Running In Traffic

By: JJ Starfire

Date: 9th Jul 2021

Manhattan is busy. Moreso because there is a bustle in the air, people are going back and forth and an unusual number of high-profile wrestling talents are moving through the streets, but everything seems hush-hush. In the recent days weíd seen people like Candice Wolf, Paul Montuori, LeíAndra Fury, Shawn Warstein all sniffing around. It was like Gossip Girl, with Twitter shooting off like wildfire.

SPOTTED: The most free of agents peering in windows, looking for trouble.

And so on. There was almost an intangible electricity in the air, a feeling that you felt that you could touch, but couldnít. Time almost felt slowed down, as JJ Starfire stood at the side of the road, watching the blur of yellow cabs and cars rush past in the night. The streetlights were glowing a warm orange, and the humidity of a July afternoon was only just beginning to dull despite the sunlight being long-lost. He almost lost himself for a moment, until he heard Asher Jules yelping up ahead of him. The messy-haired Englishman had gotten too close to the road and a rollerblader shoved past him, causing him to squeal in shock. He was brushing his bare arms down with the palms of his hand and then patted his chest, which was covered only in a fishnet vest. He exhaled deeply and looked over at Noelle Rivers, not sure what to expect, but perhaps a shared moment of surprise. That wasnít what he got from her, though. A full set of teeth, lips contorted into an uncomfortable looking smile, because she was laughing at him, and it didnít look right. That girlís only aesthetic is one that comes with a scowl on its face. The contours that she painted into her cheeks each day were designed to accentuate her resting bitch face, and when she laughed the look was ruined.

JJ Starfire then, was jarred from his own distraction, and joined in the laughter with Noelle, although he wasnít quite sure what he was laughing about. Noelle looked back at JJ, who was walking alongside Pixie, and caught herself, the faÁade resumed, the lips drew closed, and she rolled her eyes, turning on her heel and continuing to walk down Broadway. JJ dug an elbow into the arm of Pixie, and turned to her to speak.

JJ Starfire: Whatís her problem?

But Pixie didnít answer. In fact, she didnít even seem to notice.

JJ Starfire: Marf?

That is Pixieís real name. Martha. And yet still, she was faced forward, following the silver-haired Noelle Rivers as she confidently strode toward Columbus Circle in the southwest corner of Central Park. JJ seemed puzzled, but he knew that something had happened in South America.

Pause.

?? So something had happened in South America, she had come back suddenly and unexpectedly. But last time I asked her stuff about stuff, she got mad at me. So I guess Iím waitiní for her to be ready to talk about it, I donít want her to close off again and hide in her room for weeks. That shit sucked last time, Tony was a terrible co-pilot in Warzone. At least right now sheís with me, even if only physically. And who knows, maybe this is how its supposed to be, her leaving that place. Hated her being over there in that other place. And yeah yeah I get it, she wanted to see how well she would do under the power of her own steam and not be propelled by the swell of interest in the rest of us, but sheís my best friend and the only reason I really give a shit about anything in the world, and Iím so desperate to make sure sheís okay, and it hurts to see that sheís just .. existing .. but, having said that, it makes me so happy that finally we will get to travel the same roads together.

I mean, thereís no travelling anymore. This new place is based in New York and it doesnít travel, but I mean metaphorically speaking, we will get to spend a lot more time together. I just needed to either pick my moment, or wait for her to open up. Itís not that I donít care to ask, but I know that the response I get will make Noelle feel like a cuddleable puppy and honestly, Iím about done with hostility. I need peace. ??

Unpause.

So the four of them walked, taking in the sights. Towards Columbus Circle is the ominous Trump International Hotel & Tower, which JJ furrowed his brow at. Heíd stayed there once before, when he was with Tony and they went to the Big City on his whirlwind tour to try and woo JJ, and the whole Tony situation had left a poor taste in his mouth.

Asher, leading the way, ran across the roundabout narrowly avoiding several vehicles and a cacophony of horns started, and he started swearing at the cars that were rightfully pissed at him. JJ quickly and excitedly darted after Asher, seeing him in the centre of the roundabout, and caused his own round of chaos amongst the vehicles, and the laughter from Starfire was infectious until the crunching of metal and smashing of glass swallowed it and fear washed over his face.

JJ Starfire: Shiiiiiiiiit!

Asher: El oh el mate, oh, youíre done for. Better peg it.

JJ Starfire: Peg.. I donít know what you think that means but-

Asher: RUN DICKíEAD!

?? So I ran. Ran like my life depended on it. I wasnít sure of the chaos that followed me because on the other side of the roundabout there was a whole separate issue of oncoming traffic to deal with, I just kinda closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I felt bad, but I didnít feel bad enough to risk getting into major trouble over this, so I committed to the fugitive lifestyle, ducking my head under a hoodie and running. ??

Asher followed JJ, but the girls lagged behind somewhere back there, probably oblivious to the chaos that the boys had embarked upon. JJ clearly wasnít focused on where he was going, or whether it was the right way. He just knew that we had to cross the roundabout and get to the ominous Batman-looking tower.

There were screams coming from behind them – angry screams. Asher darted left around a food stall but JJ had already committed right, and when JJ got to the other side, Asher was nowhere to be found. Pausing, albeit briefly, caused a rush of excitement and finally he breathed. Exhaled.

Asher: [ whispering ] Oi. Over here.

JJ spun around, and looked for the source of the noise. In the gap between two buildings, with a cardboard box mostly concealing him, Asher poked his head out and then an arm and waved JJ toward him.

JJ Starfire: I canít believe we just did that. We ran away from an accident. We fled!

Asher: Shoulda looked where Ďe was goiní, Ďave it right!

?? I figure he was probably right, but then, why did we run? I didnít want to upset him, so I just shrugged it off. ??

JJ and Asher walked through the narrow passageway between the buildings and found themselves at an opening of garbage cans that seemed to be a communal area between buildings. Weird. But room to breathe, and JJ threw his hands to his knees and allowed himself to really catch his breath. Asher, on the other hand, seemed to be in fine shape.

JJ Starfire: Those private wrestling lessons really seem to have got you in great shape.

Asher: You what, mate? Nah, Iím always like this arenít I. Couldíve been a super athlete if I wanted. ĎEre, look over there, see if that bloke knows how to get to Batman tower..

JJ looked at Asher, and then at a homeless man who is cradling a cup. The man was aged, with a grizzled messy beard and long hair that draped by the sides of his face. His bare arms protruded from a black sleeveless shirt, owing to the hot summer evening that they were having.

Asher: Make sure he, like, yíknow, shows you the way. Iíll follow after, Iím gonna check out this other way.

Innocently, JJ Starfire walked over to the man and bent over. The man was somewhat defensive and JJ made sure to make him feel comfortable with his body language.

JJ Starfire: Itís okay, bro, I just wanted to see if you could show me the way to this place Iím lookiní for. I got a few bucks I can spare for the inconvenience..

Mumbling to himself, the man looks up at JJ. He sees a tall, muscular guy covered in tattoos and a plethora of piercings covering his face, bleached hair pulled into a bun on the top of his head, but the look on the man in front of him lets the homeless man know that he can trust him. JJ is looking softly at the man, and he offers him a hand up to his feet. Gladly accepting the hand, JJ hoists him to his feet.

JJ Starfire: So maybe youíd be able to get a shelter tonight, some kinda hostel or something? If I gave you some money? Thatíd be decent, right?

The old man chuckles.

Homeless Man: Kid, Iíll take your fifty and Iíll tell you Iíll do something great with it. Tell ya Iíll turn my life round, but I ainít, you give that to me and Iím gonna go score with it.

JJ Starfire: We gotta make our own success.. Iím tryiní real hard to be good at what Iím tryiní to do.

Homeless Man: That place?

The homeless man points down the end of the row of buildings where a large criss-crossed tower rises out from an old red-brick building. This is Hearst Tower, and it is a behemoth that rises out of what looks like any normal building, literally forging history with modern architecture. JJ looks up at it, ominously.

Homeless Man: Youíre goiní there? Lot of folk seem to be sniffiní around there lately. None of them look good.

JJ Starfire: This is the future, friend.

The homeless guy shakes his head, and looks back at Asher who is now striding confidently towards them.

Asher: Oh, well done lads, youíve found it. Cheers fella, Ďave a good Ďun.

Asher grabs JJ by the arm and forces him to walk side by side with him away from the homeless guy. JJ tries to let Asher know that he didnít get a chance to pay the guy the money he promised.

Asher: What are ya? Soft? Fook sake. Címon. Oh look who it is over there look.. Misery guts and her emo twin.

And in that moment, they start to walk away. JJ is looking over his shoulder at the homeless guy who is trying to chase after them but is slow.

Homeless Man: [ yelling ] You know what? I mean this with every ounce of rudeness that is humanly possible!! You can keep your stupid fucking President Grant, and I hope your tranny girlfriend jams it so far down your dickhole that you start shitting quarters! FUCK YOU!!

JJ looked over his shoulder, and Asher was semi-smiling, as they rushed into traffic again to join Noelle and Pixie who had made it to the front of the building without taking a detour around the garbage disposal section of this corner of Manhattan.

Freeze the frame for just a second and enjoy the grandiosity of what you see. The four of them, standing side by side, JJ Starfire in the middle, next to Asher who was rifling through a ripped and tattered canvas Vans wallet, throwing various ID cards and licenses to the ground and folding the cash into his pockets. To Asherís right was Pixie Sloane, also staring up at this building that must have had at least fifty floors. Next to JJ Starfire was Noelle Rivers, who seemed impatient.

?? Staring up at this monolith that blocked out the light was intimidating, because it represented something that we had been building up in our minds for the last few weeks. As soon as we left Tokyo, we knew the writing was going to be on the wall for Outlaw Pro Wrestling, right? And soon as we heard that HBO were cancelling us, Vhodka had quietly told us not to worry. So we knew something was in the works, and weíd all been building this idea in our head of what the future held, what the magic and mysterious next stage of our careers would bring.

And here it was. A huge tower, jutting aggressively out from an old building. A black door with steel seal around the edges. What was on the other side?

Fate?

Absolution?

Reckoning?

I felt excited, but worried, anxious. My stomach was doing somersaults. I had no idea what was going to happen. They gave us no information whatsoever. Only to show up, to FIGHT. To fight each other? To fight everyone? It was impossible to know what was going to happen so Iíd have to be prepared for everything.

I had Pixie over there to worry about, because she didnít seem herself and I wasnít sure whether she would come out of her shell when it all started or not. And there was Asher who was mostly harmless but Iím sure heíd sell me out to the highest bidder if an opportunity passed, and then there was Noelle. Noelle fuckiní Rivers, I could feel the negativity emanating from her pores and seeping into my skin, like I was a magnet for it. Iíd have to keep one eye in the back of my head to make sure she wasnít lining up a blade for it.

I hadnít seen Vin or Vhodka for a long time and didnít bank on them being there to greet us when we got in. Who knew.

What about Clauson? That guy had terrorised us for weeks, knocked Vin out. I didnít want to come across him in there. Hopefully he wasnít invited, but who am I kidding? I know everyone on the OPW roster was invited. Seen a lot of them posting on their Twitter about travelling to New York. Iím in for a hard go of it, but maybe by the end of it, Iíll be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I grew from it. Knew that it was the university that allowed me to become the best.??

And as JJ Starfire stood, taller than his three Ďfriendsí, looking up at the building, the four of them stepped forward toward it. Awaiting inside was a whole new world.