I decided to take a walk. For no particular reason.
The last few days have been a challenge for everyone. The real challenge is the guy lying in the hospital bed. No, not Jiles. We’ll get to that, though. I am supposed to be a security detail guarding the aforementioned Siamupini. However, he isn’t going anywhere and there are like three dozen or more Enemigo’s and a pissed off Dam watching him.
So, I decided to take a walk.
First, before any of that happens, we need to talk about Nafanua. She was a queen of Samoan legend, similar to Hercules. A demigod. The daughter of Saveasi’uleo, the God of old Heaven and the Underworld. He lords over Pulotu, which is a sort of Valhalla for my people. Her mother was Tilafaiga, who brought the tattoo to us in Samoa.
She is as important in our traditional culture as Hercules to the Grecians, or Thor to the peoples of Scandinavia. Imagine, in a country that even still considers itself a patriarchy, where men walk about in packs and ogle women, make lewd comments, and it is an ugly fact that domestic violence is known but not reported, that she would rise from human warrior to demigod. I consider that an inspiration. Admirable.
They say that Nafanua led men into the village of Fualaga where she was ordered to stop killing by her father. In a rage, she did not and a wind blew up her tiputa, revealing her gender, and the men surrendered in shame because they had been outclassed by a woman. Disgusting.
My mother always told me that the men in our family were descended from Tagaloa himself, and that the women descended from Nafanua. I think she might have been putting me on a bit about my Father and Grandfather, as while they were indeed great warriors, they were also loveable oafs.
During a struggle for land rites, Nafanua’s uncle had been forced to climb a coconut tree feet first as a punishment. She cut down a Toa tree and Nafanua had four weapons made from the wood that had fallen and been laid to dry. She wielded these weapons to drive the enemy Chief from the land and to ascend to Godhood.
Ta Fesilafa’i – her primary weapon, a wide hook with four pointed sharp teeth facing sideways.
Fa’auli’ultio – a club like weapon that was gifted to her adopted parents, to strike from the enemies from the sides.
Ulimasao – Shaped as a canoe paddle with round sides and a pointed edge, this weapon was designed to end war and bring peace.
Fa’amategataua – A war club said to be the most powerful of the four. It is referred to as “The Weapon of Death.” If used, it is powerful enough to kill everyone, including her family. Nafanua never had to resort to using this weapon. Thank Tagaloa for this.
Anyone who saw her angry with my Father knew that my mother’s temper was carved from Toa wood made into weapons of wrath, much like her forebear. I have that fire inside of me, the searing flames of Nafanua, the Demigod of war. I am certain my mother was not lying about her lineage.
I promise this will make sense by the end of things.
I wore ten thousand miles
through my shoes
Soles first then the leather
No more than earth beneath my
Lucky to be able to feel
Grass and dirt and stones
Thankful for the journey
I am standing outside his room holding a pineapple I had brought with me from the farmers market. I think even a few weeks ago, I couldn’t have come here. I’ve been an emotional mess lately; well more like for the last twenty years. A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have needed to come here. Now I am required to be here. Damn it.
The doorknob is sturdy, brushed steel, industrial and probably easy to sterilize. It felt like ten thousand pounds in my hand. I turned it and the door opened without a creak. The room was quiet aside from the standard sounds of medical equipment. It smelled like it had been scrubbed in iodine. I stepped inside slowly and shut the door behind me. Nobody was here. Not Jared, not Reina, not even Shweta. I guess I am lucky.
I walked over to the side of his bed and looked at the plethora of gifts. Melvin had apparently sent quite a spread of flowers. It couldn’t have been cheap, which says a lot, I think. And here I am, standing like an idiot with a pineapple in my hand. My logic is that he would know I had been here if…well…when he wakes up.
I put the fruit down and pulled up a chair. For once, I don’t know what to say. I don’t really feel sorry for him. I also definitely feel remorse that it happened. I think Jon would have asked me to stay positive, but who knows. He isn’t awake to tell me. There is a half eaten sandwich on a plate though, so that is a good sign.
It feels like hours just sitting there. It’s unnervingly quiet. Emotions assault me, but I just let them go and sit with him. I didn’t stop Paxton. I couldn’t have stopped Paxton. It isn’t about stopping Paxton. It isn’t about how I feel at all. It’s about the fact that a moment happened and now it has become history and there’s nothing anyone can do to change the moment.
“You missed a hell of a show.” I finally break the silence. “I mean, you somehow managed to steal it again. But, you’re that guy.”
Of course, he doesn’t respond. He seems pretty content sleeping. I think for the most part I am content to just sit and spend some time with him as well. The truth is that it has been nine months and we’re in the same circles, yet have done little to nothing together. Yeah we’re both busy. At least for now I am the Prime Senior Officiant, and I do take that job pretty seriously.
Jon seemed happy, too. He was chasing belts, winning matches, and he had Shweta in his life. I think we were in different places and time just didn’t line up. It doesn’t really matter. The reality is I’ve been chasing my life, and I’ve once again made this world revolve around me. Seeing him in the bed made me feel foolish for not spending more time with someone that matters.
Seems like a bit of a running trend, doesn’t it?
So I sit, alone. It is serene, in a way. A graphic contrast to how this all came about. I am happy nobody comes into the room while I am there. I had asked them to let me have some time alone, after all. The truth is I didn’t know how I would react. Years ago when Ed Novak was in the hospital and died, it broke me in a way that I never quite recovered. I didn’t know Novak nearly as well as I know Jon.
I think maybe it’s because of who Jon is that gets us through this. What he stands for. I know he doesn’t believe it himself sometimes, but the Jon Rhine I call Uso is an anomaly. He’s the guy who is as good as he seems, but also flawed in a way that is real. Human, I guess.
I don’t think Paxton is a devil either because I don’t think Rhine is an angel. I think he is just a misguided person. Human, I guess.
I walk back out into the hallway, clicking the door shut behind me. The latch makes a satisfying snap as it bolts into place. In the corridor, there are a few orderlies and nurses bustling around, and a phone that will not stop ringing in the distance. It’s been a long time since I was laid up in a place like this.
FUSE? I think? Ah yes, Stretcher/Submission Match. Dave Gibson. Man, that was fun.
I walk down the cheerfully carpeted corridor with the bright purple low pile with multi-colored swirls and stars. At the end of the hall there is a small waiting room that seemed pretty secluded. There is a fish tank full of clownfish, angelfish, and blue tangs and plenty of lilies to give people who are waiting for loved ones some peace and solitude.
My phone came out. I looked around, nobody in earshot. I had a message from Ned Reform. I quickly clicked an apology for my earlier outburst and sent it off before scrolling through my contact.
I lay down on the bench, put my phone on speaker, and dial her number. I’d tell you I don’t know why I called her, but I know why.
“Hey, Gwen.” I said, lowly. “Yeah, I’m sorry to bother you. I was hoping we could talk for a bit.”
“What’s up?” She replied. “You OK?”
“I guess. The last few weeks have been pretty rough.’
She pauses a bit, I suspect expecting me to go into some depressed diatribe.
“What’s the problem?” she asked me. I miss her voice. I miss a lot of things about her, but that’s not why I called.
“Wrestling. It’s not what it once was for me. I’ve seen more major injuries in the last few weeks than my whole career.” I paused. “It has me thinking that maybe this is different and I don’t belong anymore.”
She sighs. “You haven’t belonged in a long time, Timo. Who was hurt?”
Oh, only one of my best friends. You don’t know him though. He came after we…well after you left.
“Nobody you know.”
“So what’s bothering you about it?”
A mother and her kid passed by. They gave me an odd glance as I talked to my ex-wife on speaker phone in public. Truth is, I’m just too exhausted by everything to do much else but lay there with the phone on my chest, rhythmically raising and falling as I breath and talk.
“I thought if I could have some sort of control of the matches that I could help protect the wrestlers. Maybe they would not suffer like…well…a lot of my friends. Like I have.” I paused a bit. She was listening. “A few weeks ago, two guys beat the champion so badly that he had to be removed from the active roster. This week those same two wage a war like you have never seen against one another…and…and my friend Jon Rhine was possibly paralyzed in a separate incident.”
“And you couldn’t do anything.”
“I couldn’t do anything.”
She waits, weighing her words. “I think you’re wrong. I saw that last match, and I saw what you did to protect those men. I am sorry, though, I didn’t watch the other match with your friend.”
What the fuck? Since when did Gwen give a shit about wrestling?
“Gwenneth Cross, you were watching PRIME?”
A somber beat. Something is not right. “Yeah about that.”
“It’s been a long time Timo, and that’s not my name anymore. I re-married.”
Internally, I am screaming. Pyrotechnically angry. You changed your goddamn name for him? You wouldn’t change it for me. It figures. This day just gets better and better doesn’t it?
“I knew this was a mistake” she hastily says.
“No.” I replied. I take a deep breath. I count to ten. Dr. Hanneman says I need to take deep breaths and count when I feel like my world is out of my control. “No. It’s uh…it’s ok. Just unexpected, that’s all.”
I lied, a little.
“Is he a good guy?”
“What does he do?”
“He is a pediatrician.”
“That’s a good…well it’s a great field of work. More reliable than what I do anyhow.” A thought occurs to me. “So, if you didn’t watch the other matches, what possessed you to watch the main event?”
“Well, he grew up watching wrestling.”
Color me curious.
“And I don’t think it’s a great idea if I tell you why we watched that match. Can we please leave it at that and move on?”
A younger me might have pushed the conversation. A younger me might have tried a lot of things. But, I am not a younger me, and frankly, it’s been a long week and now I am stuck watching Captain Dickhead and the Two Flying Monkeys. Cancer Jiles had been through hell. There is no other way to put it. I swear to Tagaloa I will never know how he managed to win that belt. I’ve been in a lot of tough matches over the years, but I have to tell you…that son of a bitch has guts. He’s a no good, shit for brains, raisin sacked, low talent, weasel tongued, hammer toe, diagonal ass crack having, moose knuckling, aqua sock licking, horse abusing, merken wearing, no port of harbor having, prolapsed asshole of a face showing, one Popeye forearm sporting, only able to ejeculate while yelling his own name climaxing, fake bleached blonde with a bad tan.
But he has guts.
“Timo? Are you still there?”
“Oh yeah, sorry. I was just thinking about something of absolutely no relevant value.”
“You are such a weird man. You always were.” She waits for a moment and says, a bit softer. “Are you OK? For real?”
“Yeah. I just have had a bad week. And to be honest, I’m glad you found someone. Maybe I can move on and find someone too.”
“You should, Timo. You have a lot to offer someone.”
“Just not for you,” it was an instinct I regretted almost instantly.
“Don’t do that to yourself, please.” She pleaded with me, and I felt a pang in my heart that had never really gone away. It was the last bit of hope I had dying off, finally. “It’s just time. It’s been long enough. We all need to heal and grow.”
“We all need to heal and grow…” I say absent mindedly.
“Timo? Call the boys. They need their Dad.”
“Yeah, that…uh…that didn’t go so great last time we talked.”
“Call the boys.”
“OK. Gwen. I’ll call the boys. I promise.” I pause. “Hey Gwen? What’s his name?”
“Another time, Timo.”
And that was it. She ended the call and left me lying on the couch with more answers but also more questions than when the day started.
Time moves on. When we are young, we have this idea in our heads of who we might be when we grow up. I never thought I would look like this and wear face paint when I grew up. I thought I would have things figured out, have a family like my Mother and Father. I didn’t think I would fail miserably at being a Dad. It always seemed so easy for my Papa. But maybe it wasn’t? Maybe he felt a lot of things I am feeling. Maybe he worried about his only son wanting to follow in his footsteps just like I did for mine.
If he did, he never showed it.
I promised when I started that I would explain how Nafanua makes sense in all of this.
My mother raised me when my father was not home. He was on the road most of my formative life. Other boys were learning to fish or playing rugby and pretending to be Brian Lima. I was learning the culture of my people and singing our hymns of history. My mother told me of Atu, the first man in Tonga. The Ali’i, Tiu Fiti, whom many are now quite familiar with thanks to a certain movie. The tale of Sina and the Eel. The Pate drum and Fala mat. Siva tau.
For my people, there was no written language for so long that we sang songs to remember and have touchstones to our ancestors. My mother taught me many things.
When I was seven, a group of men cat-called my mother while we were walking, and she continued. So they followed us. She ignored their advances, and when they eventually trapped her outside of our home and asked where my father was, she simply said “He is not here. And I do not need him. You are not welcome in my home, please leave.”
One of the men tried to grab her, and well, I was seven. I thought my parents were descended from Gods. But I swear, she broke a potted plant over his face and, I later learned, crushed his orbital bone. As he fell to the ground with a thud, the others lost their nerve. She stood as Nafanua. Maybe she did descend from her after all.
I asked her that night why she said she did not need Papa.
“lo’u tama, it is not always worth fighting. But sometimes you must. Your father never understood that there are times when you must fight and times when you must walk away from a fight. Always, he is willing to fight and take on all odds. It is the way of men.”
“This is why he is not home often, Fetu. He cannot see that there are times to walk away and be with his family. If he were here, those men would not dare to call after me.”
“But Mama, you fought that man?”
“Yes, I did.”
That’s all she said. He never knew it happened.
Time got away from me a bit. Before long I started back to the room I was supposed to be guarding. I’m fucking tired. I’m tired of pretending I’m not tired.
Mostly, I am tired of trying to be more than I am. Just like Rhine and Paxton, and even that half-Cool luck streak Cancer Jiles, I’m just a human after all. I’ve been picking fights since I got here, and I am just tired. I’m not a wrestler anymore. I am a referee. I don’t have a reason to be pushing anyone’s buttons anymore. This is why, after all this time, I have come to the realization that it is best if I walk away from a fight for once.
My phone comes out again. I highlight and hold my finger down on a familiar icon, and I hit the delete button.