I worry, why should I care? Dan this is real life, not Oliver and Company.”
“No.” He shook his head, irritated. “That’s not what I’m getting at. This is. Regrets are bullshit, Lindsay.”
Not Lindz. Lindsay. Uh oh. This is serious.
“Regret isn’t even a real thing. It’s not useful, anyway. All regret does is put a name on a feeling to explain a person who refuses to accept who they really are. You are the sum of your choices, whether you like it or not. There’s no such thing as making a decision you wouldn’t normally make. If you made the decision, that’s who you are now. Once you accept that, you won’t hesitate any longer because you’ll be comfortable in your own skin, no longer enslaved by some idea you have in your head about who you are, when what you’re really doing is trying to play the role of who you used to be. This is who you are now, hun. Embrace it, really embrace it, and you’ll be fine.”
A slight look of surprise crossed her face, then something else. She was impressed, maybe. She half-expected some snarky remark or at least some jibe about these feelings of hers. To Dan, ‘feelings’ was usually more of an ‘F-word’ than the actual ‘F-word’, which he threw around with no problem.
She watched him as he, satisfied with his gift of sage wisdom, poured himself yet another drink.
“So that’s the secret…. accept that this is me now?”
He held out his drink and made an imaginary toast.
“That’s the secret. Welcome to the dark side.”
For the first time in the conversation, Troy picked up her glass and looked down at the drink.
“Guess it was inevitable, although I’m still not sure how to feel about it. Comforted, yet still a little disturbed.”
She shrugged, then sighed.
“Oh well. Here’s to it.”
With that, she brought the glass to her lips and threw the entire thing back, swallowing in one big gulp and wincing from the bite.
“Yeah well, you’re evil now. Perhaps you would feel more comfortable if you went out and bought yourself some dark eyeliner to wear, like all the really cool evil people wear.”
Troy cringed and might have felt actual physical discomfort at the suggestion.
“Dark eyeliner does not look good on me, and I try not to look like a teenaged employee of Hot Topic at all costs.”
“You say that,” Dan responded, shrugging. “But you’ve always avoided pretzels, too, and yet there’s a badly wrapped pretzel on my kitchen counter leaving crumbs everywhere. Is that gonna be your thing that signifies your new evil nature? Spiderman dyed his hair black and combed it over. Lindsay Troy takes singular bites out of pretzels and causes messes in other people’s kitchens.”
“Calm down, Mr. Clean. I’ll brush the two crumbs into the trash.”
Ryan smiled, satisfied.
“Good, because the cleaning lady doesn’t come for another week.”
Troy shook her head at the idea that Dan Ryan would leave a couple of crumbs on a counter for a week so a cleaning lady could get it for him. She’d laugh, but she knew he wasn’t even joking. Dan relaxed. He had a quick flashback to Jack Harmen leaving a condensation ring on his wooden living room table six months ago. Jack Harmen almost died that day.
But we digress.
“Looks like we got this hashed out before Cece’s only-God-knows-how-long time limit. Guess we didn’t have to go broadway with this therapy session after all.”
Dan finished the sentence, then threw back another swig of bourbon and winced again.
“Well,” Troy started to relax, some of her tension, but not all, fading away into the deep recesses of the alcohol. “Since we apparently have some time, let’s make sure we’re on the same page this week against Mikey and Jesse. They’re looking to bounce back themselves. We can’t afford to have another off night.”
“In fact,” he said, firmly. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to make a rather large statement. I really don’t care how much they’ve struggled since they’ve been here, dangerous is dangerous, and I have absolutely no interest in letting anyone from that group get a leg up on us. You just need to go out there and do what comes naturally. You’re overthinking things, that’s all. Let your training and your instinct take over. You’re so much fucking better than almost everyone here. The only one who can stop you is you.”
He took another drink. It was starting to work on his inhibitions, and he was starting to drift into total honesty mode. He put the glass down, continuing.
“For that matter, there isn’t anyone else in the world I’d rather go to war with. I hope you realize that.”
“I do,” she asserts. “And the same goes for you. I honestly can’t wait to shove their words right back down their stupid fucking throats.”
Ryan smirked. “Brevity is the soul of wit. They talk way, way too much, saying very, very little. It’s alright. Let them say what they want. They have all the depth of a wading pool at the YMCA. If I wanna know which toppings go best with a white chocolate frappuccino, I’ll ask the Hollywood Bruvs. If I wanna know about winning big matches and actually getting shit done, I’ll ask Lindsay Troy.”
She smiled, broadly, and raised her glass. He, as well, and they clinked them together.
“Now that’s something to drink to.”
He gave a little wink and they both threw back the remaining contents of their drinks. Lindsay chuckled a bit, looking down and running a finger over the rim of her glass.
She took a deep breath, thought hard, closed her eyes, then opened them, looking straight in his eyes.
“As long as we’re being dead-ass honest… Maybe there are a couple more things I gotta tell you…”
She, for the first time, picked up the bottle and poured them both a double.