Brandon Youngblood enjoyed the evening in Havana, the sights, the sounds, the dated baroque buildings and paintbrushed sky alongside the richness of the street and the people who lived there. He was halfway through a cigar, lounging in his metal chair, taking a deep drag and holding before smoke bellowed from his nostrils. Rolling it in fingers, he thought of how the craftsmanship of cigars had tanked since the end of the embargo, that Nicaragua had over taken Cuba’s place. Even still, their flavor and the relaxation coming over were just fine, and there wouldn’t be the added song and dance through customs trying to smuggle a few sticks out. Time. He wondered about it in the soft outdoor lighting of whatever hole in the wall restaurant he was at, the camera trained on him, sweat from humidity glistening on his forehead, a plate of half-finished frituras de malanga in front of him as well as a tin can with string coming through the top and a glass of water.
Unfolding his arms from across his massive chest, the absurdity of the white shirt he was wearing was on full display; airbrushed across it were hamburgers, hotdogs, slices of pizza, middle fingers, and the words ‘The Pisstake Express’ in rainbow colors right in the center. It was quite clear this man took life quite seriously. He ashed his cigar, resting it on the side of ashtray, clearing his throat and cracking his neck.
“It ain’t La Guarida, but then again, I ain’t gentrified, so...” he licked his lips, looking away for the lens, his fingers laced and the heels of his hands resting against his paunch. “Reason I’m here ain’t a question about money. Actually, it ain’t even a question about being gentrified if I’m honest, because a place like that, a place that serves you Johnny Walker Red Label and is considered the best Cuban restaurant in Havana is the kind of place you go and can order a hamburger, surely. But here’s the thing PJ...” he sits up straight for a moment, clearing his throat, “you ain’t the kind of person who does that thing called ‘research’. Maybe you don’t even know that different places have different kinds of food. I doubt that, though. See, someone like you, rich, dumb, wait...I can’t call you dumb, Daddio, because that’s slandering the handicapped and you’re just willfully ignorant, no...someone like you looks at someone of a different ethnicity, a different skin color, and think that they must, like, subsist on whatever ethnic food they’re known for. I can see it now...twelve-year-old Priscilla James, already grown to her full adult size and finally able to leave the house with Mommio and Daddio, not because you’re finally house broken, but because you finally stopped making such a fuss about not having your pacifier anymore--”
“Ring ring ring...” From off camera, we hear the familiar droll deadpan of Lindsay Troy, but for the moment, Brandon acts as if he can’t hear her.
“--and she leaves the house and sees an Asian family going through the drive through at the Burger King, because Princess Priscilla, she needs her crown, and her chicken tendies--”
“Ring ring ring...”
“—and the first thing she say, as the drool and the slobber and snot covers her Gucci dress or whatever the fuck, is ‘Daddio, why does the slant eye man eat the American food? Why doesn’t he stick with ching chong chow mein’--”
“Ring. Goddamn-ring-Brandon.” The camera pans over, The Queen of the Ring’s terseness made all the more apparent by her disapproving scowl.
“What,” his shrug is incredulous, “I’m not racist. I’m not the one who said it. SHE said it. She’s the one with no culture. She’s the--”
“I’m a telephone.” She holds a tin can of her own in her hand, and after a look at the camera, she looks right back at him, giving it a quick shake, making the string connecting the tin cans jostle back and forth. “Hi.”
“Oh, yeah, right...” he takes a swig of water, picking up his can and putting it to his ear. “Hello. This is the part of the promo where I will talk on the phone.”
“But Brandon,” she starts, taking a bite from her paper bag of chicharitas de platanos because Youngblood had gotten her hooked on plantains on this tour, “You and I both know that these conversations are one sided.”
Another swig of water. Sopping up his taro and egg mixture before taking another bite, he looks at the camera, and then toward the deserving Paramount Champion. “Yes. I understand what you mean. This is because conversations are meant to be stilted, especially when they are shot on camera.”
“Well this is an important quality, Daddio Trueblood, for we must use down time from sounding like robots to have introspection.”
“Why yes,” Brandon starts, the playing out with self-aware parody with following glares at the camera, going overboard with the wink and the nod. “Did you know that nothing. Is more important. In my life and in this world. Than signing. The autographs for. My fans. All across the. World. Nothing will stand. In my way of becoming. A professional wrestling. Champion. Mark my. Words. Daddio.”
She picks up right where he left off in truncated broken-down monotone. “Why yes. I am very. Well aware of your. Desire. To do The Moonsault. And the Headscissors. Across the ring.”
“This conversation is. Probably only happening. In my head. And now I must hang up. Because the way you have interjected yourself into this. Lind. Say. Troy. Is more than what usually happens. In a Priscilla James. Promo.”
“Make sure. You.” Troy begins to chuckle to herself now, “Sweep the plane. For the bombs.”
“Yes, Mommio.” Youngblood rolls his eyes hard, shaking his head. “I know. As a good child. That I should make sure. To let you know. Of Domestic terror. Plots before they. Take place.”
And with that, they both ‘hang up’ their phones.
“All kidding aside,” Youngblood straightens himself, pointing his thumb towards Troy, who is easing back into her chair. “I’d say she has her hands full with Pink Eye over there, but fact is she doesn’t. And you know why? Because he’s stupid. Like, on a beyond fundamental level stupid. How about I throw down a sermon for you, even though I ain’t in the match with you, but Goddamn would I gladly fold you up on that stack of dimes you call a neck until you piss and shit all over yourself. Talk about not coveting thy neighbor’s possessions, when all you do is kick rocks and bitch about how you got ‘screwed’. Listen to me, jackoff, and listen well; the idea that you spin about it being embarrassing to lose your little tin toy to Lindsay ‘Entire Wing of the Hall of Fame’ Troy is you showing your bitch boy pants, you pseudointellectual frog man. You come out and pull that song and dance and pull out the spooky mental issues danger man thing, all while having money to burn, and all I see is some half-cocked rube trying to hang on. It’s pathetic. Either dry them crocodile tears or get some baby shampoo. It’ll help with your constitution.”
The whole time, as Brandon’s rant goes on, Troy can’t help herself from chuckling as she continues to eat from her paper bag, rolling her fist in the air, pantomiming, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”
He cracks his knuckles. “Now, on to my match, even though, frankly, I don’t know why I bother. See, Lindsay,” he looks to her, then back to the camera, “I’m a little bit hurt, and she knows why. Autumn Raven knows why. Sushi Man knows why. It’s because, as much as I talked mess on ole Hoyt last week, he was the competition. This match here? This triple threat? It’s me, Brandon YOUNGblood, the guy who pulled the rickshaw by himself up the hill, and the people who were fortunate to be on his team.”
A quick swig of water.
“See, I’m the Little Red Hen. I harvested the wheat. I threshed it. I milled it. I baked the flour into bread. And now, PJ Blake and the Gimp Tom Marrow, they want to enjoy the delicious bread and skip right on down to mattering. But I’m kind. See, I’ll give them a taste...right before I drop them on top of their heads and give them a concussion. You don’t get to glom off me. See, I take pride in the work. Not the glory. Not the adulation. I’ve had that. Both ways. It’s in the work.”
His tone lowers, his knuckles knocking against the table.
“And I’m going to focus on you, PJ Blake. Not Tom. Tom isn’t even showing up. Just like he didn’t last week. But you? You who can’t even get my name right? You who is literally a Tiger Beat magazine come to life? You who needs to flash your ID in Havana to get a beer when you don’t even know the drinking age? I want you to look at me here. You talk about people counting you out, and that me against the world mentality is so wonderful, but everyone out there thinks that. Me? I’ve faced something like you years ago. And what happened with her? I broke her down. Beat her up. But she’s more than you. She even was a rich girl punk too. But see...thing is, you’re a joke. A parody. All cupcake streaks in your hair. Where’s daddy? Do you want him to see? Because I can give you a taste of reality. I want it to dawn on you that what you are is the ‘Let there be cake’ of pro wrestling. And your parents? They’re right. This ain’t for you. They will know what’s best for you. Because I’m going to grab you and I’m going to hit you and I’m going to suplex you, until you feel that burning sensation fill your limbs. And when that happens, there won’t be moonsaults and headscissors. There will be wheel chairs and colostomy bags. Blake, Marrow...welcome to Havana. For me? It’s a trip. For you?” He picks up his cigar, taking a deep drag, smoke filtering from his nostrils. “The gallows.”