Two men now
by Guillermo Rebollo Gil
I remember my older brother standing
at the threshold of the TV room.
WWF Superstars was on and I was about to attempt
an elbow drop from the sofa to the cushions spread out on the floor.
Jake the Snake was cutting a promo for an upcoming match.
My brother (well, half-brother) saw me land awkwardly, painfully right
next to the cushions and, as I was getting up for another try,
busted out what I remember to be a pretty decent impression
of 16-time world heavyweight champion Ric Flair.
I was ten. He was 24.
Our dad, a widower, married my mom when my brother was six.
I don’t remember if he sat to watch the rest of the program with me,
or if we ever talked about pro wrestling again.
I just remember him blind-siding me with a familiar,
beloved voice not his own—
I bleed like nobody else
My brother’s mom died in a traffic accident
when he was four.
He was riding in the back.
In middle school,
I learned my best friend’s uncle
was the passerby who found him
bloodied on the street.
Picked him up.
Took him to the hospital.
This is a poem about pro wrestling.
It’s a poem about a wrestling match.
Around more so
The match was between The American Nightmare Cody
and his older brother (well, half- brother)
Dustin Rhodes. It took place
on May 31, 2019.
I haven’t watched it yet.
I’m hoping it’s on YouTube.
If not, whatever
highlights available will have to do.
After my parents’ divorce,
my brother and I did not speak for a little over twenty-five years.
I was 14, he was 29.
The last good memory I have of us
is him hitting a jump shot and—
regarding a guy that was harassing our sister—
casually stating that he was going to hit him so hard
his mother was going to die.
It sounded so freaking cool to me.
During those first few years of silence between us,
I often wondered why he couldn’t be as dedicated to me.
About halfway into the match,
Dustin gets cut above his left eye. Cody smears his older brother’s blood
across his own chest. Announcers agree
the younger Rhodes has a definite mean streak in him.
The cut, in the storyline, is a result
of Dustin hitting the exposed metal turnbuckle headfirst.
In actuality, it’s a self-inflected wound made possible
by Cody’s wife causing a distraction.
Audiences’ attention is drawn to her getting banned from ringside,
allowing Dustin to cut himself as he lays on the outside.
Cody then bites him over the eye, pounds away at the wound
with his fists.
Dustin, somehow, manages a comeback
twenty-minutes in. He pulls down Cody’s tights,
whips him with a weight belt across his bare bottom.
The older brother is dripping blood all over the mat.
They’re both exhausted,
trading punches in the middle of the ring.
Lead announcer Jim Ross says
This is one of the most emotionally charged matches
that I’ve ever been a part of. Because I’ve known these kids,
these two men now,
since they were children. To see it
come to this is damn sure heartbreaking.
Cody wins with his signature move
“the Cross Rhodes.” As he’s walking out of the ring area,
Excalibur says He’s covered in his brother’s blood.
Cody’s not luxuriating in his victory. I mean,
he said he wanted to put his brother out of his misery…
Cody turns around,
makes his way back to the ring. Grabs a mic
and tells Dustin about an upcoming tag team match.
He says he doesn’t need a partner or a friend.
He says he needs his brother.
They embrace in the middle of the ring.
The crowd goes wild.
I’m calling this
in the same way
what they do
I should mention that it was four of us.
I was the youngest,
my mother’s only child.
The brother I’m writing about
was older by a year
than a pair of fraternal twins.
My mother raised them,
everybody in the house called her mom.
I don’t remember at what age I first heard
about their mother and the accident.
I just remember being told
and it not changing anything about our lives.
My mom told me recently that she and my brother’s mother
have the same birthday.
I thought you knew that,
she said. I didn’t.
It hit me so hard I felt like she could die.
In a 2017 documentary,
Ric Flair explains that he taught himself to throw a punch
by striking a piece of string taped to the doorframe
as hard as he could without it moving.
It’s a lesson on the discipline behind
the caring, careful staging of punishment
inside the ring—
I only want to make it look
like I’m causing you great pain,
but you and I know better.
I don’t think I ever asked my brother about his mother.
About what it was like
to grow up without her,
to come to call somebody else by that name.
Our relationship was built around the fact of her absence,
on the peripheries of the event
that made it possible for us
to become a family in the first place.
No, I do remember:
It was in fourth grade.
A teacher asked how come
my brother had scars
all over his face.
I came home
and asked my mother if
he indeed had scars.
Then she told me about
We met for lunch on a Tuesday.
I arrived at the café first and picked a spot.
My then eleven-month-old boy
was asleep in my arms in his Ric Flair onesie.
When my brother walked in and spotted us,
he said, in a familiar, beloved voice,
this is how I wanted to see you.
As a father, I think, he meant.
I don’t think he noticed the onesie,
though. Or if he did, it didn’t register.
But that didn’t much matter,
as I was struck by the feeling
that my most meaningful memories
of us were yet to come.
When I got home,
I taped a piece of string to the top of the doorframe
and tried, with all my might, to hit it
in such a way it would not move.
Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet, sociologist and attorney. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Feed, Mandorla, The Acentos Review , Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Trampset, FreezeRay and Anti-Heroin Chic. His book-length essay Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment (2018), a careful consideration of the potentialities of radical thought and action in contemporary Puerto Rico, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in their New Caribbean Studies Series. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.