The Anglo Luchador
Moving is one of those things you don’t want to do a whole lot in your life. It’s difficult, packing up your entire life, putting it in a truck, and then hoping you have some friends or family whose inner steel against the process is corroded enough that they say yes when you ask for help. There’s a social aspect that can be rough depending on the distance. It’s not nearly as critical for adults, what with their freedom of movement, their hourlong commutes, and the crushing erosion of their social live.
Children, well. They’re a whole other story.
The younger the kid, the more likely a long move is going to wreak havoc on their mood. Even migrating from suburb to city in the same metropolitan area can be devastating. Changing schools, losing proximity. At least that’s how Tom remembered things from his childhood, not that his family ever moved. Mom and Dad still live in the rowhome on that South Philly side street with narrow passage and even tighter parking that they bought in 1979. But countless friends cycled in and out of St. Monica’s Grade School, and he saw vicariously how much saying goodbye sucked or getting acclimated to a new place was awkward.
And he and Tam were about to do that to their two boys.
Children never think they’re going to turn out like their parents, but invariably, even if they become better people overall, some habits die hard, namely the assumptions that things will always remain the same over periods of time, whether they be long by human perception or objectively long on a cosmic scale. For example, Tom didn’t have a cellphone until he signed with A1E in 2000. Online gaming meant LAN parties.
While the burgeoning informational revolution was in its early stages when he was in high school, it hadn’t really gained the critical mass it needed to be ever-present until around the first time he was fired from A1E in like, I dunno, 2004? Again, it’s hard to parse a timeline with a company that somehow lost its entire tape library. One can have many theories on how that happened, but the prevailing one was that the president-slash-tech guy kicked over the space heater in the film room while he was jamming out to Nickelback. I wonder where he is nowadays? Probably doing time for illegally using his passport to engage in sedition at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. But that’s a whole other story.
“So that means I’m getting a cellphone like Zo has for Christmas, right?”
Tom and Tam looked at each other as their younger son, Vinny, had seemingly no reaction to the news.
“I mean, we’ll have to talk about it,” Mom replied.
“You aren’t at all sad about your friends?”
Vinny looked up from his Switch, looking at his father like he was speaking that weird language again, the Mexican one. No, not Spanish.
“I only really ever see them at school. We hang out in the gamer lobbies. Me and Jimmy and Ganesh are all trying to coordinate some dope team battle stuff online on Smash right now, but you two keep bothering me.”
“Excuse me, mister?” Mom had recently grown tired of her younger son’s mouth, ever since he uttered the phrase “sewer dicks” a few months back.
“Babe, let me handle this.”
Tom cleared his throat.
“Kid, if you keep mouthing off back at us, I will go to every cellphone carrier on your 18th birthday and tell them not give you a plan after you spend your time between now and then without a phone.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I have connections. Where else do you think I got my Taco Bell VIP card?”
They all thought they heard a talon scrape at the glass from the outside. Vinny and Tam thought it was their imaginations. Tom knew though. He gulped. The Rubicon had already been crossed though.
But this isn’t about owls and tacos. It’s about telling kids that they’re going to be moving soon.
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“Ugh, fine. Sorry, Mom.”
“It’s okay. We’re both glad you’re okay with the move.”
Vinny got back to his gaming online while Tom and Tam went from his room to the one next.
“Do you think Zo will take it as well” she asked her husband.
“Maybe. I mean, he’s already got his cell. But…”
“But?” she replied as they opened the door.
Zo was at his desk, on his laptop, watching YouTube clips. Tyrese Maxey, slashing to the net, pulling up, making plays.
“Hey kid,” Tom startled him. “Are we interrupting film time?”
“Nah,” he replied. “I mean, yeah, but whatever, it’s on YouTube. What’s up?”
“Just surprised you’re looking at the home team. Sick of watching Luka highlights?”
“Nah. I’m just trying to watch more players. Different game. Luka’s a great passer, but I wanna score too. I think I can make varsity this year.”
Tam’s expression grew pained. She finally got the reason why Tom said “but” before they walked into his room.
“About that,” Dad continued. “Um, so, uh…”
“We’re moving, kid,” Tam interjected to rip the Band-Aid off the wound. The sudden interruption shocked both male parties in the room.
“Yeah, kid. Your mom and I agreed. It’s not really safe here anymore, and, well, we think…”
“We’re just gonna move across town, right? Like, a new neighborhood? Maybe one of them gated jawns?”
Tom and Tam looked at each other, both with a twinge of shock and sadness on their faces.
“No, son, we’re going to go back into the city.”
The look of betrayal on his face pierced both their souls like a knife through the back of Julius Caesar.
“Zo, I…” Tam started before she was cut off by the loud THUD of his laptop shutting by force.
“NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR!”
“NO! I WAS GONNA TRY OUT FOR VARSITY! C’MON!”
Before either one could answer, their son stormed out of the room. There was a moment of pregnant silence, the one two parents realize when their best laid plans burn into cinders at the inferno of teenage angst fueled by inflammable hormones.
“That could’ve gone better,” Tam said, breaking the silence.
“I’ll go talk to him.”
“No, babe, let him be for a little bit. I’m sure you weren’t all rainbows and puppies when you and your dad fought when you were Zo’s age.”
Tom nodded and headed over to his second-floor office.
Zo didn’t say a word during dinnertime. Neither did Vinny, but his dad’s meatloaf and whipped potatoes were his favorite. Hard to talk when your mouth is full all the time. But Zo’s silence was different. It made for an uneasy dinner for three of them. Again, Vinny didn’t care as long as he had enough brown gravy to cover his taters. That kid and his sauces.
As was tradition in the household, Tam stayed back to clean up since Tom cooked. Dad poured himself a finger of scotch, the Macallan 25, a treat for himself that he had picked up after Colossus last year. He sat on his couch and took a long, slow, shallow sip of the aged whiskey before closing his eyes and sighing. Almost immediately after opening for another go at his glass, Zo came in and sat next to him, still looking grumpy. But the fact he came in to sit next to his father? Promising sign. Tom looked at his son for a moment, jumbled words caught in his adam’s apple. He let the silence reign until his son was ready to break it. Sure enough…
“Why you doin’ this to me?”
Tom was taken aback by the sharpness of the question. The words still clogged his throat into silence.
“Why, Dad? Why?”
The melancholy despair in his son’s voice pulled at the water in his eye ducts, if only enough to elicit one tear nestled in the corner next to his nose.
“I’m, no, your mother and I aren’t doing this to you. There are a lot of bad people who know where we live in a business where they think they have carte blanche to do whatever they want to win the feud. It’s better to start fresh.”
“But why the city? Why back into Philly? Why not, like, in Paoli or Exton or someplace where I can still go to school here?”
Tom blinked slowly and wiped his eye before answering.
“It’s for us, all of us. For me. For Mom. And for you two kids too. In the long run, you’ll appreciate being at the center of it all. Kids who live a couple of feet away instead of a quarter mile. The food. The people-watching.”
Zo sat stone-faced. Without turning to his father, he asked again.
“Can I still go to school out here?”
“Why would you want that? Wake up earlier, two extra hours of commute, late nights? I mean, there are great schools, great teams in the city?”
Tom’s eyes lit up.
“Why don’t you go to Roman like your old man?”
Zo’s face contorted.
“Roman? You mean the best basketball school in the city? They’re gonna ride me on the bench on JV!”
Before Tom could finish, Zo got up and shot into his room. He remembered what Tam told him earlier, but the time between them breaking the news to him and that conversation ate at him, tore his guts to shreds. He followed him up. Zo slammed the door to his room, nearly giving Tom yet another concussion, but Dad stopped short. He opened up to find his firstborn, face down on his bed.
“Go away,” Zo said, muffled into his pillow.
“Kid, just listen to me.”
Zo lifted his head off his pillow and made the ugliest face one could imagine.
“I SAID GO THE FUCK AWAY.”
For the first time in a long time at home, Tom’s face grew red, a sneering snarl forming on his lips. Now it was his turn to slam the door.
“Now you listen here. First, watch your mouth when talking to me or your mother. Second, the world doesn’t just revolve around you. Your mother, your brother, and I all see how this could be best for our family.”
“Oh yeah? Did you think about me at all? No, because you’re selfish.”
Tom shook his head.
“Kid, I thought long and hard about this. And yeah, I knew taking you out of here would be hard, but you’re going to end up great.”
“Oh yeah? Are you just saying that to cover up for how you fu…”
Tom’s glower started to grow. Zo caught himself.
“…uhhh messed up? It’s your fault for even talking to that weirdo Pleasant! It’s your fault taking in Nora!”
“My fault? Kid, what happened to being in this together with her and Melissa? I know you’re hurt…”
“You do? YOU DO? You think it’s FAIR that you’re ripping me from a team I’m comfortable with, that is cool with me? Even if I do make varsity at Roman, like, what’s the point? You only care about your stupid wrestling career. It’s been like that for two years now.”
“Kid, am I not allowed to chase my bliss too?”
“Bliss? You call this bliss? You fuckin’ suck anymore.”
The younger Lorenzo sounded like his namesake. Tom even heard the beginnings of his father’s gravelly rasp in his son’s voice.
“I’m going to forget you said all that, because it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all. You wanna talk about fair? Fine, but keep your shots above the belt.”
He had to wipe a tear from his eye again, this one shed for a far different reason. He continued.
“The reason why this will be good for you, especially if you decide on Roman, is you’re going to be among the best. You’re going to get better by going against the best players in the city in practice. You don’t wanna run from the grind, right?”
Zo’s eyes squinted hard.
“Like you are?”
“Like you, running from the grind. I heard the rumors. You’re thinking ‘bout ducking out of PRIME. Why should you be allowed to run from the grind but not me?”
Tom had to think of what to say next. Zo was too old to accept “because I told you so” as an answer.
“You’re still young. There’s still a chance for you. Besides, what horsecrap rumormonger is saying I’m going to quit? You reading the Scandal Sheet?”
“I’m not dumb, Dad. I have a phone. I read Twitter. My friends talk. How are you going to tell me to sacrifice when you won’t even do it for me?”
“You know what, kid? You have a lot to learn. Maybe when you’re a little less mad, we can talk about this again. My advice? Cool off.”
He opened his door slightly before stopping short and turning around.
“And watch your language.”
Zo spoke out of hurt, a deep well of it. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be a big deal in his life, but you try telling that to a college sophomore. Unless they deal with something horrific like cancer or war, things like the heinous actions of parents or heartbreak from a potential date, plunge deep and linger longer than they have any right to. He was mistaken in some respects. Tom wasn’t thinking about leaving PRIME because he didn’t want the challenge anymore. In fact, he’d spent the last year reaping what he’d sown, asking for a shot to prove himself. He did the opposite of run from the grind.
But his job wasn’t finished by a longshot. Hell, he felt deep inside he didn’t even start to do what he set out to. But there was a nagging question inside of him of whether he could. Zo’s comments were hurtful, but they also rang true in a way. Granted, the boy was a sophomore in high school. He had his life in front of him. Tom had scarring over twice as old as his eldest. The conditions were drastically different ahead of him and Zo.
But there was a voice inside of him that kept nagging him, tugging at his conscience.
It was Zo’s namesake.
“Yeah, you know that contract stuff we were talking about before Ultraviolence?”
Tom tried to keep his voice down as a measure of professionalism. Whether in a locker room or alone or in front of people he trusted – and these days, the three people who lived with him were perhaps the only three people he could trust – he didn’t like to talk business too loudly.
“Oh no. This isn’t notice. That retainer thing. Can we make it firm for at least one more year? Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. Nah, hey, what’s a few losses, right? Besides, things can turn on a dime. Yeah. Is Lindsay going to be at Arena Mexico? I can sign it there, but if not, I can do it in Greensboro. Haha, yeah, maybe Chad and Steve will let us use the same table I signed my CSWA contract on years ago. Looking forward to it. Thanks!”
He hit the “hang up” button and turned around to see his son was standing there.
“How long were you there?”
“I heard it all, Dad. I wanted to say I was sorry.”
“Kid, the only thing you have to be sorry for is using all that potty mouth stuff. Come here.”
Father and son hugged it out.
“Dad,” Zo said, still in his father’s embrace. “Are you staying in PRIME because of what I said?”
Tom shook his head.
“I mean, maybe you just reminded me the reason I came back, or at least one of them. But it’s something I have to finish myself.”
He got up from his hug and rolled his neck.
“What I said on 37, before my match with Ceece. It was kind of a lie. Maybe a quarter of one. I don’t want to be a role model for the neckbeard with BO and stains on his shirt. I don’t want to be a role model for some random kid in the audience.”
He went over and tussled his son’s hair.
“I do want to be one for you, and for Vinny, and for Nora, wherever she is.”
“So you’re not going out sad?”
“I’m gonna put a child lock on your iPad. Seriously.”
Tom laughed as he went upstairs to get ready for bed.
Moving is one of those things no one likes to do, but they invariably have to do it more than once in their lives unless they’re extremely lucky or filthy rich beyond comparison. Moving on, however, is something a lot of people struggle to do. Tom has spent decades trying to run away from a career full of mistakes and regrets with a chunky hiatus in between the trial periods, but he hasn’t moved a centimeter away from where they’re following him.
Overthrowing the monarchy targeting him would only be the first step. Like his son, he would be trying to hack it in a clime more inhospitable than where he thrived before. For a year, it nearly consumed him. He gave himself one more year to get it right, or else he’d have to find something else that would allow him closure and peace in his tumultuous life.