I’ve been thinking a lot this week about pain, strength, and healing — and also spending a lot of time at lucha libre. It has struck me how much tenderness there is be in something so seemingly brutal, and so I wrote a little scene on it. I still have a lot to learn about the history and culture of lucha libre, so I hope I’m not doing anything blasphemous or appropriating subject matter that’s not mine to write about. Maybe I’ll take it down once I think about it more, but for now, here’s my scene.
We did it for all the mothers out there. The masks hide our faces which are squashed and ugly: peeled pistachios, sandwich bread with the crusts removed. We want them to focus instead on our weatherbeaten bodies, our biceps, our tattoos, our bellies full of canned beer and spinach.
In the ring, we howl and yelp, curse obscenities, thud deeply into the ground and scrunch our faces. We want the moms to gasp, put their hands over their mouths, furrow their eyebrows in concern. When you can generate that kind of concern, our rise from the ground is made all the more noble. We un-twist our legs from the painful-looking contortion, set our mouths in a straight line, and gather the strength not just to stand, but to enact revenge on the one who harmed us. We are indefatigable and moreover we are brave. The moms are relieved, they sit with quiet pride, plan the meal they will feed us later. Oh, this feeling.
The show is over and me and my fellow luchador are backstage embracing closely. The bare skin on our chests is touching. We each cry a little through our masks, for joy, for equilibrium, for something not yet grasped. We pull apart and bring the other’s bruises to our lips. Our breathing slows. We clasp our rough hands together, the tattoos on our fingers making art together, we can see each other through our eye holes and affirm the other’s nobility. We are grand in the eyes of ourselves, our mothers, the Lord.
I bless my mother for teaching me this virtue. I think back to a time when I was small and I tripped while playing in the yard. I fell to my hands and knees: I remember the concrete stinging my skin, shock running up my body. My limbs were okay, but the fall had upset me, taken the buoyancy from my play, agitated something inside of me. I caught my mother’s eye as she read her newspaper inside. I wanted her to pay attention to me and hold me, and so I cried. But she knew as I did that the physical pain was trivial. She pressed her lips and set her eyes forward and continued reading. I will tell you that at that point my beckoning tears became tears of shame. I learned through her eyes that I was going to be fine, and carrying on like this was inappropriate. I stopped crying and made a point to internalize this lesson. I played more forcefully now, rolling around on the concrete, smashing my trucks together, making sure to leave bigger scrapes on my body than the ones from the initial fall. I took shelter deep within myself and let my body heal me, I smashed the pain apart between the trucks’ bumpers, I collected the shards and shoved them into my little jar, I closed the lid tightly so they could not leave. As a child, the lesson is hard, but it teaches you to carry yourself with strength and nobility. I have passed along to various other children I have come into contact with.
I have at times in life struggled with my posture. To reliably align it, I imagine a knife in my abdomen, drops of blood trailing behind me like little red acolytes. This image keeps my head high and my eyes set. Rib cage up.
Me and this beautiful luchador, together in nobility, we squeeze our hands one more time before letting go, parting the curtain, and walking into the ring. We regard the sea of mothers and take our bow. Nothing will hurt us.