The Anglo Luchador
Another show, another mask.
“Mija, you can’t keep doing this.”
Germana Dos Casas spoke to her daughter from the front passenger’s seat of her husband’s 2008 Toyota Corolla without turning around.
“Doing what, Mami?” Miranda replied.
She looked down at the bumblebee mask, damaged from El Cocodrilo and a rowdy fan on the beaches of Veracruz at LUCHA ESPECIAL 1. Mending the material was possible. The mask could be used again, but everyone would know it was her anyway. When everyone has seen your face, the mask is useless, no matter how much skin and hair it covers. This was the second time a member of Grays Wrestling Academy destroyed her identity, accidentally or purposeful. Fate is cruel because it’s random.
“Don’t play coy with your mother, Mija,” barked her father, only slightly turning his head away from the near-standstill traffic on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge headed into Staten Island.
“It’s fine, Miguel. Miranda has her reasons to put the mask on.”
“I imagine it’s because of that cabrón boyfriend of hers acting out again.”
“Dad!” Miranda only ever referred to either one of her parents by their English familiars if she was mad.
“Miguel, tranquilo en Felix.”
He sighed and rolled his head around as he focused again on the crawling traffic ahead of him.
She couldn’t find the words in that instant.
“It’s okay, mija. I know it’s hard trying to make your name, but why not as Peach Backshots?”
Germana felt a chill roll down her spine as she uttered the stage name for her daughter. Needless to say the camgirl stuff she never approved of. But supporting her daughter was always more important than stiff morality, even for the most Catholic of New York Puertorriqueñas.
“I don’t want to be Peach anymore, mami.”
A stiff, pregnant silence filled the car. For a moment, the vibrations of the roadway, the humming of engines sitting idly on a congested interborough throughway permeated like white noise to aspiring dreamers, no matter how provincial the dream would turn out to be. Germana as doubtful as Thomas in the locked room eight days after the Resurrection finally turned her head.
“Are you serious, Miranda? No more puto show?”
Miranda sighed. All this and you still distill my life into a means to an end? Her thoughts betrayed her parental loyalty at the moment. But her mother, nonetheless, sussed it out correctly.
“I’m filming my farewell stream tomorrow. I also met with the office at SHOOT. They want to sign us to an extension past our initial trial. More money. Plus with the one-off shows, and maybe if I stream as a gamer or one of those wrestling opinion people, I can clear maybe…”
“It doesn’t matter how you do it, mija. I’m just proud you’re succeeding.”
The smile formed uneasily on her lips. Success found her, but big decisions often do not come lightly. When sex toys and nudity break the door down for you, surrendering it for something a lot less carnally desirable has its price. Miranda knew this, and that knowledge swept her out to sea like a vicious riptide.
I know you. Maybe I’ve only seen you specifically on television, but I know you. You’re the machine, and you feed on lost souls. I’ve seen you in many forms, pendejo. The pickup artist and the date rapist at the house parties. The ROTC recruiter at high school. The youth pastor. The gymnastics coach. The cult leader comes in many disguises, but the nuts and bolts underneath all the paint and the inlays and the wire covers is the same. They remain the machine, and the fuel is the person who looks like… well, me.
At least at the moment.
Her childhood bedroom remained sanctuary. Even though her parents could have used the room as a study or an office, the shock of empty nester-dom was too great to shake off, even as the months passed into years that still seemed like months in their time-compressed brains. The only changes made were hygienic. Germana would clean the room as if Miranda still lived there, but the desk remained in the corner by the closet, which contained all the plush animals she had put for storage when she ventured out on life as an adult. The posters remained on the wall, those of One Direction and Daddy Yankee. A New York Mets sticker, slightly faded from the years and dogeared from obsessive-compulsive picking during times of punishment or sadness, sat in the corner of her window.
Sanctuary was a good word to describe her room, actually, and she was thankful for that remaining constant in her life. She had not been back to her apartment in Park Slope since before the Belmont Classic, where she competed as Milagro DC. Her boyfriend and tag team partner was a mixed bag. Many hated him for his brusque leftist podcaster persona that he never seemed to shed, and his role as SHOOT Project’s bleeding pain sponge gave them satisfaction while he was on camera. Still, while Felix Mullen never put his hands on her, his brand of intimidation, though ten-dollar words and tortuous dialectics, always left her feeling grimier than before they would argue. She didn’t want to face it in person, not during the holidays.
That, of course, didn’t stop him from instigating over the phone.
Tear-stained cheeks and red eyes remained hidden under a pillow covering her face. If someone wanted to smother her, they’d have the perfect opportunity to do so in that instant. Miranda only removed it when a double tap of her mother’s fist happened upon the ramshackle particle board door seized her attention.
“Mija, are you okay? I heard a lot of yelling up here.”
“Come in, mami.”
Germana’s face sunk as she saw the aftermath of an emotional battle more physical than any wrestling match her daughter had been party to, even against Paxton Ray. She waddled over to Miranda’s bed and sat next to her head.
“You know, it’s okay to move on.”
Miranda sniffled again and turned her face, pained and stained, towards her mother.
“I do love him though, mami. It’s just… I did him wrong even if it felt right.”
Germana’s brow furrowed as her daughter continued.
“I didn’t tell him I was doing these shows without him. Hiding my face so he wouldn’t find out.”
“He wouldn’t have approved?”
Miranda shook her head.
“Then, pardon my language, mija, but fuck him.”
Now it was Miranda’s turn to drop her jaw.
“Mira, when you told me and your father you were going to, uh, do that thing you did, we didn’t approve of it. I would much rather you have stayed home and maybe gone to college, worked at the Home Depot part time, something more wholesome…”
She put her hand on the side of her daughter’s head, a mother’s touch unrivaled.
“…but you weren’t doing anything criminal. And we supported you, especially since it afforded you opportunities to chase your bliss. You know, back on the home island, pro wrestling is a way of life?”
Miranda chuckled lightly.
“Yes, mami, we talked about it all the time.”
“Well, if Felix doesn’t see that…”
“That’s the thing, mami, he does. But…”
“But what, Mira? If he can’t see it on your terms, then he’s not worth your time.”
Miranda’s face sunk once again. Parents. They just don’t understand. Will Smith was as right in 1988 as he would be in 2022 when he slapped Chris Rock across the face for making fun of his wife’s chronic illness.
“We’re partners, though. Would you go behind papi’s back?”
Germana rose from the bed and turned to leave the room.
“Mira,” she said, her face pointed towards the door, away from her daughter. “I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. But don’t forget. Your papi and I? We have always understood that together we can only be strong if we respect how strong we can be as our own people.”
“I can talk to him. I can make him see.”
“Yeah, mija. I’m sure you think you can.”
Germana stepped out of the room slowly, with a defeated gait, and she shut the door behind her. Miranda put the pillow back over her face. The battle raging in her head tore a swath across all her synapses. She knew her mother was right, but she also knew she’d lied through omission to her boyfriend. The inexorable tug between the two avatars in her brain, pulling with all their might, left her empty. Hollow. She’d become a lost soul in her own sanctuary.
I’m the perfect fuel for your engine, aren’t I, Jacob? I’m vulnerable right now. My only backup isn’t making the trip to Los Angeles, and our relationship is… well, complicated. You like that, don’t you? Hearing your prey lay out in simple terms why they’d be so easy for you to ensnare, right? I know people in your role say you want more of a challenge from your victims, your marks, but I know deep down the only reason you want to have people around you to do your dirty work is because you lack the drive to get your hands dirty yourself.
And maybe part of that statement is wrong. I mean, look at how you took one of my mentors all the way to his limit for his Intense Championship. Observe how you literally dog-walked the Multitudes. Listen to how hushed the voices are when your name is spoken in our shared home promotion of SHOOT Project. Pendejo, you can fight. No one denies that. But that’s not really what you desire, is it? The fighting is easy, especially for a monster of a man like you.
The hard part for you? That’s control. And to your credit, you’ve done well controlling your Twins, your Coyotes, but I’ve seen how unruly those children of yours can be. I see the strain in your eyes, the yellowing under your fingernails from cigarettes smoked in chain, the bags under your eyes. You want a layup. You want someone who will roll over and then follow you to the ends of the earth, to take care of your lightwork while you attend to more important battles like those with Lexi Gold and Paxton Ray and IAM and Balaam.
But what happens when the vulnerable fight back?
She sat on her parents’ stoop, having grown accustomed to the chilly winter air which had appeared with less frequency each passing year. Robed in her Marist hoodie, baggy sweatpants, and beat up training sneakers, she stood sentry hunched like a gargoyle. In her hand, a legendary bodega bacon, egg, and cheese. In between her feet, an extra-caffeinated Island coffee. Which island? That’s none of your business. As she savored the last bite of her sandwich, the stark realization washed over her. She wasn’t outside to take in the crisp winter morning. She had work to do. One last slug of coffee and a wipe of the mouth on her sleeve, and she was off.
She ran through her parents’ Port Richmond neighborhood, around the Staten Island Zoo, under I-278, by the hospital. She circled back, her mind racing faster than her feet. As she slowed her gait approaching her parents’ home, she noticed her neighbor, an elderly Black gentleman, had come out of his house. He sat to the left of their shared stoop in a lawn chair, reading a paperback book in the muted light of the midmorning winter sun.
“Hola, Señor Davis.”
The old man looked up from his book and nodded with all the quickness of a man in his 70s trying to enjoy a relatively nice day in the dawn of a new year.
“What’cha reading there, sir?”
“It’s Watchmen. You know, the comic book?
“Aren’t you a little old for comics?”
The old man shot her a look that could have frozen Old Faithful.
“I was readin’ comics my whole life. Weaned on the Silver Age, Superman, the Fantastic Four, the Teen Titans, the ORIGINAL ones. Never one to abandon a true love now, young’un.”
Miranda let out a stifled giggle and climbed the first step before the old man’s voice stopped her.
“’Never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon.’ What a line. Words to live by, y’know?”
She furrowed her brow.
“You know the character who said that was the right-wing lunatic, right? Right before the all-powerful god obliterated him? Alan Moore himself said…”
“I know what Alan Moore said, young’un. Rorschach wasn’t no role model, but even in the most extreme lines, they be truth, hunh?”
Miranda leaned in a little closer.
“Point is, anyone askin’ you to compromise usually ain’t tryin’ to do that themselves. They accuse you of wantin’ to have it all, when really, that’s what they want. They greedy, young’un”
“Why are you telling me this?”
The old man laughed.
“It’s my favorite part of the book, an’ I just got up to it. This is the first book I read every new year. E’eryone start off the new year wit’ so much hope, young’un. Gotta remind myself hope gotta be earned, and you gotta look for it e’erywhere not just where you wanna look.”
She looked at him sternly as he continued.
“Besides, I like the conversation. Been ten years this March since Aileen passed. No one come to visit me ‘cept your folks and people on the street.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Davis.”
“Aww, it’s alright.”
“Hey, listen, let me get a shower. I’ll come out and we can talk about comics. Okay?”
The old man smiled and nodded.
I know I’m lost right now, Jacob. There are many different directions I could go in, and none of them feel like my true north right now. There’s one thing you need to know though. Just as not all who wander are lost, not all who are lost are desperate. I’ll find my way. In the meantime, I’ll hunt and gather. I’ll find my way in the wilderness until I get that beat on my true north. You just happen to have come across me at an incredibly dangerous time. You think I’m the prey, but pendejo? I got the drop on you. Hope your Coyotes are quick enough to get you out before I finish you off for good.
For the first time in weeks, Miranda Dos Casas came home, to her apartment in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Her feet stomped with the fury of a Roman phalanx thousands of times greater in number than hers as she veered a hard left towards the bedrooms. She kicked open the door to the guest bedroom that Felix had turned into a recording studio. There he sat in his gamer chair, scrolling through and deleting e-mails with various issues of Substack newsletters he’d subscribed to, at least until he heard the door slam open.
“AAAHHH! Oh, it’s just you, the liar…”
“Shut up, Felix, and listen up.”
“No, I have…”
“I SAID LISTEN UP!”
He meekly shrunk in his chair as Miranda seemingly grew three times in size. At least that was what he’d tell Jimmy the Slav later on when he recounted the meeting to his podcast cohost.
“You’re right, I lied, but I shouldn’t have had to. Yes, we are in this together, but no, you are not my handler. You are not my master. And you are certainly not my father.”
“You call me daddy…”
“SHUT UP. From now on, I do what I want with my own career. None of this emotional manipulation or Jordan Peterson bullshit speak. I take the bookings I want, whether you want to come or not. I live my life. You can either come along for the ride, or you can stay here in an apartment you need me to be able to afford while I move down to Philly or back in with my parents. Do you understand?”
He looked for a moment like he was about to offer the most heated rebuttal in the history of debate before the moment took him down a peg. He slumped back in his chair and sighed.
“You’re right, my peach. I haven’t been fair to you. Go and do your own thing. I’ll still be here, and we’ll still kick ass in the SHOOT Tag Division, okay?”
She was shocked at how well he’d responded, but after that momentary pause, she nodded and turned around. As she walked out of the office, a wry grin formed on her lips. She muttered something to herself.
“Not even in the face of Armageddon, huh.”