Friday, June 9, 2023
“I just don’t get it.”
Nova lays on a long burgundy couch in a therapist’s office, staring at the ceiling.
The therapist, a short, bald man with round glasses, nods his head with the clinically appropriate mix of patience and sympathy.
“He just…he just looks so good!” Nova moans, clutching a photograph in his hand.
“Some people are blessed genetically with traits that help them age very gracefully,” the therapist responds.
“YOU don’t understand,” Nova points a finger at him with his free hand. “Rewind twenty years and this guy looked like he was hauled out of a meth lab in eastern Kentucky by Adult Protective Services. For real. Pull up an old PRIME broadcast from 2004 and what you’ll see is a developmentally-delayed lumberjack wandering around.”
“That photo does not depict what you are describing,” the therapist admits.
“Fuck no, it doesn’t!” Nova replies, waving the photo in the air. “He’s gorgeous! Hell, I’d hit it. I just don’t understand. We came up together. He’s…he’s…hell, how old is this fuckin’ guy now, hang on, I’m pulling up the website.”
Nova scrolls on his phone for a minute.
“HE’S FORTY ONE!” Nova screams. “He’s two years younger than I am! Yet he’s out of central casting for the DC Universe, and I look like your dad!”
“It was often said there was a certain charm to my father’s unremarkable appearance,” the therapist replies.
Nova flops back onto the couch with a groan and lights a cigarette.
“You can’t smoke in here,” the therapist says.
“Understood,” Nova says before taking a long drag.
“Look, you’ve gone through a very difficult time,” the therapist observes, “you were imprisoned for years. That kind of trauma can have very tangible, physical effects on a person. Have you read The Body Keeps the Score?”
“It’s on my list,” Nova replies dismissively, “and yeah, I get that, but he’s a Christian. Like, a BIG one. Isn’t that traumatic, too?”
“I can’t speak to that,” the therapist says, waving away smoke.
The therapist looks at his watch. “So, just to clarify, you don’t want to talk about the lasting trauma of losing your daughter and wife?”
Nova shakes his head.
“You don’t want to talk about the impacts of your prolonged incarceration or intensive community supervision?”
Nova shakes his head.
“You just want to talk about how upset you are that Mr. Williams looks so much better than you do?”
Nova nods emphatically.
“Well,” the therapist says with another glance at his watch, “I’m afraid we’ve run out of time for today.”
Nova swings his feet around and stands up. “Fair enough, doc.”
“Do you want to try to fit in another session before your event next week?” the therapist asks.
“Let me look at my schedule and get back to you,” Nova says, taking another drag.
“You do that,” the therapist nods with a kind smile. “Take care.”
Nova walks out of the office and into the building’s lobby. As he passes a coffee table arranged with magazines and a potted Agave plant, his eyes catch on a placard high on the wall next to him.
MAY GOD GRANT ME THE OPPORTUNISM TO CAPITALIZE
ON THE THINGS I DO NOT DESERVE
Nova stares at it for several moments.
“That’s a fuckin’ weird thing to have hanging in a therapist’s office,” he mutters to himself before turning back around.
“Hey, doc, what’s the deal with…”
The door he just exited through is gone.
There’s just a wall.
“Alright,” Nova throws up his hands, “that’s it. I need a nap. A drink, and a nap.”
He pushes open the glass door to the office and steps outside onto the sidewalk that runs the length of a street in what appears to be a mixed-use residential/commercial neighborhood.
Nova takes a drag of his cigarette and looks around. There’s no one else on the street.
An actual honest-to-god tumbleweed blows by.
“I could’ve sworn there were more people around when I went in here,” Nova says to himself after exhaling a puff of smoke.
Nova turns at the sound of footfalls on concrete and sees a young man sprinting towards him full-stop. Nova flicks his cigarette away and takes a step back to make room, but the young man runs right to him, skidding to a halt, sweat soaked all the way through his bright blue polo shirt.
He pauses for a moment, draping a hand over Nova’s right shoulder as he gasps for breath.
“Hey, bro,” Nova says slowly, “you good? You need some, like, water or…”
The young man moves his hand off Nova’s shoulder and reaches behind his back. Nova instinctively steps back but the young man pulls out a wallet and begins dumping its contents into Nova’s hands.
“What are you…”
Nova stares down at the cash and bank cards he is now clutching in his gloved hands.
“It’s for you!” the sweaty young man insists, his wild eyes open wide and locked into Nova’s gaze. “You can have it!”
Before Nova can utter another word, the young man takes off sprinting down the sidewalk.
Nova stares down at the mess in his hands – the kid’s driver’s license and social security card are there, too.
“Nope,” he concludes, opening his hands for lack of a better option and allowing it all to fall to the pavement.
He’s taken aback by a taxi cab, engine running, that seems to have appeared curbside out of nowhere next to where he’s standing.
“I need to get the fuck out of here,” he says aloud, walking over and opening the back passenger door.
Nova climbs into the backseat.
“Holiday Inn Downtown, please,” he says, leaning back against the headrest and closing his eyes.
He’s startled by the SLAM! of a car door. He looks around and then recoils and screams as a face appears in the window next to him.
It’s the taxi driver, wide-eyed and sweaty, gesturing frantically towards the driver’s seat.
“It’s all yours!” he shouts, his voice muffled through the glass, fogging up the window. “You deserve it!”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?!” Nova shouts, but the man disappears, hauling ass away from the cab.
Nova sits alone in the back of the cab. Fortunately there’s no separator, so after a moment he crawls forward into the front seat and settles in behind the wheel.
That’s when he sees the horizon darken with a teeming mass.
“Oh, what the fuck,” he whispers as he leans forward, trying to focus his eyes.
The crowd of people running frantically toward him comes into clear view.
“NO, no, no-no-no-no,” Nova says, shaking his head as he throws the car into drive and busts a U-turn around in the street.
As he accelerates up the street in the direction opposite the crowd, he sees apartment windows opening around him on both sides of the lane. People are flinging prized possessions out of second- and third-story windows – lamps, artwork, porcelain dishes all shatter and come apart as they dot the landscape of the sidewalks on either side of the street.
A woman bares her chest and falls out of her fourth-floor window. Nova looks away quickly, redirecting his eyes onto the road ahead.
That’s when he sees the crowd ahead.
“Oh FUCK ME,” he groans, bringing the vehicle to a screeching stop.
Nova looks up desperately into the rearview mirror and sees the crowd closing in behind him. Quickly he is surrounded on all sides as people close in around the vehicle.
“TAKE IT, NOVA!!”
“YOU DESERVE THIS!!”
Someone presses a live human baby against the right front passenger-side window, and Nova closes his eyes, taking a deep breath.
“Okay…,” he says to himself, “okay. This is a dream. This has to be a dream.”
He lights a cigarette.
“If this is a dream…IF this is a dream…,” he whispers, taking a drag, “then I should be able to…”
Nova pushes himself up from his seated position and phases through the roof of the taxi cab, hanging suspended in mid-air for a moment before floating back down onto the roof of the cab. Outstretched hands all around him fling various currencies, real estate deeds, and powers of attorney into the air, but he waves them off as he looks around at the building skyline to orient himself.
Spotting a promising perch, Nova puts weight on his back foot before launching himself into the air.
He soars, wind blowing back the wild silvery-blonde horseshoe of air circling his scalp.
Nova lands on the rooftop, takes another drag of his cigarette, and surveys the landscape. In the distance, he can see the Holiday Inn Downtown where he has a room in the leadup to ReVival 30. Again bracing himself against the brick of the rooftop ledge, he pushes off and takes flight.
The Risen Star shoots over downtown Phoenix.
Nova sees the Holiday Inn up ahead. His trajectory takes him towards the fifth floor and he spots a window he knows belongs to his room. It approaches rapidly and his reflection in it grows.
Nova takes a last drag of his cigarette, flicks it away, and braces for impact.
He gasps as he sits upright in bed, panting heavily and soaked in sweat. He looks around the room and the only light comes from the large flatscreen TV that was apparently left on when he fell asleep.
Onscreen, two talking heads are bantering next to a graphic that reads “REV 30 QUALIFIERS.”
“Another opportunity for the Risen Star here to potentially challenge for the Universal Title…”
“That’s right, the PRIME legend will have yet another chance to show what he’s capable of…”
Nova collapses back against his pillow, reaching over for his pack of cigarettes.
I think back to Tropical Turmoil in 2005, to the #1 Contender’s Match for the Universal Title, to Brandon, and Angelo, and Aimz, and Vangelus, and Ellis…and for reasons that have already been well-documented, mines that have been deeply-welled, that was such an important time for me.
Let’s be clear about this, Nate.
You deserve this opportunity.
I do not.
You’ve put it out there at every opportunity and come out on the winning end almost every time since you embarked on your own path in the ReVival era.
I have mostly come up short, surrounding my colossal failures with spunky isolated successes – I get my five points for plating.
Maybe you’re the Next Diamond. That’s a little cringe for me, but everyone needs a hook.
What’s for sure is you’re the real deal, and you should be lining up at Tropical Turmoil to fight for your place in the Uni Title milieu.
I didn’t ask for this.
Any of this.
When they dragged me out of a cell and sent me down to Las Vegas, I had no idea what the fuck was happening.
I didn’t ask to be listed as a #1 seed in the Almasy Tournament, may my friend rest in fucking power.
I didn’t ask for a random shot at Jiles when he carried the strap.
I’m not whining about it. It’s just that I didn’t do anything for those shots except be a person who really ripped it up Back in the Day.
I get why people probably get in their feelings about the reverence for the Old Guard. What have almost any of us actually done for you lately?
I mean, Brandon is making up for lost time like a divorcee on Tinder, but the rest of us…sheesh.
That being said…
…I will take the opportunity anyway.
You may be the one who deserves it.
I may be the one who is riding on Legend Cred fumes.
But an opportunity is an opportunity, and whether I deserve it or not, I intend to drop you on your head and capitalize on it.
Maybe I can change the narrative.