5.21.22 – 3:36 PM
An electronic facsimile of keys typing razed through the silence in Timo Bolamba’s office. As he fired off the remainder of his angry response to Ria Nightshade via Jabber, he looked at his own words and knew as the responses popped up quickly, even for a slow-mode enabled program, he couldn’t take it back
“You are young and stupid…”
Half an hour later as Timo drove to his new gym site he breathed deeply, with regret, and took in the surrounding area. He passed little rows of houses, one after another looking identical. Each an individual tooth to fill the mouth of the city. Each a hope of a young family, a retiree, a past their prime wrestler that just wanted to be relevant once in a while.
The hum and rattle of his classic Trans Am filled the air with every note of the sonorous exhaust. As he went further into the urban sprawl, the roads began to deteriorate slowly and every bump he passed over shook his achy body just a little bit. Finally, the Samoan pulled into the parking lot in which his new gym would be completed and sat alone in silence with his prized Pontiac at rest.
“You don’t understand what it is to lose the things you love yet.”
The wind shifted. It was blowing in from the east now and Timo looked around to make sure nobody was watching before he buried his head in his hands and wept. Tumu i loimata his mother would have said. Filled with tears. He thought. But why now? Things are going well. The gym is on its way and I am the Senior Officiant in one of the…no…The Best Wrestling organization in the world.
He snuffled a little and wiped his eyes, allowing a drop to stain the immaculate upholstery in his car. All these things. Money, prestige, fame, power. Nothing. They mean nothing. He reached down and pressed a button on his aftermarket touchscreen monitor and pulled up a contact listing for his phone.
Dr. Hannerman. There it is.
The phone in his center console lit up. It was not, in fact, a Jitterbug Smart3 as he continually told everyone, but a standard run of the mill Galaxy something or another that he bought last March when his contract was up. As the digital ringtone trilled in the background he thought of what he would say this time. It was always just far enough from the truth to keep a window open, after all.
“Hello, this is Dr. Eric Hannerman, how may I help you?”
The tone of his voice was warm and soothing. Timo hated it.
“Hey Doc,” the Samoan answered.
“Timo! How are you? I saw you on the TV the other day on the uhh…Ace Network! I see you decided to keep the paint even though we talked about…”
“I need help,” he pleaded weakly. “I don’t feel right.”
There is a slight pause followed by a caring, yet stern, reply. “Are you taking your medication?”
“All of it?”
“Yes.” spat the Samoan.
The doctor breathed slowly and Timo imagined that he laid a hand on his shoulder as he had done many years ago in his office back in Motor City. There was something reassuring about that. Something about the way that he hung his fancy doctorate and degrees on the wall and his “Sports Psychologist” title. Tommy Hearns had suggested trying this path during a visit to Timo’s gym several years ago.
“Silencer, you have to look after that head trauma,” The Hitman said to him. “You and I both got a lot over the years, and it doesn’t go away. The memories are already fading aren’t they?”
Timo didn’t want to admit it at the time, but he was right.
“Tell me what happened, all of it.” Dr. Hannerman replied.
Timo allowed himself to rub his eyes. “I…got hit last night in the ring, and it has hurt all day.”
“Isn’t that common?” the Doc replied.
“Not like this,” replied Timo. “I shouldn’t feel this stiff. It’s like I am a rookie training all over again and I feel like I don’t belong out there.”
“I don’t know. Maybe?” there is a pregnant pause. “No, I don’t. That’s what hurts the most, I guess. It can just be gone, like that. Everything you ever were and ever worked for. It’s gone.”
The Samoan feels the tears dripping from his eyes again.
“Try it. Wake up almost fifty, broken, divorced, estranged from your kids who train in wrestling even though you forbid them…”
“I just want to be the one walking through the curtains again, Doc. I can’t explain what that feels like, and sometimes, rarely, I get that surge. Like when I tossed Duke and Burro. There was a moment in there where Duke and I were eye to eye and I could smell Jack on his breath, felt him sizing me up again…and the crowd! It crackled and was vibrant…it pulled at me. It pulled me out of my shell like laumei on her tide.”
The seconds count up on the call timer and Timo breathes up, sniffling as he does. How absurd, a grown man, Samoan Silencer indeed!
“You are enough Timo,” the doctor replied after a break. “You had your time, and you were quite successful. Are you sure this isn’t about something else?”
Here we go.
“Do you want to talk about her?”
“What’s to say?” The Samoan blurted out rapidly. “She left me, took my kids, told me I was always chasing dreams and never home to face reality? You already know the story Eric.” he purposely snarled. “Trust me, I know all about the guilt in asking her to put her career aside for me only to wind up like this. Do you think I wanted her to be unhappy?”
“Nobody ever said that you did, Timo. But you have to agree there are some unresolved issues to discuss.” Dr. Hannerman replied.
Wow. Did you use your whole PhD for that synopsis?
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Timo, I think…”
“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT.”
“Okay, okay…let’s talk about, uh, what happened today then. Walk me through it.”
Timo flipped through his phone, fumbling with the Jabber app for posterity. “I was talking to the people on Jabber, and there is this one person on there, Ria, and I see a lot of myself in her.”
“That’s good, association is healthy.”
“She talks a lot about hurting herself and she seems to be serious. I don’t like it. I guess, it’s partially my…advanced…age to feel this way…protective maybe? I just think she has so much more potential.” the Samoan says. “I think she is lost like I was.”
“I see.” Dr. Hannerman shifted in his seat. Timo knew that because he heard the distinct sound of leather ruffling under the doctor’s weight. “You talked a lot about another woman that sounds a lot like this Ria. Her name was…what was it again?”
“Amy. Amy Campbell.”
“That’s right. You loved her didn’t you?”
Timo paused. “I did. But not like you think. She was like a sister to me. Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I beat the hell out of Darcy Crisis for being a jerk to her?”
“Several times,” the doctor laughed.
“Who the hell names a dude Darcy anyhow? I couldn’t stand that prick, always talking down to her and pomp…”
“Oh right. The attention thing. Damnit, I’m sorry. I am trying to get better, I promise.”
“It’s OK. Progress doesn’t come all at once, it is something we work at every day.”
Timo takes a deep breath and feels himself calming by the minute. He didn’t ask for this, but even still The Beast rode on his back, lashing him and pushing him forward. “It’s the anxiety isn’t it?” he finally asks.
“Yes. Among other unresolved issues. But today was a setback. But that is OK, right?”
“It doesn’t feel OK.”
“No, it doesn’t. I know.” a cat walks by as Timo listens to the doctor. He reaches his hand out and pssst’s at it to come over for some scratches, but the gray tabby keeps walking. “Maybe you can share with me how it feels?”
“I guess I can do that.” Timo looks at the building in front of him that will house his gym. His gym. His second gym. “I know I am successful beyond measure. I had a great career, I am respected, I made close to a billion dollars on investments over the last ten years. I don’t get it, I should be happy. Why does it feel like this? Why does it feel like I let everyone down?”
“You don’t get it Doc! I was supposed to be the best of my family. The son of Rufan Bolamba, the amateur champion, the great Samoan hope. I was the one who people know, not that idiot Afwa Kilmanjaro or the other also rans that claimed to be from my home. I carried the nation on my back, I carried my Grandfather’s legacy, the hope of Jeremy Howard to be better than the man I chose to be in PCW.”
“Better than the man you were when she left?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“So why do you think helping this Ria will redeem you?” the doctor asked softly.
Timo didn’t really have any answer to that question. He just didn’t want to see someone feel like this and knew that wherever she was, she probably did. Something about that gnawed at him like demons pulling Lucifer into the pit after being cast out of Heaven. “I don’t think it will redeem me. I just don’t understand why she has the gift I can never have again, and she wastes it and chooses to act like this. I didn’t choose to be broken, you know. It was you doctors that took it from me. I know that makes me jealous, or some form of a sin that I cannot repent from. But I am jealous.”
“Timo,” Dr. Hannerman replied “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe she didn’t choose to act like this in the same way you didn’t choose it?”
And there it was. Staring Timo right in the hairy eyeball.
“They told you not to do the one thing you loved more in life than anything.”
“I have to go doc.”
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah. I will be.”
“You know you can call me any time, right?”
“You know you took an important step today?”
“Well, I did, and I didn’t.”
“You did. Maybe you haven’t gotten all the way there, but every step you take on your journey is one step closer to the end. Maybe next time you are in town you can stop in the office and we can do this in person?”
Timo wiped away the last tear from the corner of his eye and prepared to put this episode behind him. The nervous feeling of adrenaline and burning of acid reflux had subsided. His heart had slowed and he breathed a sigh of relief. The Beast was gone, for now.
He hit the red button on his touch screen and sat in silence for a few moments while he thought about the ramifications of his earlier actions. If Ria didn’t think I was a jerk before, she probably really does now. Can you blame her?
Timo jumped nearly out of his seat as the gray tabby cat alit into his passenger seat through the open window. The Samoan reached out gingerly toward the gaunt feline and stroked its ears. He smiled a little as she purred and nuzzled his battle scarred hand.
The Samoan Silencer looked up at his new gym and pulled the keys from his ignition. He scooped up the malnourished cat in his rigid arms and got out of the car. As he unlocked the front door and stepped inside, he flipped on the lights and looked at the expanse of the building with nothing left from the previous tenants.
“Over here we are going to have mats for grappling, and over there we will have two full size regulation cages. There will be heavy bags and a striking coach that shows the fighters how to move.” He looked to the far wall and a door that led to the building next door. It was up for lease, but he hadn’t really put much thought into another empty space until this moment.
“And through there we will have the wrestling school where I will pass on everything I know to anyone willing to listen. Maybe Cisco and Dave and Ivan will come help me teach the kids.”
He nods to himself and looks down at the cat who is quickly relaxing in his arms. “And I suppose I will have to find a good spot for you to hang out here too, won’t I?”
“Then come back and talk to me.”
It scared him to think anyone felt like he did when the Beast took his heart. They don’t teach you to be vulnerable on the Island, or in wrestling school, or in the gym. You’re supposed to be a killer, to have a killer instinct…fasioti tagata…as his father called it. What do you do when it is all over? Who do you face when there is nobody left and they won’t let you back in the ring?
If this is what Ria felt like, it’s no wonder she lashed out. As Timo pet the gray tabby he felt a new well in his eyes as he remembered the unfortunate exchange and he wishes he had been able to keep it down to one line:
“Come back and talk to me.”