Grand Isle is a small shore town on a barrier island about two hours from New Orleans, and it is one of David Fox’s favorite places to just get away from it all. At least twice a year he’ll drive alone and cut himself off from anything to do with his world in New Orleans, spending his days meditating and practicing his martial arts on the beach, and spending a few nights in the cheapest room he can find.
It was a retreat for him, but instead of spending a few days bonding with his peers at work or working on his marriage with a bunch of other wedded strangers, he barely spoke to anyone unless it was to order food or give a few free lessons to interested locals and their kids. It was a chance to disconnect for a while and come home with a clear mind and a quiet spirit.
The sun had long set on the beach, and David faced the ocean with legs crossed and eyes closed, humming sutras to himself as the flow of the waves sang along. In his darkest moments, he had found refuge in the teaching of Gautama Buddha, and accepted the impermanence of all things. It helped him cope as things changed around him, including himself.
As he sat in quiet meditation, some… thing, disrupted the flow of his surroundings, leading him to open his eyes and look around, right into an image that sent him rolling to the side and hyperventilating.
“You!” he yelled at the green-haired man by his side, also seated in a meditative stance.
“No, Davey,” he said, first pointing a finger at himself, and then at his shocked host, “you.”
“Darin Zion, huh.”
David Fox sits alone this time. Looking us dead in the eye, the more vocal member of the Dangerous Mix is visibly in a mood. His hands are clasped and he has a slight slump to him, as if he were carrying some invisible weight on his shoulders.
David Fox: Last time I shared a ring with him he’d had Randall Schwartz dead to rights, and I was juuuuuuuuuust short of breaking the pin up and saving the match. I didn’t eat the fall at ReVival 7, but I spent a good chunk of the night beating myself up over that. It was our big chance to make a name for ourselves fresh off the Tag Team Survivor Challenge, and I’d blown it by that much. Wasn’t too happy for a good while after that, I don’t mind telling you.
David Fox: But let’s reflect on what’s happened since then. Your tag team partner and his Karen-in-waiting fell off the face of the earth. Not surprised, personally; something about them makes me think they’re into things like traveling, activism, and long walks to the Capitol, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, me and Mushigihara are dealing with Freeman and Schwartz ourselves, despite them coming to us with all the seriousness and guile of a pair of five-year-olds holding their fingers an inch away from our noses and yelling “I’m not touching you!” What a way to make a living.
David rises to his feet, still carrying that slump.
David Fox: Frankly, it made me kind of despondent. Mushi and I saddled up to Vegas to expand our horizons as a tag team, and all we got to show for it is being constantly trolled by a pair of food processor pitchmen? I never told anyone this, and especially not Lindz or Beauregard, but I’d spent days wondering if PRIME was a good fit for us after all.
The camera closes in on David, getting a closeup of his face as his lips start to curl into a smile.
David Fox: And then, I saw that I had a date with you at ReVival 13, and my whole mood changed.
David had heard of confronting one’s past, but as he stared into the face of the former self he thought he had left behind, he wondered how literal a concept that could be.
Before he was known as David Fox, he went by the stage name of Troy Matthews. Deliberately crafted as the persona of a deplorable bastard without any actual ideology or ethos beyond ruffling feathers and pushing envelopes beyond the lengths they had been pushed in the diminishingly-PC atmosphere of the time it was devised, the act was short-lived, in no small part due to the fact that the timid Irish kid who couldn’t even will himself to call a woman a “bitch,” much less pantomime dry humping one in the ring, couldn’t throw himself into the role and would be found in the bathroom vomiting in disgust at himself after matches.
It wasn’t long before that persona gave way to one that retained most of his original aesthetic, including his green hair, tattoos, and cocky facial expressions, but was now far more relaxed, playful, even mischievous, much like the man playing him.
As David looked into the eyes of the man he once was on that beach, and felt his guts twisting themselves into knots, thoughts he had hoped he’d suppressed came roaring back into his mind and locked his tongue in place.
“You thought I was done, didn’t you,” Troy chuckled, turning his gaze to the ocean, “old habits die hard, y’know. The fact that you’ve been able to stay off the pills for six years is pretty astounding, though. Good work on that, boy-o.” With a deep breath Troy savored the sea breeze and stretched his arms out to take in the atmosphere. “Don’t worry. This isn’t a temptation to relapse. Those things weren’t good for either of us, after all.”
“Well if this isn’t about the drugs, then tell me why the FUCK you’re here,” David finally got the nerve to say with a combination of poise and fright. Troy simply smiled, not out of malice or arrogance, but out of sincerity and concern.
“I’m here because you didn’t get the message I’d been trying to send you since Omega.”
“Omega?” David sputtered, having flashbacks to the time an almost-four-hundred-pound behemoth gave him such a beating in the ring that a few days later he would collapse and nearly die of causes with nasty names like rhabdomyolysis. His body started to quiver at the mention of that name. “You know we don’t say that name. YOU KNOW IT!”
Troy rose to his feet and extended a hand to his future self. “We have some things to talk about, you and me.”
“Y’see, Darin, you and I aren’t too far apart.”
We’re back with David Fox, who is now absentmindedly walking around our little interview scene, his step a little springier than his disposition.
David Fox: We’d both spent a good part of our careers going with the flow of others. It was good for a while. Certainly was good for making sure we got paid, and we even got to hold a couple trophies and belts every now and then. Of course the problem there is, once those folks retire, quit, or simply decide they don’t need you anymore, you’re cut loose and left wondering what the hell you can do now.
He stops and turns his head towards us, before sighing and frowning.
David Fox: I’ve had to ask that question more times than I can count. And I’d had more answers, both by choice and not, than I’d care to admit. And a lot of those answers were the wrong ones.
David Fox: Live and learn, I guess. But my point is, sometimes you end up there and just end up… floating. Like a piece of driftwood in the endless river. No rhyme or reason, no idea what to do next, no vision. But see, situations like that do suck because you’re left wondering where your next paycheck, your next prizefight, are gonna come from, since nobody’s talking about you.
David takes his seat again, and stares right into our souls, and presumably Darin Zion’s, through the camera lens.
David Fox: But if you’re smart you know that if they won’t talk about you, then you just have to make them, don’t you?
“So let me get this straight,” David Fox clumsily pieced together, “all of those dreams. Everything about being buried alive, facing death, being reminded of one of the worst days of my life…”
Troy Matthews nodded by his side, knowing what his future self would say.
“…WAS YOU TRYING TO TELL ME TO GIVE YOU ANOTHER CHANCE?!?!”
“Well, I think you oversimplified it a bit with ‘another chance,’ given the, shall we say, metaphysical and abstract concept of personalities and manifestations of the self within the mind, but… yes.”
If he could, David probably would have strangled Troy then and there. But something, some force, kept him from doing so. Maybe it was internal restraint. Or maybe it was a metaphysical lock or whatever mumbo-jumbo Troy was just talking about. But David could do nothing but seethe as his green-haired past looked him dead in the eye.
“I’m not saying we didn’t have bad times together. You said it yourself. That time you collapsed in Dr. Davine’s office pissing blood and vomiting? That was a bad time, and you almost died! But I’m not the reason we struggled, the reason we suffered.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” David quipped, “but I got a lot better without you. I got clean without you. I found my purpose in wrestling without you. I won THREE world championships without you. AND, I _somehow_ managed to get back together with the love of my life, that I took for granted and drove away, even ended up MARRYING her, for Christ’s sake…” David threw his arms out and got into Troy’s face, before yelling out a harsh, almost guttural, “WITHOUT YOU!”
If this were a flesh-and-blood human being in front of David Fox, those words would have probably driven him to tears, or swinging fists. However, Troy Matthews simply stands in front of his host, with no reaction.
“Yeah, because giving the ring announcer a hundred-dollar bill to do a champion’s intro in the locker room AFTER you won is totally not something super-serious fighter David Roger Troy, Jr. would ever do, right? By the way, you should give Brady a call soon, see how he’s doing. You always liked that kid.”
David Fox has been flustered, tilted, agitated, and incoherently mad for a good while. But for the first time since the manifestation of Troy Matthews from six years ago paid him a visit tonight, he is stunned silent.
“Here’s something to chew on, Davey,” Troy segued, “August 23, 2018. A night we’ll never forget. You’d just won that title, positioned yourself as king of the world. Your friends and partners all rallied around you, you are undisputedly King Shit of Fuck Mountain, and all of Lion’s Road Pro Wrestling will be defined by your example as champion and leader!”
David Fox had to think, Jesus Christ, was I really that sarcastic?
“Then the girl enters,” Troy snapped, “and when it’s all said and done you spend the next six hours talking. Long after the roster and crew had gone back to the hotel and to bed, long after the venue staff told you to leave, and so you had to keep talking in her car. Six hours, Davey. Now ask yourself, why did Saori come all the way to Minneapolis to see you and talk for the entire rest of the night?”
“Let me rephrase that question; why do you think Saori made that trip? You know she wanted to mend fences really bad if she traveled THAT far. But what do you think, maybe Mushi and some of the boys reached out to her and vouched for the man you grew into since the breakup? That you’d gotten your shit together, kicked the old habits, got the help you needed, and ended up getting really good at your job because you’d finally got your house in order?”
Troy shook his head and frowned.
“Or are you doing that thing again where you sell her and yourself short and just think she was there to see you win? To win the champion’s purse? She’s seen all kinds of wrestlers come in and out of her life, champions and scrubs alike. If she really wanted a champion like that, she could have had one. But do you remember the FIRST thing she looked at when she saw you?”
Even more of David’s memories came rushing back. Memories of her long stare turning into a tearful sniffle as she said “it’s you,” and cried into his chest. Memories of the hours spent talking about how their relationship had ended, and their desires to start anew, of her saying she felt like the man she fell in love with had come back.
“My eyes,” David replied, “she looked in my eyes. Told me to put the belt down, and let her look and see if it really was me there.”
Troy had cracked a few smiles tonight, but the first time he beamed with an ear-to-ear grin. “You see it.”
For a moment the only sound was the distant waves, as the two alter egos looked each other in the eye. For the first time tonight, there was an understanding between them.
“Right,” David acquiesced, “so, what do you propose we do, if I’m letting you back into my life?”
Troy tilted his head to the side and said “there’s no ‘letting me back into’ anything, Davey. You can try to pretend I’m a piece of your past, or that, ‘Troy Matthews needs to die so David Troy or David Fox or whoever can live’ horseshit, but the simple truth is I can’t die.” He looked to the waves and sighed. “Not yet, anyway. After all, I’m you and you’re me. A tiger can’t change its stripes, and the sensitive, hot-blooded Irish kid’s always gonna be that same kid. I’m just a part of that psyche, whether you wear me on the outside or not.”
Troy chuckled and looked over to his host. “Don’t worry, though. I’m not gonna make you dye your hair again, or change the color of your ring gear, or even tell Mushi to buzz off. But we should still turn over a new leaf. And we should start it now.”
“This is as good a time as any to turn over a new leaf, if you ask me.”
David Fox is back with us, and looks less burdened than before.
David Fox: ReVival 13 is gonna be a hell of a night. The Universal and Tag Team titles on the line, the next step on the road to Ultraviolence… stacked show top to bottom. You know… I always felt like the idea of “stealing the show” was a bunch of pretentious self-serving bullcrap. Then again, I came from kickboxing, where we were taught in the ways of hitting hard and hitting to win.
David takes another deep breath.
David Fox: But two dudes in the ring going full-throttle in hopes of making a statement with that dub… well, I guess you can steal the show naturally, huh? Point is, Darin, we’re not that different, you and I. We’re both drifting and could definitely benefit from going out there and showing the world just what kind of fighters we really are. Showing them just WHY we belong in a place like PRIME.
David stands back up. His slouch is gone, and his posture much more confident and poised.
David Fox: And with it just being you and me in that ring next week, I have no excuses, nobody to blame but myself if I come up short against you this time. Nobody to hold my attention in that ring but you. And I plan on rolling in that ring and making a STATEMENT, by beating you in it. And if I have to dig deep within myself, to find that fire again, and unleash it on the poor sap across the ring from me? Well, that’s just the way it’s gonna be then, huh?
David grins to himself, and his eyes seem to twinkle a bit in the light. Something’s going on in that head of his, and it might not be something Darin will like.
David Fox: I hope you bring it all at ReVival, Zion, ‘cause I am. And then some.
David Fox: Let’s just say that I’m gonna show you that “Fox” isn’t just a family name. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, old son.
David’s grin only becomes wider and a bit more crooked as we cut.
David Fox frantically looked around for his things until he remembered his motel key and clothes were all he brought with him. He looked into the night sky – he somehow didn’t sleep through the whole night, and the night beat didn’t catch him napping and thinking he was a drifter or something like that. He took a deep breath and pondered that dream he just had… was he so unresponsive to subtlety that he had to speak to himself from years ago to get a better picture of how to process the events in his life?
He could only chuckle to himself as he slipped his flip-flops on and got into his shirt. He wasn’t sure what time it was, but he knew that it was time to come home and start planning ahead. He had a match with Darin Zion in Vegas soon, and had to get ready for that, and for the next step of the Dangerous Mix’s career.
As he walked off the beach, he wondered if he should get a bag of ice for his cooler so he could buy some of those sno-balls he’d heard about from Megan’s and keep it from melting on the way back home to Saori and the pup, and the life he had built after being so close to the grave. The life he intended on continuing to build.
He thought more about his encounter tonight, reflecting on his past and gaining a new perspective on the present. He didn’t know if tonight’s rest would bring more reflections and conversations with Troy Matthews, but he walked on with a determination to blaze a trail as David Fox, and show Darin Zion and PRIME exactly what he was ready to fight for.