Stone Cold Steve Austin Cannot Be Forgotten

Brian Oliu


What you want to know is who was my favorite. What you hear is not what you want to hear—a name that means nothing as it was born from something pressing—a technician with a quick first strike that came of age after you out grew the lariat, the steel chair. What you want is to hear me say a name that you remember: one that brings up images of t-shirts and lunch rooms, of catchphrases and gestures. Here is what you remember: the glass breaking, the beer chugging, the idea of the everyman telling every boss to go get whipped, what audacity one has, to wear a tie when it is so easy to grab onto it and pull.

What I would like to say is that I remember these things too: black trunks, black boots, everything non-descript—me, if I were asked to fight someone, me if I were given twenty minutes to get ready. The kick to the stomach, the double over, the chin spiking into a shoulder. The dramatic fling backwards as if springing back from god-knows-what: a flop, and then stillness. What I would like to say is how we all wanted to do this to everyone who told us what to do: coaches asking us to jump higher, a police car slowing to a crawl when approaching a group of kids in dirty jeans walking down a road with no sidewalk.

What power this has over us: what undeniable nostalgia—how we felt when he threw up his fists with his knuckles turned outward, how we could do anything, that what we were as men was more than what we could ever be as boys, that what ages us can be ignored, that every swift strike was more beautiful than we could remember, that every boot hit flush, that we too could put holes in the earth. What a marvel in how we can cause the world to bend around our bodies, what beauty it is to take the earth with us, caked up around our ankles, as if we are spreading the world thin, as if what is lacking elsewhere can be pressed into our pores until the clay of the earth dyes our skin rust red.

What I can tell you is that these stories are universal: I remember where I was when the four-wheeled goliath smashed into the side of the ring apron, what I felt when it seemed as if the out-stretched leap wouldn’t clear the top rope, what happens to necks when hanging upside down, falling backwards instead of forward, vertebrae compressed and stacked like crushed empty cans. What I can never tell you is that this is not the past for me: these are bodies that you have left behind; caricatures with their bloated features, their abdomens distended. What it is like to have the privilege of remembrance—what it is to find past glory lurking in the shadows like a testament—a declaration of something so certain that even the haze of the world can’t keep your eyes from squinting through to clarity. What went the way of the rattlesnake. What happens after the serpent leaves its pattern in the dirt and fades into the tall grass outside of your apartment, waiting for a drunken night to strike again—to leave welts underneath eyes and palm strikes across cheeks.

What I am about to tell you is true: the man known for being tougher than a two-dollar steak left his wife’s bruised body in hotel bath tubs. There was no audience when your favorite memory drove his knee into a woman’s back, stunning her until she was unable to breathe. This is something that you will not remember—this was after your time—this is a man who handed out beatings like the loudest prayer you’ve ever heard; one that rips through whatever ceiling we have trained our eyes to until the center of our foreheads grow warm. What reward we give her that she has lived to tell: to celebrate the illusion of a cracked skull while cheekbones are pressed into carpet. What world this is. What it is like to be one hundred percent pure. What the world has come to.

What remains. What is the sound of glass when it is not breaking. What it must be like to interrupt the silence with something more than remembrance—what we become when we are alone and left to our own devices. What forgiveness we grant our heroes, and what audacity we give away at the ready when what we consider classic is taken from us. What it is like to not think about these things. What it is like to separate man from actions even when the actions are simulacra of the actions. What you should know is that the fists are closed, now. What you should know is that when someone is seriously hurt they make an X with their hands; the gloves come out, the cameras pan the crowd. What you are seeing is what you are supposed to see, and what you see you need to believe. Believe me, I know how strange this sounds. Believe that when you hear glass shatter, there are shards somewhere on the floor. Believe that the edges will cut you straight across the scalp. What you remember is a lie. What you love is not what you love. Believe me when I tell you it’s worse than you remember. Believe me when I tell you that I know you haven’t watched in years.

Brian Oliu is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of two chapbooks and four full-length collections, So You Know It’s Me (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011), a series of Craigslist Missed Connections; Leave Luck to Heaven (Uncanny Valley Press, 2014), an ode to 8-bit video games; Enter Your Initials For Record Keeping (Cobalt Press, 2015), essays on NBA Jam; and i/o (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015), a memoir in the form of a computer virus. Current projects include a book of essays on professional wrestling, a memoir about translating his grandfather’s book on long distance running, and a nonfiction book about the history of the track jacket.

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