MR. PERFECT ALONE IN A ROOM WHERE HE WILL DIE
The secret, of course, is that he wasn’t: a quick strike to the head followed by something twisted and aerial would put him out, eyes glossed over, unblinking towards the ceiling. He lost almost as many times as he won—catching an elbow to the chest or to the crown of his square-blocked head, his shoulder bouncing off of the mat at an odd angle: obtuse or acute, certainly never perfect. The thing to try to put you away shared his name, and yet it was also flawed: elegant in its float over, its set up, the locking together of cruxes,
& yet, this is what was supposed to happen: what is not perfect is beautiful in its struggle—that here is a man who can do anything—a man who can toss a basketball over his right shoulder and whisper it home, who can amaze heroes of worlds where there is such a thing as chance, where luck determines an outcome. & still, he never won the big one: he never put the giants to sleep, he never had the man out cold despite this is what should be given unto him: the three, the thing to hold onto, the extra weight that comes with being divine.
Here’s something you already knew—the perfect one is dead—crushed by the weight of his own heat, a pocket of air where blood should be, a hiccup, an imperfection. What made the man perfect was not in what he did but what was done to him: the snapping back of hair after every near miss, the doubling over like he was kicked in the gut when he was almost kicked in the gut. Believe his leg had been deadened, believe the chop caught him flush. Believe all of these things so you can believe the narrative—flawless in his execution. Believe that he is dead: that people die in hotel rooms all the time, that someone always has a key and a fresh pair of sheets. That when you enter a room no one has ever lived here but you.
There are nights when I forget if it is better to be perfect or if it is better to be beautiful. If there is a difference between being an expert at playing a man stronger than any iron or playing dead. You know these things, of course: you know them because you are perfect—that you have attained your purpose, that you are that which is complete and that I am this too: I am complete in my failure, in my ability to make all things beautiful in comparison—that you can be amazed at how poor perfect can be, that I will drop the ball when it is thrown to me: it will skip over my taped knuckles and spiral aimlessly to the cold ground. It will be declared perfect: it will be as it should be, me, trying to pull my finger from its socket, trying to grasp harder than I have ever grasped before. I am not faking this: believe me when I tell you I need ice, believe me when I say I wish I could go on.
There are bears where we are both from—they emerge from the timber like the rattling of a slow drum. Play dead, our parents would tell us, let them sweep over you, let them smell your hair, the spearmint in the chewing gum you have let drop from the corner of your mouth. When I have a son I will tell him these things too—that it is okay to be beautiful, that it is okay to lose like no one has ever lost before. I will walk with a limp when it is necessary, I will call my shots from the baseline. I will be remembered for something that is the opposite of what I was. I will lose and the bears will wash over me like I was never there.