A Glimpse of Reality

The camera opens on the battered car sitting in the driveway of the southern Iowa duplex. It's parked off to the side, beneath a tree so the shadows near drown it out from the small amount of moonlight breaking through the clouds. A man sits in the driver's seat, staring towards the home in front of him, watching intently almost as if it where an intricate play or filmstrip unfolding. Yes, it was true that life had been anything but normal for Bryan, but everything had built to this point. The man within the car thinks back to the events of Bryan's life, as best as he can remember. His parents, his brother, his childhood. Born from complete pain; did he have a single good memory? Yes, he had a few tucked away and held precious to his heart. Leaving home, failing at college, breaking into wrestling. After all he'd been through, he had every right to give up. But he fought on. Was there anything he lacked the courage to try? Yes, he'd still always left a large portion of himself hidden from the world. A side of him that very few ever saw. Breaking his neck, betrayed by his friends, then framed for murder. He'd suffered some of the worst tragedies known to the civilized world. Yet he'd always coped, and always without anyone. Was there anything he couldn't handle? Maybe. These past few days, he'd shown so much of a differant side. A differant man, uncertain and dependant. His training had been benificial, but this he had asked to do alone. The man watches from within the car as Bryan sits on the back porch of the home, laying back on the gray wooden landing and staring up at the clouded over sky. Yes, he had alot on his mind. And now was his final time to address this one pressing issue before sinking back into obscurity. Unlike all the other "superstars", Bryan had never retired. Bryan had never just disappeared or gone on leave to solve personal problems. Through everything, he'd always kept on fighting. But there comes a time when it's all too much, and something has to give. And for Bryan, that time was now.

Bryan watches as a moth batters itself to death on the lightbulb overhead. He flutters for a moment, then plummets to the porch to lay beside him in the cold stillness of death. Bryan nudges it with one finger, flipping it over from it's back, but knowing well it would never move again. How depressing. he thought, nudging it's wing once more to make sure. Yes, this was truely the end. Unlike the others, for Bryan there would be no return. He left now, acknowledging a select few things about his fifteen month career.

I'm a failure. he mumbled, gazing up at the clouded sky. I've failed at anything that's ever been important to me. It was true. For within the fifteen months he'd been suffering within the ring, Bryan had done much. But anywhere it had counted, anywhere it had been important, things had fallen through. Bryan had never been the World Champion. Bryan had watched as his friends within Frustrated Incorporated, VeNoM, and The New Four Horsemen had all turned there backs on him, only to know that he had done the same thing to his new family within The Horde. More than anything, he wanted to see the innocent escape this iron fist they'd been trapped under; he'd wanted to send Thomas Killborne to prison for his murders. And now it was he, Bryan Barnes, who was wanted by the police. He'd lost everything. Only one thing still held fast, throughout his miserable existance. Jenny. Jenny was here for him, and she'd promised she always would be. He'd driven her from him twice before, destroying his chances at happiness with his own inner pettiness. Like a masochist, he had forced himself to suffer week after week for over a year, claiming there was no other option. But there was always an escape. Jenny was always here, and he could have come to her at any time. It was his stubborn pride that held him back. But so was the ways of the ring.

Bryan sat forward, looking to the car for a moment and contemplating leaving. Did he have to do this? Could he do this? Why shouldn't he just take the easy way out and turn to leave right then? In other circumstances, he may have. Because at heart, he knew it as everyone had always said, he was a coward. Bryan buries his head in his hands for a moment, rubbing at his eyes in an effort to clear the haze that has covered his life these past few days. His protege was watching; he had to save face. If he ever wanted the youngster to be the man that Bryan himself had always wished he'd be, he had to do this now. Bryan braces his hands on his knees, standing up with a loud crack of popping joints. The pain twinged through his body and he shot up, standing rigidly straight. Things were getting worse. Soon, walking may no longer be an option. But these were the things that had made him a great wrestler. And now, was it all worth it? Not one bit.

Bryan turns to the door, gripping the handle to the screen with one hand and hanging his head low for a moment. His body heaves as he lets out a sigh that told volumes from his life. Slowly, he pulled the screen open and raises his left had to rap at the window. He pauses for a moment, completely unable to gather his wits about him. There is no tomorrow, Bryan. Get it together. If I don't do this now, I miss my chance. The world gives you very few opportunities to be happy. And sometimes... maybe... you've got to take a chance. His words disappear into the cold night wind as he brings his knuckles down upon the window sharply, letting out a loud rapping noise. Bryan steps backwords, letting the screen clatter shut, and stands in wait. Several moments go by before she steps within sight of the camera.

The door swings open and a beautiful brunette stands before him, her hair tustled slightly in an appealing manner, and her ivory skin untainted by make-up. She wears only a flannel sleeping gown, flower print running from her bust to mid-thigh, and Bryan could not help but fall silent for a moment to take in a glimpse of her radiant beauty. She looked up at Bryan, a smile crossing her face, and extends her hand as if to invite him in. Bryan, I haven't seen you in forever. Come on in. Have a drink.

Her words carry softly out into the night wind and Bryan stands in silence, trying to etch the memory of her voice into his mind. Jenny grinned coyly, reaching out for his hand. Bryan stood fast, shaking his head slightly to get some semblance of reality back into his mind, and tried to find the perfect way to ask the most awkward question in the world. Jenny nods for a moment, remembering something she'd read in last months Inside Wrestling magazine while working another day in Bloomfield. Oh, that's right. You don't drink any more. She tries to think back over what else his profile read. Something was mentioned about his leaving Survival Wrestling Alliance over murder, but all that stuff was staged. Right? Bryan's mind was still flooded with a million differant thoughts. But Jenny was kind enough to break the silence once more. So, are you going to stand there all night, or are you going to come in and make me a cup of coffee? Bryan grinned for a moment and Jenny knew her job had been accomplished. She'd successfully lifted the mood. It felt weird watching the wrinkles on Bryan's face melt away as he laughed. It was almost like old times. Almost.

Bryan ran his right hand back through his hair, letting out another sigh. He couldn't help but fidget with his hair. He knew how she'd liked it, and now it had been both cut short, and was beginning to gray at the tender age of 19. He did his best to cover it, trying to retain some amount of dignity while he still struggled for the perfect words to use for this delicate question. Jenny could see the gravity return to his eyes and it concerned her. She stepped out through the door into the cold night air and leaned against the outer wall, looking to Bryan in all seriousness. What's wrong? The question flooded Bryan's mind with so many thoughts, it felt like being struck with a brick. His eyes fluttered shut and his jaw clenched tight. Forcing himself to relax for a moment, Bryan looked downwards towards the peeling gray paint of the porch and shook his head slowly. And as always, Jenny could read right into his soul.

It's real, isn't it? It's not just TV. You're really going to jail. She'd been watching. Deep down, he knew she had. Ever since the incident after the Last Man Standing tournament, Jenny had never let Bryan too far out of her sight. Even though he was gone, and there had never been a guaruntee he'd return, she somehow knew they'd meet once more. And she worried about him. Bryan was always so callous, trying to take on the entire world. And he was hurt far to easily. She reached out, placing one hand on his cheek, lifting his face to look him in the eyes. The concern he could see in her almost destroyed him. He turned his face away, holding back the tears he could feel welling up in his eyes.

I have to run away again. I can't face up to the world. This whole thing isn't my fault, and I'm not going to be here through it. I'm going to Mexico. Tiajuana, I think. Bryan knew what he wanted to say, but he could still not force the words to his lips. He turned to the side, unable to look at Jenny any longer. Once again, the pain was too great. Out of sight, out of mind. The ostrich defense that had worked for so long. Throwing up the defense of his shell of protection from the world, a complete sound of apathy filled his voice. He sounded distant, almost cold, as he spoke forward, Jenny standing behind him. If you want, you can come with me. But I don't care.

"I don't care". Those three words stung into her like no dagger ever could have. Still, after all they'd been through, he insisted he didn't care. Still, he refused to open up to her enough that he would have to risk a small peice of himself. However things turned out, times could have been shared. But even though she knew it wasn't true, Bryan still insisted he "didn't care."

The thoughts burned within Jenny, almost igniting a moment of anger. How can he still say he doesn't care? she wondered as she watch Bryan raise his hand, touching his fingertips to a spiderweb. Jenny's mind raced over all the things that were in Iowa for her. Her job. Her parents. Her friends. Her entire life was here; this was not something she could give up at a moments notice. She needed time to think. She didn't know what to say. An awkward silence flooded the porch, nearly deafening. Bryan shut his eyes as the ringing in his ears grew and grew until he was positive his head would explode. Dear God, would she at least say something. Anything. he thought, hating the dreaded silence. There was a loud smack off wood against wood and Bryan turned around. Next to Jenny stood another man. Bryan recognized him and turned his back again.

Nevermind. Just... nevermind. Bryan's words were cold and heartless, intended to hurt. He stepped off of the porch into the cold night air and began to storm back to the car. Nothing had been said to hurt him, but Bryan saw the moment of pain approaching and fled. Jenny reaches out towards him, grabbing him from behind by the arm. Bryan pulled himself away, not turning to face her as Jenny toppled forward down the two steps and into the driveway. She looked up at him in tears, his actions hurting her. Wait. she cried, but Bryan continued to walk, eyes fixed forward and back towards the house where so often he had watched and waited for her. He flings open the passenger door of the old Jetta, tossing himself inside and turning to his young protege in the driver's seat. Driv-

Bryan is cut off before he can cold-heartedly give the near order to the youngster. His old friend looks to him, confusion in his eyes slowly fading into anger. What the fuck was that! You didn't even fucking talk to her! I drive us halfway across the country, and you won't even listen to a word she has to say? Why the hell do I even talk to you? The near rage flames from behind the mask of the driver, and Bryan runs both hands back through his hair, searching for an excuse. Not just to give to his pupil, but himself as well. But inside, Bryan knows the only true answer. He was afraid. Saving face, he spouts out the first lie he can think of, trying to maintain his nearly all-powerful presense in the face of the kid.

You haven't been through what I have. You don't understand. Bryan's words strike hard into the young american's heart with the speed and sharpness of a razorblade, and the man in the driver's seat pauses for a moment, then slowly turns to face his "mentor". From behind his mask, his eyes can be seen narrowing to slits and his lips pull back together tightly, full blown hatred surfacing from within him. I don't understand? I don't understand! No, man. You don't fucking understand! You don't get it. This is what it's all about. This is it. Right here. Dammit, man, that's what I came to you to learn. You were supposed to show me what it take to be a man. And all along, I thought I was getting some mystical sage-like advice. But you're just full of shit. Everything you say you've taught me has been an outright lie. You know what, get the fuck out of my car. You can walk your ass to Mexico. His anger boiled within him. Bryan was supposed to be invincable. And the only thing he talked about, the only thing he cared about, he'd just given up on it without any effort. The world could see what type of a so-called man he was now, and interest in him was suddenly nothing. Bryan flings open the door, stepping out and pausing to kick the side pannel of the Jetta. From within, his pupil let's out the words that would haunt Bryan for the rest of his life.

You told me that life was all about dedication. Finding the one thing worth living for, then being willing to sacrifice everything else for it. But look at you. That's just something you said to try and sound like a man.

The words hurt. They stung. Bryan still searched vainly for a way to save face. What could he say? He knew everyone was right. He was afraid. But what could he do about it now. Bryan leaned forward, bringing his face into the passenger window. You know how I destroyed my knees, sitting in that figure four because I was too stubborn to tap out. I should have. In a few years, I might not even be able to walk. And I sure as hell won't be able to wrestle. But the present, that one win, was more important to me then all the pain I knew I'd have to go through in the future for excepting that as my fate. If I had it to do over again, I'd gladly take a third loss. That's no big deal. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the present if you want a chance at a future without all that extra pain. Sometimes, you have to think ahead.

The door opened once more and Bryan climbed back into the car. The young man turned, looking to him with a complete disillusionment in his eyes. Bullshit. You're just can't handle the idea of being hurt. You're weak. And I don't think I want to have anything to do with you any more. Bryan hung his head low, knowing that it was true. Without his wrestling, without the glory of standing in the ring, his life was truely over. Or more precisely, it had never begun. Bryan lifted the old gym bag from the floorboard before his seat, slowly parting the zipperless flaps. He reached in, producing the one cherished thing he had left in the world. His three OWF Stables Titles belts. The three belts he defended by himself when his friends betrayed him and left him out in the cold. He looks to the first, cradling it in his arms for a moment, then tossing it aside, it landing in the driver's lap. The kid looks down at it, unsure of what to think. Bryan explains in a rare moment of honesty. Those were important to me. These were supposed to represent the only family I ever had. And I learned a lesson real damn quick. Nobody is going to look out for you but you. You depend on others and you'll just end up hurt. Because some how, some day, everyone will leave and you'll be alone. And unless you can cope with that, it's all over. Kid, I see so much of you in me. You're like the brother I wish I'd had. Please. Take it. As far as I'm concerned, you're family.

The young man pauses for a moment, running his fingertips over the title belt. The OWF Title belt. Did Bryan honestly believe he could do justice to such a treasure, even if the federation had closed it's doors? He couldn't tell. But after the time they'd spent together, he refused to believe that everything he'd been taught could be lies. He looked up to Bryan, who held his own Stables Title belt in his arms. The rough times, fighting three on one to hold onto these, were all worth it. This was a symbol of pride. This was the one thing that couldn't be taken away from him. Kid, some day you'll be alone. Then you'll know how I feel. A certain semblance of pride returned to Bryan's face. He had come so far, and never had to rely on anyone save himself. He didn't need anyone. People could come and go, and it would just be another part of life.

But you're already alone, and you don't have to be... Bryan looked up as the kid spoke, crushing Bryan down beneath the weight of reality. You chose to be this way. Could an arrow directly into his heart been more concise? Honestly, I don't believe so. The pain of these words stung for several minutes while both men sat in silence. Still, Bryan refused to admit he was wrong. The kid nudged him with an elbow, stirring him from his thoughts. Go talk to her. Life doesn't give you many opportunities to be happy...

Bryan opened the door once more, slowly walking up the driveway towards the house. The gravel crunched beneath his feet and he stumbled forward in shame. Reaching her door, he paused, hanging his head low before him. I can't do it. he mumbled, dropping to one knee and setting the third Stables Titles belt down on the wood before him. You're the closest thing I have to family. Please... forgive me for being who I am.

Bryan stood, slowly, turning and walking back towards the car. This time, his friend had nothing to say. Looking to Bryan for a moment, he merely turned his head in disgust and switched the car back into gear. Live And Let Die by Guns N Roses cut in on the radio as the two slowly left the driveway, and turned to the south. And this is the end of an era.