This story is by Yoko Narahashi and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She was thrown across the ring and I remember gasping. For a second, my mother lay there, inert, then like a bullet she ricocheted back to Lady K whom she pushed back onto the ring post with a shudder. I remember thinking, “Gosh Mom is so strong! Wonder if I could ever get back up like that.”
It was stardom and frankly I wanted it too. And surpass Mom even. Working at the gym became a routine. I got physically strong. And then came the matches. After a while it became a thrill. Wearing outlandish gear, makeup, hair – all glamorous and over the top! And entering the stands was like a rush of adrenaline I dreamt about. The music, fanfare, the streamers, the lights… but most of all that audience. I loved being LOVED!
“22-year-old KAYO HANAMURA, dynamic pro wrestling STAR!”
In this profession, women would be friends, or expendable opponents. But men – they were afraid to really approach me. They would mostly shy away, especially when they knew I wrestled for a living. Yet the sweetest, kindest ones were whom I was most attracted to. It seemed impossible to get into a relationship. Bet the guys were all chicken shit just imagining me getting mad, or pulling out their hair or throwing them around as I usually played the villain!
One day I got an offer to appear in this semi documentary reality show where a group of guys and girls find love by living together in this fancy setup. I’d seen this TV program before and since this producer asked me to appear in it, I thought, “Wow, I might be able to meet some cool guys! – anyway it’d be fun. I would become more of an entertainer than just a wrestler”
The first time we did the program, we were introduced to the group of guys and girls we were going to be working with. We had a round of introductions, and got a basic guideline from the director as there was no script. Seemed easy enough. There were a couple of beautiful girls – certainly no one from my field. I don’t think I ever really got close to any of the girls. Most of them stayed aloof; thought they were above me in looks, style, intelligence or plain femininity. But secretly I thought none really had the fire that I had.
Yet the producers would put me alone with another guy in a beautiful cushioned, stylish room, and we’d get to talking. I was so uncomfortable, I mean really shy. Who would think I was shy but man, I was not used to being alone and talking to guys like that – almost as if we were speaking in private yet private like hell – I mean it was shown on TV nationwide and maybe the world. What are you supposed to talk about? I just couldn’t talk. I would even cover my mouth with my sleeve.
I must have made a good impression though as the producer kept calling me back onto the episodes. I met Kei whom I thought was very cool. I was really getting attracted to him but I couldn’t make myself so open and reveal what I really felt. I wasn’t the only one. Gosh everyone else look like they were very free but I know they’re also covering up a lot. Especially the girls. In the dressing room, I could hear some of them say things about others that were really surprising. Some spiteful. Even backstabbing some of the others whom they seemed to be friendly with.
But in a way we all became very wary. We started getting bombarded with twitter, Facebook and social messaging that we would pore over after the show. We’d always comment on what was said. It became a norm, sort of a barometer on how our show went. In this way, we picked up ratings, and left quite an impression.
I often wondered what else these viewers do as they keep watching all the time and have time to message their comments not just to the station but to each other. They would have a conversation among themselves as well. One topic they kept harping on was who would fall for who.
I decided then I’ll get those viewers really entertained. Like in the ring. They expect that I was winning, lifting the other player up to throw them down but in the ring, we always tried to give them a surprise. My opponent would turn around to nail me on the ring floor.
Now the director had this idea of our going on a little trip. I would act demurely and the viewers would think that I was actually falling for this guy. When all the time it was Kei I really liked. I almost wanted to make Kei jealous.
In the final episode I was in, this guy washed my favorite wrestling outfit in the washer. It was one that my Mom had given me. She was retired and her body was really beginning to feel the brunt of physical abuse she had had in the ring. She saved up and got it for me. My favorite pink and gold outfit. I had put it in the machine but was going to take it to the dry cleaners. He washed it along with his junk and dried it too so that it became completely in tatters.
I realized that any anger or impulsive emotion I felt usually exploded in the ring. This time, I didn’t know where to vent it. I had to keep this social celebrity mask of being quiet and sweet. And I didn’t particularly like this guy they were trying to put me up with. Just the way he sat there saying sorry was so lame. I was seething inside, not knowing exactly how to deal with such insensitivity. I couldn’t take it. I yelled at him in front of all the others too so they all could understand how we really have to be more sensitive to each other.
When I learned wrestling, though it looks rough and brutal, we have to be so sensitive to each other. To feel any discomfort the other may be feeling or sense the condition of that day or time in order to help protect each other from any real injury.
The other players on this TV program would never understand this kind of thing but I felt it was my duty to make them understand how important it was – not just about me or how upset I was because he had wrecked my costume – even when it had meant so much to me.
And that was the beginning of the descent to hell.
It began with one of the program directors making a comment that I didn’t have to be so harsh or angry. One of them said I did not look very pretty then!
From that day, I opened up my cell to see a message –.
“Drop dead you bitch!”
Then I looked down and so another and another…
“You don’t deserve to be on that program!”
“Get her out”
“Get off the face of the earth” …
“You make me sick!”
Did I really deserve that?
“She is the ugliest bitch ever on the program.”
It keeps on coming. I can hardly move… was it really to me?
Why such hateful comments?
Was it such a big deal?
Just because I got mad? I did it for the program. For the others…
Isn’t there anyone who can be decent?
“Die, bitch, die!”
Not one kind word or comment…
The door of hell opening up — voices, demons – no they are all those fans and viewers…they’ve turned against me, taunting me.
Please stop! Stop!
“Such an ugly face! Go to hell!”
Please let me sleep. Let sleep silence the voices please!!!!
NO, let me go…please!
Help me please!
Can no one hear me?
Who can I turn to?
Is there anyone? Anyone?
Except the roar of the tsunami of hatred…
Help me, someone?
No, I can’t do this to Mom.
What do I do now?
Such shame, so much hatred.
My hand is shaking.
Don’t want to go out.
Sleep won’t come.
I am so tired.
I can’t Mom.
I can’t do what you did.
Get back up and fight.
Fight for what?
I always wanted you to be proud of me!
And now you’d die of shame.
What do I do after this?
What is there left?
I just wanted to be loved.
So utterly alone now.
In the silence of my room.
No one to truly love me.
And so I will go.
I’m sorry Mom.
“KAYA HANAMURA, pro wrestler, 22 years, commits suicide.”