”Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely visit.
It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail that is heart-stabbed into its chest.
When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too, and you leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have of coming back. Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you’ve been.
It is easy to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.
But I’m learning beyond it now.
That loss to Hayes Hanlon was a rock thrown through the glass of my expectations. But I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine. And besides, one win later and I’m here.
I am my father’s daughter, yes. I accept it. I embrace it. I don’t apologize for it. But there’s only so far that gets me in the eyes of my peers. I’m a novelty, a girl sprung from a lineage on two sides that will be near impossible to live up to. And I’ve seen what happens to women in this business. Men take advantage of you, even if they fear you, especially if they fear you.
If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women; they do not read them in a true light; they misapprehend them, both for good and evil. Their good woman is a strange thing, half doll, half-angel, but they never see the monster until it’s too late.
I’m no shrinking violet for you to bat your eyes at and seduce. I am a fighter of the highest caliber. Put your hands on me, and I’ll rip them from your wrists and feed them to you, while you flail your stubby arms around in agony. It’s nothing to me to tear apart every ligament and tendon in your body because I can do that. Dismiss me at your own peril. Go fuck yourself. I’m staying here.
Warriors want a worthy opponent. There is no glory in fighting the pathetic.
No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows its own weaknesses, the exact placement of duty. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw because we cannot change it even if we wanted to.
In the end, what I know is this: I have become more because I have to. I have had this confidence and this drive instilled in me since birth, and I’m about to fulfill the first part of my destiny.
Four men or one, it doesn’t matter.
I am not an angel. And I will not be one until I die. I will be myself. And I will build on what I’ve done, build on my one shining moment so far. My eyes are open.
Women are never so strong as after their defeat.
”In the depth of Winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer.” – Albert Camus
It’s a nice sunny Texas day. Sunny with a high of 63.
The birds are chirping and wispy white clouds float overhead and Cecilia Ryan walks up a long approach to a house. The house is expansive, stretching out on either side of the main entrance then turning into an L-shape on the structure’s Southeast side.
Stepping up onto the large porch she looks to her right and sees a makeshift sign that says, “Trespassers will be murdered and kept in my shed as trophies.” She smirks and chuckles to herself. “Ah, dad.”
She presses a button and a buzzing sound can be heard inside the house. She waits patiently, absent-mindedly looking around until the door opens and a woman answers, middle-aged with gray streaks through her auburn hair and now, a huge smile on her face.
Cecilia returns a warm smile as the woman embraces her.
Phyllis pulls back from the embrace, both hands on the young girl’s shoulders and smiling still. “It’s so good to see you. Have you taken over the world yet?”
Cecilia smirks at this. Phyllis had been working for her father for nearly twenty years and had practically raised her while he was out on the road working three hundred nights a year.
“I’m working on it.”
Phyllis nods, then shakes her head, happy. “Come on in. Your dad’s out back working on fixing a fence post that one of the cattle broke through the other day.”
“Dan Ryan the ranch hand.” Cecilia laughed. “Never thought I’d see the day.”
Phyllis chuckles as well, and the two women walk into a large foyer with wood floors and a chandelier up above made from antlers. “You know your dad. He hates paying helpers for things he can do himself.”
The decoration in the huge living space just to the left is decidedly rustic modern with reclaimed wood for a coffee table, silver accents, but a large marble fireplace on the wall that reaches to the roof some twenty feet above. Phyllis just beams with pride, looking her over, then breaks from her reverie.
“Well, as I said…” Phyllis interjected, breaking Cecilia’s focus from the room decor. “Your dad’s in back. I’m gonna go whip something up for you to eat…”
Cecilia holds a hand up, protesting. “I don’t want to be any trouble, really.”
Phyllis rolls her eyes. “You? Trouble? Whoever heard of such a thing? Go on out there and talk to your dad. When you’re done, the food will be on the table.” Phyllis gives her another warm smile, then turns and disappears around a corner in the direction of the kitchen.
Cecilia walks through the living area, her hand running along the back of a high-backed leather couch, and she continues on in a wide hallway, the main hallway of the home leading toward the back of the house.
Stepping through an open arched passageway, she steps into a sunroom, some fifty feet across and twenty feet deep, with soaring ceilings reaching twenty-five feet above her. Windows cut into large floor-to-ceiling panes of glass dominate the Southeast wall. Cecilia looks out into the rear of the property, smiles, and heads through the door to the outside.
She follows a dirt path out toward a large barn structure, with a hill just to the left of it. The path itself goes along the outside edge of the hill and as she approaches its crest she is able to see out into the valley below. On the side of the barn nearest her, a large corral is connected and she can clearly see the hulking Dan Ryan hunched over a broken section in the corral’s fence posts. She smiles at this sight. The man has a cowboy hat on, jeans, and a flannel shirt. Yet he still has expensive sunglasses on for some reason.
She heads through the wide-open gate and approaches him from behind. She gets to within about ten feet when he speaks up, not turning around or changing what he’s doing at all. “Hey kiddo.”
Cecilia moves around to his side and sees where he’s putting a metal brace on the junction point of a new fence post. He raises a big meaty right arm and brings a hammer down, spiking the piece into place. Happy with the result, he turns and looks up at his only child.
Cecilia smiles. “Hi dad. Had to come down to attend to some business. Thought I’d come to say hello before heading back out to Vegas.”
He returns her smile, genuinely happy to see her. “First pay-per-view, eh?”
She tilts her head slightly.
“Five Star Title Match.”
He smirks back at her. “Lindsay’s really throwing you right into the fire, I see.”
And she nods. “That’s how I want it.”
“Well,” he says, warning her. “Be careful. I saw the match at Revival 4, beating three other people, and that was impressive, but there’s still work to do. This title shot might be a little premature.”
She recoils a bit but holds her composure.
“I’m ready for anything.”
He nods. “I know you are. Your aunt trained you well, I have no doubt about that.”
Dan Ryan stands to his feet, at six-foot-seven towering over his also tall six-foot daughter.
“I got thrown into the fire, too. And it turned out fine, but it very easily could have turned into a disaster. I just want you to remember that if you find yourself in a bind in that ring, rely on your instincts, rely on your training. And if any of the boys give you shit, you let me know about it, and I’ll tear their limbs from their bodies and use them to build my new fence.”
Cecilia chortles. “So dark, dad.”
“I’m just saying,” he replies. “I’ve had lots of practice.”
“I know you have. But I can take care of myself.”
She puts a reassuring hand on his arm.
“Besides, if anyone should be putting fear in the hearts of these people, it should be me. I have a family legacy to uphold, you know.”
He smiles at her, with sincere pride in his eyes, and that trademark Dan Ryan smirk. “I know. You’ll do great. I’ll be here pulling for you. You give me a call when it’s over, okay? Win or lose.”
“Lose?” She shakes her head. “Don’t know the meaning of the word.”
Dan Ryan nods and gives her a little wink, and with a knowing smile, Cecilia turns and starts walking back toward the house.
Her dad turns back around and gets back to hammering.
Cecilia looks back toward the house, and a low grumbling comes from her stomach. “Actually, I could use a bite to eat.”
She smiles, looking down as she walks back down the dirt path.
“Phyllis knows best.”
”Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.” – Emily Dickinson
Don’t worry fellas, I’ll go first.
There comes a moment in every life when the universe presents you with an opportunity to rise to your potential. An open door that only requires the heart to walk through, seize it, and hang on.
The choice is never simple. It’s never easy. It’s not supposed to be. But those who travel this path have always looked back and realized that the test was always about the heart. The rest is just practice.
I’m in the middle of change – a driving force behind me that forces me to push forward from girlhood to womanhood. I can’t be the girl I once was. My last name raises some eyebrows, but I have to be the one to kick down the doors. Transformations are a part of life. We are constantly being changed by things changing around us. Nobody can control that. Nobody can control the environment, the economy, luck, or the moods of others. Compositions change. Positions change. Dispositions change. Experiences change. Opportunities and attitudes change. I will change.
The question remains, “into what?”
Pain is a pesky part of being human. I’ve learned that it feels like a stab wound to the heart, those early setbacks, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. We are not trapped or locked up in these bones. No, no. We are free to change.
I’m the daughter of a legend, a man who, during his prime was unmatched in this business. I watched it from afar, a child, and I didn’t understand. But I understand. Now you all look at me, but do you understand?
Here I am again, surrounded by men. One of them handed me my first loss as a professional. I can’t say I’m not looking forward to correcting that mistake. This is the revenge that I’m talking about. I don’t mean to mince words. I can’t help it. The anger inside me boils to a point that it explodes whether I like it or not. If anger were mileage, I’d be a frequent flyer, right up there in First Class.
I don’t trust anyone. My father once told me, “Always question where your loyalties lie. The people you trust will expect it, your greatest enemies will desire it, and those you treasure the most, will, without fail, abuse it.”
I don’t know enough about my other opponents, the ones beyond Mr. Hanlon. I had a very brief encounter with Jonathan-Christopher Hall – didn’t think much of him. There seemed to be more empty space in his head than in the whole of the state of Texas.
I do have some memories of Rezin. I remember being a child, sitting in my father’s Empire Pro office, and having this… Rezin… come into the room for a chat with his boss. I don’t remember much more. I looked up from my coloring books for only a brief moment, then got back to it, not finding anything in him particularly interesting.
And Mr. Warstein, I’m sorry, I know you want everyone to just recognize the brilliance of your talent on sight, but I don’t watch any of the shit you’ve done. I don’t know anything about it, so I’ll just have to take your word for it. I do know your face makes you look about 50 years old. I only just found out that you weren’t Mikey Unlikely’s creepy uncle. Jesus, use some moisturizer, man.
Yes, four men and little ol’ me. But I have the upper hand.
Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments are to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him. Who, in the face of all experience of life and of history, will have the courage to dispute this assertion?
I’m not impressed.
Do you know what else I inherited from my father, other than my name? I inherited a deep sense of foreboding and intense passion, and it manifests itself… in my training, in my day-to-day life, and it can easily twist into something much more sinister. It’s my real legacy, not the hard-working fighting badass that is my Aunt. No. My being a badass comes with something a whole lot darker, that no Troy ever really touched. But my dad…
Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or, “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever.
Isn’t it funny? I’m enjoying my hatred so much more than I’ve ever enjoyed love. Love is temperamental. Tiring. It makes demands. Love uses you, changes its mind. But hatred, now, that’s something you can use. Sculpt. Wield. It’s hard, or soft, or however you need it. Love humiliates you, but hatred cradles you.
You will think me cruel, very selfish, but the best is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish. How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, fighting, to death; or else hate me, and still come with me, and hating me through death and after. There is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature.
I want the Five Star Championship, and I will have it.
I am very, very selfish.