I stood at the edge of the driveway, a duffle bag slung across my chest while hands rested in my jeans pockets, and looked out at the horizon, waiting for my ride to show up. Standing there, I heard the door close and didn’t bother to turn back. I knew it was time to move on, to head onto my journey.
Before I know it, there is a hand placed on my shoulder, and I look over to see my mother standing there. ‘Hi,’ she meekly offers. I relax my stance a bit, allowing my mother to stand next to me, wrap her arms around me. ‘You sure about this?’
I see the redness around her eyes, knowing she’d spent the entire night crying after the disastrous fight the previous evening between my father and me. I open my mouth, to explain my case again, but decide against it. Instead, I simply nod my head and she places her face into my shoulder.
‘I can’t anymore,’ I finally respond to her. ‘Things with him are never going to get better. I will never be able to measure up to his expectations of me.’
She shakes her head, not removing it from my shoulder though. ‘I see your perspective.’
I look down at her. ‘But you also can see his perspective. That’s where the problem lies.’
My mother slowly lifts her head off of my shoulder and she looks at me. ‘That is my husband, the person I’ve decided to do my life with. I have to have his back.’
‘Even when he’s wrong?’
She shakes her head. ‘He knows my thoughts and opinions, but we are a team at the end of the day. You’ll understand that one day.’
‘The idea that I can’t have my own thoughts and opinions? I don’t think so.’
She places her hand on my chest and stares at me. ‘I have my own thoughts and opinions. That’s why you’re here. That’s why your sisters are the way that they are.’
I scoff. ‘Everyone else gets to be treated like royalty and I get treated like shit. Tell me how that’s fair, Mom.’
‘It’s not,’ she responds while shaking her head. ‘I can’t change him.’
‘Then stop advocating for him, supporting him!’
She looks at me with a peculiar look on her face. ‘You don’t know how marriage works, not yet.’
‘The way that I’ve seen it, I hope I never understand it.’
She smiles and nods her head. ‘I get that. I really do. Because the things we do don’t make sense to you. I may not condone his actions, but I’m always going to have his back. That doesn’t mean I don’t have your back.’
‘You can’t have two people’s backs when they are arguing all of the time. You have to pick a side, you have to see what is happening. I’ve done everything he’s asked me to do and it still is not enough. Why am I bending over backward to appease someone who could care less what happens to me?’ I can feel the anger rising in my chest and struggle to keep it under control, but manage to do so.
‘You’re not wrong. And if this is what you need, then I support you.’
I scoff, rolling my eyes. ‘What I need to do? Do you think this is what I want to do? To be walking out of my own house and embarking on this journey, weeks after turning eighteen? The reality is there is no choice. Not for my own sanity and health. He will do everything he can to ground me into the floor and ensure I don’t exist. If I don’t leave, then what’s the alternative for me to do? You see the point it’s getting to. You must.’
‘I do,’ she meekly replies, looking at the ground.
‘And you’re okay with it.’
‘David—‘ she begins, but I cut her off.
‘I don’t want to keep doing this with you. Even if you’re fighting in private, you’re lying down for the rest of the world to see. That’s not what I would expect from my mother. I’m thankful for everything you’ve done, but when I need you the most, I can’t count on you.’
I see the welling in her eyes, the tears threatening to come out, but they somehow stay in place. I hate the words as they come out of my mouth, but I don’t take them back.
‘So, what is your plan? To go wrestle?’
I shrug my shoulders, thinking about how I did pretty well in high school at it.
“Buddy of mine has a training gym that he said I could come and try out. I figure it’s a start until I figure out the next phase of my life.’
There is silence between the two of us before a yellow taxi pulls up to the front of the driveway. I look over at my mother, as she just looks back at me. I see the love in her eyes, but it’s too much for me to handle at the moment because of the anger that I’m feeling. I look back at the house and see my father standing at the window. He sips from his coffee cup, watching me as I open the door to the taxi.
He could stop me, tell me he’s sorry, but I know that will never happen. I throw my bag into the back of the taxi and look back at my mother, her arms folded across my chest.
‘I’ll see you soon, mom,’ I offer and she nods her head before I wrap my arms around her, pulling her into a hug. She silently sobs into my chest before she breaks away and heads up the driveway. I look again at my father, showing no emotion, and then get into the taxi.
‘Where to?’ the driver inquires.
‘Anywhere but here,’ I respond before he pulls away, watching as the house I grew up in turns into a blur before I close my eyes, suffocating the feelings I find in my heart.
* * *
[The following is a transcript of the March 2nd edition of the WrestleTalk show, aired lived on SiriusXM radio]
Wade Ross Sapp: What else did I watch last weekend? Oh yeah, I watched Refueled 89. Good shit right there, good shit indeed. The semifinals are all set there in the Maurako Cup. I don’t know if you’ve been checking it out, but it’s been a fun journey. You’ve got John Sektor and Adam Ellis going up against Darin Zion and Xander Azula. If you had told me Zion and Azula were going to be the team to make it out of their group, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. Then you’ve also got Bobinette Carey and Darkwing going up against the HOW World Champion, the holder of #97Red himself, Conor Fuse and his partner David Noble.
Producer: We’ve got Noble on the phone right now.
WRS: What?! Seriously. Put him through.
Producer: Here you go.
WRS: Noble, are you there? You’re live on the air.
DN: Yeah, yeah. I’m here.
WRS: You’ve gotta be in a good mood if you ask me. You and Fuse managed to make it out of your stage group and will be facing off against Carey and Darkwing.
DN: Sure, sure.
WRS: You aren’t happy?
DN: I mean, at the end of the day, the whole way it happened was odd. I’m no fan of JJR and Pleasant, but to let a tiebreaker let things be decided seems a bit odd. You know?
WRS: That’s fair. What did you think would happen?
DN: I thought let them through, let them fight. Look, I’m not clamoring for a shot at them once again. Twice in the ring with JJR is more than enough for me and I imagine it won’t be the last time I step in the ring with him. Instead of letting it play out in the ring, they decide to use a tiebreaker. It’s bullshit. And I think it’s bullshit because the same could’ve happened to Fuse and myself. Doozer disappeared on me, Jace Parker’s dealing with injuries and wasn’t cleared to compete. So we had the deck stacked against us, but no team should get knocked out on a technicality. Let them fight, but that’s what management does, you know? Inconsistent as fuck.
WRS: You sound pretty heated about this. I thought you would be happy.
DN: Yeah, I’ve got no problem going forward. Fuse and I still have fighting to do, just seems odd, you know? You’ve got people over there, running about and calling the shots, and the rest of us are left to get fucked. I guess that’s just how life goes.
WRS: The road with Fuse has been pretty interesting thus far, no?
DN: Yeah and when you look at the remaining teams in the tournament, there’s none bigger than Fuse, right? He’s the man, the guy on top. So there’s some comfort in that. Fuse is a cool cat, someone you can rely on and know he’s gonna show up and give it his all. Of course, you start becoming friends with the top guy, and all of a sudden you’re fair game for everyone else.
WRS: I assume you’re talking about the comments from Scott Stevens?
DN: Fuck Scott Stevens. He wants to sit there and bitch non-stop. [mocking tone] Oh, please give me another title shot just weeks after I lost against Fuse.
WRS: HA! That’s a pretty good impression.
DN: Look, Stevens, you lost. I would say be a man and grow the fuck up, but once again, you’re one of the ones that can whisper in the ears of management and get whatever the fuck you want. I wouldn’t be surprised if management decides they want Stevens to get another shot he hasn’t fucking earned and make Fuse wrestle twice in the same night. It just goes to speak to the backward bullshit I’m talking about.
WRS: Plus, he threw your name into the mix.
DN: Yeah, don’t think I forgot about that. I must have missed where Fuse is hiding behind me. I must have missed when Fuse ducked Stevens challenge. Stevens is an example of some of the entitled assholes in this company, who think because they give a good tug under the desk that they’re owed something. You want to fight? Then fucking show up, fight, and win. That’s the key ingredient someone like Stevens is missing. Don’t go running around and dropping my name because I’ll slap the shit out of you, motherfucker. Fuse is a good guy, someone who genuinely cares. Don’t get it twisted. I’m not a good guy. I’m the one that will choke you out and end my night drinking a bourbon, forgetting whatever your name is.
WRS: Weeeeeeeeell then. You do have a match this upcoming week—
DN: Yeah, Bobinette Carey and Darkwing. Trust me, I didn’t forget. Am I looking forward to the match? Sure. It’s gonna be fun getting back in the ring and going up against those two. On one side, you have Bobinette Carey. My partner seems to have positive things to think about you and I’m not sure why that is. Since I’ve been here, all I’ve seen is someone who manipulates with the best of them while complaining about everything. [mocking tone] Scotty, just forgive me. Why can’t you just move on from the fact that I stabbed you in the back? Get over it! Oh, spare me with your incessant bullshit. The non-stop kvetching and whining. You’ve been on your Black history month mantra when the reality is the real heroes you’ve been referencing would expel you from the cookouts faster than they turned their backs on Tiger Woods. You would be the first pick in the RACE DRAFT with the Black community including you as a throwaway salary to simply get rid of your ass in return for someone of actual value. Fuse might see you as a friend, but I see you as the real version of yourself; a hanger-on that we all will forget three seconds after you shut your mouth.
WRS: Yikes! Do I even want to ask your thoughts about Darkwing?
DN: What’s there to say? His name is Darkwing. That’s a badass name. You don’t fuck around with someone named Darkwing. You just don’t. I’m looking forward to stepping in the ring with him even though I don’t understand why he’s hanging out with Bobinette Carey, but there seems to be plenty of that going around.
WRS: Alright, any update on your contract?
DN: I guess we shall see, right?
WRS: Sounds good. Thanks for hopping on David, we’ll make sure to catch you this weekend on Refueled 90, airing live from the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.
* * *
My hand rests on the front door for longer than it probably should. I can feel Lorelai’s eyes resting upon me, wondering if a brain aneurism has finally struck me and left me as an invalid. After a few more moments, I put my hand on the doorknob and open the door. As I do, a waft of spices hits my nostrils and a gaggle of noises to my ears. I take a moment, analyzing the voices, and only hear softer tones and voices, giving me some comfort that my father is not in the vicinity.
I look over at Lorelai, her eyes seem hesitant and excited all at the same time, and I’m starting to lean into the idea that she is excited to see the drama unfold before her very eyes and knowing she will get a front-row seat to her. I think about telling her to go outside, but realize that I can’t do that out of good conscience or fear of child services being called against me.
As I inch towards the kitchen, I hear some of the conversation unfolding. I hear Eliza’s songbird voice first.
‘You should take some food up to Daddy,’ she speaks confidently. My baby sister, all grown up now.
‘You know he’s not going to eat anything,’ I hear a response, this time coming from Andrea.
‘Well, that shouldn’t be taken into consideration,’ Stephanie chimes in. ‘We have to take care of him and he needs to listen to us.’
‘Fat chance of that happening,’ Diana responds next. There’s a lull in the atmosphere and I decide to take my chance to enter, feeling like this would be a time that would result in the least amount of knives being thrown at me.
I knock on the side of the doorframe that leads into the kitchen and five pairs of eyes immediately shift towards me with shock, surprise, happiness, and ambivalence (I’ll leave you to guess who that last one was).
‘David!’ Eliza is the first one to explode with her happiness and I watch as her twenty-something-year-old legs carry her across the room and her blonde ponytail bouncing playfully behind her. Her arms wrap around me before I have a chance to move and I can feel the warmth of her face against mine. She just stands there for a moment, her head moving into my chest, and I can tell that she’s been having a hard time as of late. The longer her head remains on your chest, the more she is hurting, and after about ten seconds, I can tell things are quite bad.
I look around the room as she ends the embrace and makes her way over to a chair.
The pleasantries extend for a few more moments before eyes land upon Lorelai who seems eager to make introductions and taken aback at the wide barometer of personalities coming at her.
After a few more minutes, we’re all seated around the table.
‘Saw your big match the other week,’ Tania offers, just a year younger than Andrea, the oldest of the sisters. ‘Looked like you’re settling back into things quite nicely.’
I nod my head before reaching across the table and grabbing a bottle of water.
‘Andrea told us that you had custody of Lorelai now. How is that going?’ Diana inquires. I look over at Lorelai, who is sitting in her own chair and looking around in astonishment.
‘Lorelai,’ I softly nudge her into responding.
‘Oh, yeah. It’s interesting. Different? Definitely different. I didn’t grow up with a dad, so it’s taking some adjustment. My mom raised me so that’s what I know. Conversations about romantic comedies, periods, and old boyfriends of hers.’
Andrea snorts. ‘I’m sure David’s name never came up.’
I shoot her a look, one that evokes that I’m no longer a child and have to deal with her bullshit. As her brain processes the gravity of this, the reality of it, she backs off and throws her hands up, invoking mea culpa. I feel a hand on my shoulder and look over to see it is Lorelai and I realize how tense my body became in the span of a second. Andrea has this effect on me and I realize that being in this room, being with everyone like this, isn’t going to be healthy for anyone.
‘Excuse me,’ I mutter before I rise from my chair and head around the corner to the living room. I look around at the furniture that looks like it hasn’t moved in twenty years and a flood of memories come back to me, such as my mother reading to me on the chaise. I haven’t spent much time thinking about my mother in recent years, her death had a profound impact on me, and I lean against the wall as another wave of emotions hit me.
I’m not alone for too long as Tania comes around the corner and glances at me. All of my daughters look just different and similar enough all at the same time. While Eliza has blonde hair, Tania has dark brown hair and a smile that has charmed far too many boys (and girls). She sits down on the edge of a chair across from me.
‘Glad you’re here,’ she offers. ‘It’s good to see you. Wish it was under better circumstances, but what are you going to do, right?’
I nod my head.
‘Dad is bad. Really bad. He refuses to accept it, but I hope seeing you will help improve his demeanor.’
I have to choke back a laugh. ‘Why would that be the case?’
‘Because he loves you. He hasn’t seen you. He has been asking for you.’
I shake my head. ‘If anything, he misses his whipping post.’
‘You haven’t seen him since mom died. He’s really changed.’
I nod my head. ‘That must be nice. To be able to change like that all of a sudden. The doesn’t mean memories just magically fade away as well.’
‘No, I understand that. He understands that too. I’ve caught him on a handful of occasions looking at the phone and thinking about picking it up. To call you.’
‘Yeah, okay. I’m sure he wanted to order a pizza is all,’ I respond.
‘I don’t think so,’ she sighs. ‘There’s so much to catch up on though. You going to stick around for a while?’
I think about it for a moment, realizing there are a lot of things that have to happen before I can leave this house. This isn’t going to be a five-minute talk, but a few days of opening and closing old wounds with not just my father, but with my sisters. All who need different things from me.
As the thought crosses my mind, I feel defeated already and lean further into the wall.
‘Yeah,’ I respond. ‘I will be for a few days.’
A smile comes over her face and I can tell the relief my presence has on not just her, but the rest of my sisters.
I cherish the moment, not knowing how horribly wrong everything will be in just a few days.