The mat arrives on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, Raymond and I wake up at five in the morning and go for a jog. For one mile, he carries a twenty-five pound disk while I follow behind him and ride my bike.
The first off-season wrestling tournament of the year didn’t go as planned. Despite training his butt off over the spring and summer, Raymond went 0 and 2 even though he wrestled well in both matches.
It’s a process, I keep telling him.
As we journey blind through the morning dark, I think about the manuscript sitting in my computer and how I’m only 32,000 words away from finishing the first draft. Just lock yourself in a room for the next two weeks, my conscience tells me. It’s so easy to tell other people what to do, but when it comes to my own life, I have to remind myself that it, too, is also a process.
Embrace the grind.
All those clichés make sense when you’re the one telling it to yourself.
There’s this sense of devil-may-care in Raymond, and in many ways I envy the way he can process life and not let it get to him. After another two hours of drilling and working on his moves, I take him out for breakfast at Richmaid diner in Lodi because it reminds me of what I think the Midwest looks like and I like the food.
“I’ll have a coffee,” he tells the waitress.
“Since when did you start drinking that?”
“I drank it before when I was in the Philippines.”
“How old were you?” I ask.
If a teenager from America had Raymond’s life, they’d probably find it as an excuse to do drugs and get into trouble, but to him, it’s whatever.
Born in America but live in the Philippines until sixth grade? No problem.
Meet your dad just once in your life and you can only remember that he bought you a Gameboy? Still, no problem.
Come to America and realize over time that you no longer think in Tagalog? Again, no problem.
I tell him he’s had a weird and interesting life, and with a smile he agrees, but fuck, what can he do about it? We order the two-for-two-for-two meal and settle into breakfast, and while I pour the syrup over my pancakes and stare at all the Veterans eating around us, I say, “Please choose the Navy over the Air Force. I don’t want you somewhere in Afghanistan. Just go to the Navy and stay on the boat and after twenty years, you’ll only be thirty-eight and retired. Believe me,” I continue, “it goes by fast. If I was in the Navy, I’d be five years away.”
He has yet to discuss the situation with his girlfriend, and as I chew on my food, I reflect on my own experiences and wonder about all the mistakes I have made along the way. Even though I can speak English without a problem, my communication skills with women are terrible. Maybe Raymond is right, I think. Maybe it’s better to just shut up and listen.
“If anything ever happens to me,” I say, “I want you to do my eulogy so that people know that I wasn’t always a miserable asshole.”
“I’m serious, Raymond. I want my ashes scattered across the Pacific and I want you to tell everyone that I wasn’t such a bad guy.”
He laughs again and asks the waitress for a refill and an hour later we drive back home.
I can’t remember who said it, but some actor said this about psychiatry. “If Woody Allen can afford the best doctor and this is all they can do for him, then what’s the point?”
After a quick shower and a short nap, the manuscript waits for me with open arms like a cruel mistress and I can’t help myself.
Like Raymond, I’m wrestling something inside me, but unlike Raymond, I have no idea who it is.