My brother and I used to play like we were WWE wrestlers,
and that’s not a metaphor. The majority of the memories I have
of my brother are when we were children, and not yet monsters.
Friday night meant watching large, sweaty men perform hyper-masculinity
in a spring board ring with Nick. Everything about it was
overdramatized and terrible and I fucking loved it
in a way that shocks me to this day. We’d sit there, mesmerized
in the glow of the television, hoping our favorites
would be pinned against lesser men under the bright lights.
My mama used to think I only watched it
because it meant my big brother thought I was cool as he quietly
and not so quietly shifted into puberty, but
to be honest, I liked it. I liked seeing violence and having a name for it,
for violence to be black and white, to be able to see it coming, brace for it,
and leave it behind in the space between the taut ropes. Nick and I
would play wrestle in his bedroom when we had nothing
but our boredom and abandonment to keep us together.
His signature move was what he called the “steam roller”
in which he would throw me on the ground and literally lay
his 200 pound body on top of me and roll back and forth,
stopping only as he steam-rolled across my lungs,
there was something in him that liked stealing the breath out
the women in our family, and I’d be caught dead before I’d tap out.
Even then, this is how I thought about power — the strength to withstand
the sum total of all your pain, even as it crushes you.
The more pain I could tolerate, the more powerful I felt.
I don’t watch the wrestling anymore but I still have an affliction with
tapping out. Sometimes, I feel like I am in that ring, my body slamming
into the sweat stained floor, the brittle ropes cupping my spine,
springing me helplessly and heavily into all the fists the world clenches
against me. And I pride myself on being able to take it,
for all the teeth I’ve lost along the way, for never tapping out, not yet.
It’s possible, yes, that I think myself a heavy weight champion,
contending against life, if life were a hairy, cocky, grunting man
in unfortunate spandex, which I think is an accurate description of life,
while the world just sees another body crushed under the rubble, but
maybe that’s how power looks, anyway,
not a balled fist, held valiant in the air, but a woman
pinned under the weight of everything
with a ribcage that can sustain the pressure of whole societies,
breathing, saying, not yet, motherfucker,