I still remember the first time I ever chalked up.
It was so fucking cliche. Cutting down a line with my debit card in the back room of some ridiculous skin bar on the Vegas strip, staring back at myself in the reflection of this shitty little pocket book mirror that one of the girls busted out. I hadn’t learned yet how easy it is to pull tail when you’ve got an eight ball– it’s like catnip for whores, I swear to God. But shit, that’s a lot of other stories for a lot of other times. This story isn’t about the unending River Styx of questionable vagina that I have sailed my Hall of Fame canoe down over the years.
This story is about cocaine.
It was a big, fat fucking line for a first timer. I remember staring down at it while Benny– yeah, Big Buff– rolled up a hundo and started babbling about whatever it is he babbles on about. “Blah blah, you’re the savior, kiss ass kiss ass”– after a while with Newell, it’s all the same. I had tuned him out– all I could feel was this rush of fear coming over my body, tingling the hairs on my arms and legs and leaving me with this feeling like there was something crawling on the back of my fucking neck.
Some idiot cunt-for-hire was grinding her snatch against the back of my head, just really pounding on the top of my goddamned dome like she wanted me to wear her as a hat. I remember trying hard not to laugh– the whole thing was like the beginning of a bad porno movie, and here I’m sitting with a hundred dollar bill turned origami straw, wondering if I was about to die. I took a deep breath and put the paper to the glass, while Benny is cheering me on like a fucking lunatic– I snort it all up into my nose and immediately it feels like I just inhaled fucking fiber glass. Like my whole sinus cavity has just filled up with sand, and I’ve been buried alive. It was the most miserable feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life, and I immediately regretted ever letting Benny talk me into this bullshit in the first place.
And then, the world changed forever.
Everything goes blurry for a second, but not like I’m drunk– it’s like I’m in the fucking Matrix and everything around me is all slowed down. I swear to you, if Kennedy done some blow before that shitty little parade in Dalls, he’d have caught the fucking bullet in his teeth. It was like I was Jesus but also I was meeting Jesus and it was Jesus Squared and I was in Heaven but better than Heaven because it wasn’t shitty and full of harps and it was… awesome.
The bright lights were brighter, the crappy house music was suddenly fucking Mozart, and I can’t decide if I want to give Benny Newell the biggest goddamned hug of his life or dislocate his jaw. A rush of emotions like I’ve never felt before– the best adrenaline spike of my life and the best sex I’ve ever had, all rolled up into this one little feeling exploding inside of my body like a hydrogen bomb. I knew right then and there that I had just done the smartest and the dumbest thing I would ever do in my entire life. I’d introduced it to a feeling it couldn’t make on it’s own. I’d tasted invincibility, and I needed more.
They didn’t tell me I’d punch a hole in the plaster and lose the security deposit on my apartment. They never bothered to mention that when you crash, your stomach twists into knots that Eagle Scouts couldn’t break with fifteen merit badges and a pair of fuckin’ scissors. About your heart beating out of your fucking chest and spilling out onto the floor of a crowded IHOP at four in the morning while you’re hyperventilating and jonesing for more all at the same time. They didn’t tell me that I’d be doing it every day not because I wanted to… but because I had to. When it all finally went tits up, I was convulsing on the filthy stone floor of a solitary confinement cell.
I call it Rumble at the Rock Bottom.
The guards managed to turn me over before I choked on my own vomit, but they couldn’t change the fact that I had to wrestle in the main event of Rumble at the Rock with my own piss and shit running down my leg. I’d managed to smuggle in a couple of balloons full of candy with me into solitary, and I thought I was slick. Figured I’d average it out to a couple of bumps a day, and be ready to fire out of that cell like an angry sperm into a selfie blanket from the starting bell.
Instead, it exploded in my colon.
The highest I’ve ever been was ironically the most sobering moment of my life. When I dragged myself off that God forsaken island, I got help. I got clean. I got on the wagon and off the drugs and I vowed that I’d never put that garbage into my body again. That was in October of 2012.
I made it almost eight years.
“I need a fucking cigarette.”
He’d stumble out of bed if he’d made it that far– the Son of God finds himself staring up at the coffee table above him, eyeing an open pack of Camels as his brain tries it’s damndest to pound it’s way directly through his skull. How the fuck did he end up on the floor in the first place? It was all a blur– the last thing he can remember is dropping Farthington off at his hotel. And sure, they’d had a few drinks. Sure, he’d done a little blow. But it was just a few drinks. It was just a little blow.
How the fuck did he end up in a blackout?
Michael Lee Best blindly flails an arm up onto the coffee table, fumbling for a cigarette. He eventually manages to knock the whole pack to the floor next to him, as his eyes struggle to adjust to the light in the living room. Even through the blackout curtains, bright halos of sun peak around the edges of the windows on the dining room side of the apartment. Dining room side means bad news. Dining room side means he’s fucked off half his day.
Dining room side means it’s already the afternoon.
“Fuck it.” he mutters, stuffing a crumpled cigarette into his mouth. “Even God takes Sundays off.”
Shutting his eyes tightly again, in hopes of holding back the vomiting, Michael slowly rolls over onto his side and pushes himself up on one arm. He snatches the cheap gas station lighter off the edge of the coffee table and holds it to the half-broken Camel hanging out of his mouth.
“Piece of shit.” Best grumbles, tossing the lighter away. “Gotta do everything the goddamned hard way.”
The noise that escapes him as he stands up from the hardwood floor isn’t becoming of a man in his early thirties, but then again, he’s not exactly the average man in his thirties. Despite his delusions of Godhood, Michael Lee Best is a man who has been stabbed, trampled, stabbed, dropped through floors, chainsaw murdered and stabbed over the course of his career. Also stabbed, if we didn’t mention stabbed. Of all the ways that he’s ever found himself to be Christ-like, his tendency to come back from the dead is easy the most plausible.
Oh, but about that cigarette.
His bones crackle and crunch as he hobbles to his feet, audibly voicing their anger at having been jammed awkwardly under a coffee table during his hibernation, as he shambles his way toward the kitchen of the small but serviceable town home. Beer cans litter the floor– he had kept drinking when he got home last night, or were these just leftover from the night before? Impossible to say– he doesn’t even remember coming home last night.
He lets out a yawn, as he stretches his arms wide and surveys the damage.
Amidst the scattered cans, dirty clothes, and discarded garbage lining the apartment, something stands out across the wall of the usually barren dining room. His hands rest against the doorway, as he stops suddenly in his tracks and sees the writing on the wall.
No, literally the writing on the wall.
F R A U D
Like some kind of deranged street art, the word is splayed across the center of the dining room wall, scrawled deep into the wood with a ghastly shade of red spray paint. The word stares the Son of God in the eyes, as the blood rushes to his face and turns him flush.
“Well,” he lets out an audible sigh. “There goes the fucking security deposit.”
For a moment, he contemplates the idea that he may have a spiteful ghost on his hands. And not just any ghost. A ghost who reminds him of his shortcomings, in the form of Banksy-like wall graffiti. You know THAT old chestnut, right? When a 17th century dickhole with an axe to grind sees fit to grab some paint from the Home Depot, and remind you in huge, permanent letters that you’re an impostor?
Because obviously he didn’t just get fucked up and do this himself.
Obviously he didn’t go on another fucking bender last night, fall into a spiral of self-loathing, and spend hours of sleepless angst beating himself up over the very clear conclusion that his entire existence right now was a lie. The thing that he KNOWS everyone else is thinking, even if they don’t say it out loud. The thing that has kept him fucked up out of his mind for nearly every waking moment since the final bell of War Games, because cocaine is the only thing that helps him to forget the truth:
The World Champion is a fraud.
He trudges through the minefield of beer cans, navigating through the dining room foxhole and into the kitchen, trying to shake the vision of that word out of his brain. It shouldn’t bother him, right? He won. The sole survivor– that’s what the record books say, and the record books are law. They’re God. That’s one thing Bobby was right about– to Michael Lee Best, the stats were everything, and he’d never missed an opportunity to rub it in someone’s face when the stats were on his side. And they were absolutely on his side.
He was the winner of War Games.
Sure, he’d come just a cunt hair away from being eliminated second, by a five foot nothing Girl Scout with an identity crisis. Sure, Dan Ryan had to save his ass more than once, and ultimately got himself eliminated in the name of pushing the captain onward. And hey, sure, Cecilworth had sacrificed himself, his World Title, and his unpinned streak in the name of saving Michael Lee Best’s life. But it’s a team sport, right? It’s all about the greater good, right? He’d have done the same for them…
Winning. Surviving. What’s the difference? He was the last man standing, and no one else in the Group of Death begrudged him that. They were happy for him. They were proud of him.
So why wasn’t he proud of himself?
A long sigh escapes the so-called HOW World Champion, as he flicks a wrist across the dial on the stove, lighting the gas range up in a flurry of blue flame.
“Thank GOD.” he rolls his eyes, as he leans his face downward toward the flame.
The end of his raggedy looking cigarette lets out a sharp hiss, as the paper crackles under the flame of the stove. Michael blows the first puff of smoke out into the cramped kitchen, grimacing against the taste of the gas fueled burner. Long out of eye-shot, the word is still burned into the backs of his eyelids when he blinks— he’s a fraud.
“Snap out of it.” He mutters, sounding agitated. “Maybe a little breakfast, then.”
The Hall of Famer hobbles his way back across the dining room, his eyes averted from the shameful monument on the wall. It didn’t matter— he’d forget about it soon. He’d forget about it the same way he’d been forgetting about everything else that was unpleasant lately. Lindsay’s knee. Max’s sanity. Cecilworth’s belt.
And it was his belt, wasn’t it?
Maybe that’s why he still hadn’t taken his best friend’s name off of the face plate. Because deep down in his heart, he knew it didn’t belong to him. It was stolen property at worst, loaned at best. He didn’t beat the unbeatable man— he was rescued by him.
Like a fucking damsel in distress.
Michael roots around on the living room floor, searching desperately for the pants he’d worn the night before. He eventually finds them under a pizza box— the humidity must be terrible out, because the pizza inside looks a lot more than a night old.
“Fucking jackpot.” Best smirks, as he fishes the pants off the hardwood, and reaches into the pocket.
There’s still some leftover.
He empties half the contents of the sandwich bag out onto the glass coffee table in front of him, immediately carving out a makeshift line with his finger. He stuffs his whole face against the table, letting his right nostril rip and taking as much of the powder up off the glass as he can muster.
After awhile, you don’t even notice the burn anymore.
His head shoots toward the ceiling, as a sound pours out of him that sounds halfway between a shriek of sorrow and a victory scream— immediately, the bullshit guilt subsidies, and a smile stretches across his face.
Mike Best. Nine Time Champion.
Kneesus has risen.
“Alright motherfucker!” He grins, reaching into the pants to find his phone. “Feel shitty and mopey? Check. Get over that shit and stop being a sentient vagina? Check. What’s next?”
He pulls the phone out of his pocket, checking the lock screen— six percent battery? The fuck? He’d charged it in the car last night. He distinctly remembered charging it. Oh well. Thirty nine missed calls? The fuck? What could possibly have been so important on a Saturday night that it couldn’t wait until– wait. The fuck?
The screen says Tuesday, July 9, 2020.
It’s fucking Tuesday?
How in the fuck can it be Tuesday? Last night, he dropped Farthington off at his hotel after Refueled. It was just a few drinks. It was just a little blow.
“Fuck.” he swallows hard, feeling his forehead getting warm. “Fuck. Fuck. FUCK FUCK FUCK.”
Maybe God doesn’t work on Sundays, but he sure as fuck doesn’t take a four day weekend. This isn’t acceptable. This isn’t okay. This isn’t going to fucking go well, considering the massive humiliation at his doorstep this week. This is what he always does– wins the big match, hauls in the big score, and then fucks it off to someone like Bobby Dean because he couldn’t keep his shit together long enough to be ready for it.
He’d have riled up a hornet’s nest in Bobby by now– that was the whole point in the first place. He’d known Bobby Dean long enough to get under his many, many folds of skin. He knew how to bring the fire out of that fucking idiot and make him bring the thunder. But it wasn’t supposed to work so well that he lost the fucking title– it was just supposed to spark the viewership. Raise the ratings a little bit. Put a few more asses in the seats, and make a little extra money.
Now he’d lost two fucking days.
A guy like Bobby Dean will murder you with a two day head start, no matter how fucking silly he acts on the outside. Somewhere under all that extra weight, and all those stupid skits, he was still a killer on the inside. A killer that Michael Lee Best had invited to come out and play, and was now completely and utterly unprepared for.
A two day fucking bender.
Great going, dickhead.
Nearly tripping over his own legs, he struggles to slide his already worn pants back up onto his body, not even bothering to change his shirt. Not forgetting to snatch the remains of the sandwich bag up off the coffee table, Michael stuffs it into his pocket and heads for the door, sloppily slipping shoes onto his feet as he barrels through the doorway and out onto the front sidewalk.
And that’s when he sees the car.
“….fuck.” He mumbles, quieter this time.
Whatever had happened for the last two days, he’d at least made it home alright. And so had the car, for the most part– he can tell, because it isn’t in the garage. Parked sideways across the front lawn, with the mailbox embedded in front of the grill, it’s almost as if his blacked out counterpart had valet parked it for him in front of the front door.
What a swell fucking idiot.
Taking a deep breath, Michael reaches back into his pocket and takes the baggie out of his pocket. He gets his nose just close enough for a little sniff, and throws back a little more of the morning medicine. It isn’t the cleanest way to do it, and this time it hurts a little bit, but near instantly, he feels a little clearer. A little sharper.
“This is fine.” Michael nods his head, picking his phone back up. “Totally fine.”
He swims through the recent calls list, pulling “CMFBFF” up and pressing the call button. It begins to ring through, as he steps further out into the driveway and takes a long drag off his cigarette– all that comes through is dry, disgusting, stale air as he realizes that his Camel has long since extinguished itself.
…so why does he still smell smoke?
The phone continues to ring through, as he slowly turns his head back toward his town home. The town home that he’s lived in for three years now. The town home that contains all of his earthly possession. The town home that has a natural gas stove, with real, honest to God flame burners.
Flame burners he didn’t turn off.
Because he needed his medicine.
He takes a few cautionary steps back, as he assesses exactly how flammable his comfortable abode has become over the years. Hundreds of outdated Undefeated t-shirts. Thousands of paper files from Six Time Academy. Actual gasoline, for reasons that he won’t be comfortable speaking to the insurance adjuster about, when he asks why there was actual gasoline being stored in mass quantities in the garage.
“…this is fine.” he takes another deep breath.
And that’s when the explosion rings out.
You know how they say that cool guys don’t look back at explosions? Well, you should try not looking back at an explosion some time– it’s fucking impossible. The Son of God jumps backward so hard that he actually falls to the concrete, landing on his tailbone as something deep inside the apartment ignites, creating a fireball that jumps through the roof of the townhome. Michael scampers backward along the driveway, all the way to the road.
He was about to lose a lot more than two days of training.
On the other line, the ringing has stopped– he can hear the jaunty beginnings of “Mr. Finish Line” blasting from the other end of the phone, followed by the distinct beep of his best friend’s voicemail.
“Hey buddy.” Michael says, swallowing the lump in his throat. “I, uh. I’m coming to pick you up. Just gotta get an Uber… I’ll explain why when I get there. Oh, and uhm… pack up the hotel room. We’re going apartment hunting!”
It’s just a little bit of blow, right?
He can quit anytime he wants to, right? That’s what he told himself, all those years. That if he ever did it again, he’d do it differently. He’d do it better. That he’d keep it in control. That nothing would ever ruin his life again. That he was the captain of his own ship, the master of his own domain, and the maker of his own destiny. It was just a little bit of blow, to take the edge off. And he believed it, because the lies we believe the most are the lies that we tell ourselves. Because he’s an addict.
And addicts lie.
He’d made it almost eight years.