Sweet Home Chicago

By: Sahara

Date: 27th Sep 2021

After Venom…
(Back at the Apartment)

With the lockdown lifted, I was finally free to roam a bit. To spread my proverbial wings. Without the worry of having to be back in time for some militaristic style check-in, I could finally breathe. And I know what you’re thinking, “The lockdown wasn’t that bad, it was just a day or two…” I know it may not seem like a lot of extra time, but for the life of a wrestler, it’s night and day. It isn’t just going to the gym and showing up for a few hours on Venom. Believe it or not, these promos can take days to shoot, and when ya combine that with whatever promotional events we’re sent to, it leaves us very little free time other than Friday Nights at the Rabbit. Only during lockdown, there was no Friday Night at the Rabbit. For a promotion that seemed to have it all, from top of the line production, to an “arena” unlike any other, their HR department – or whoever the hell was calling the shots – seemed to do so from a purely emotional state of mind…

All while telling us to “Trust the Process”.

”Yeah, whatever. Trust this–” Sahara whispered to herself as she grabbed at her crotch for emphasis. I’ve been through this corporate hoo-ha rah-rah bullshit before. I’ve heard all the “trust the process” speeches I can handle at this point…just show me, don’t tell me.

All of this is just … aggravating.

After the events that unfolded on Venom, I decided I needed to take a few days to get away and clear my head. Following the show, I quickly headed back to the apartment and packed a bag and hightailed it outta there before Dane and Allison returned. I didn’t need them talking me out of this, I just … needed to be alone for a few days. So I quickly scrawled out a note on a post-it and stamped it to the refrigerator. Hopefully they’d see it.

Heading home to Chicago for a couple of days. I’m fine. I’ll be back soon. -S

I pause a moment and take a deep breath as I’m exiting the apartment. Exhalllllllllle. Calm yourself, Lauren. My fucking nerves feel like they’re frayed and anxiety courses through me to the point I’m jittery. I shake out my hands, but it does nothing. I knew it would do nothing, but that didn’t stop me from trying multiple times. My whole goddamn body feels inflamed. Every joint, muscle and tendon aching with a dull glow. This is the side of wrestling the fans never experience…all they care about is what we’re gonna do next.

Having spent most of Venom being followed around by armed security – not to mention the NYPD – because an insane in the membrane Joe Montuori was running around wielding some knock-off Lucile from the Walking Dead threatening to take my head off. FIGHT saw it prudent to initiate their over the top protection protocol in order to guarantee my safety throughout the show. That did wonders for my concentration on the main event. I had enough to worry about with Brandon and Apathy, but now I gotta deal with this shit? I begged them to just let Dynasty get to me. Let’s do this thing. Let’s just get this over with at this point, but whatever, I don’t make the rules. FIGHT does. Not that I can blame them, my merch was moving, so it’s understandable they’d want to protect one of their investments. But whatever, the bottom line is I just needed to get the hell out of New York for a bit.

I Ubered my ass from the apartment to JFK and booked a flight home while we were on the way. As the Uber pulled up the arrival gates, I sighed, knowing that within a few minutes roaming through the airport, I’d get noticed. This is the part where fame could be annoying. All I wanted to do was board the flight and get the fuck home. It was also the part where I’d be reminded that platinum colored hair is very hard to hide…

Airports were bad enough with the bullshit body scans and making me take my shoes off, but try doin’ that with randoms in line filming your every move. Just hoping and praying you’ll fuck up in some way so they could get some easy YouTube hits.

For the love of God, just get me to that damn drink cart where I won’t have to listen to Dane tell me I’ve had one too many…

~~~~~

A few hours later…
(Chicago – O’Hare International Airport)

After I landed at O’Hare International, it was the usual long trek through the world’s busiest airport. The people, the traffic. All of it was just a hassle. And the traffic. Did I mention the Chicago traffic? I could be a Sunday on Christmas and somehow, Internstate 90 would still be fucking jammed…

What in the holy fuck?

As my Uber was exiting the airport departure area, I had to do a double take seeing a massive electronic billboard featuring the faces of myself and Shawn Warstein. Half of his hooded face took up one side of the billboard while mine took up the other. They really did a number to bring out the blue in my eyes, too. It looked kinda great. Down the middle in shimmering shades of blue, it read, “#FIGHTNYChicago - The Home of Our Own!

Wow! This thing is really blowing up…

I couldn’t help but smile…

Another hour later…
(Bridgeport – Home of the Chicago White Sox)

The memories of the old neighborhood were thick. Welcome to the Southside. Bridgeport to be exact. To this day, my little neighborhood’s only claim to fame is the Chicago White Sox, but that was fine by us Bridgeport Natives. The Sox were ours. We didn’t share them with the rest of Chicagoland. And we didn’t wanna share them. The Cubs belonged to everyone else. Take ‘em. You can have ‘em. But this was our home. And they were ours.

”Have you ever had anything like that, Betsy? A connection to something that wasn’t your own? A sense of belonging, and not to some wrestling invention like the Status Quo, I’m talkin’ about something you didn’t create just for the masses to consume, but something deeper … something you can’t really describe. You can’t really see it. You just feel it. It’s like you were born into it and you just know it fits. It was there before you arrived, but once you saw it, you knew it was yours. It belonged to you as much as you belonged to it.” ”I only got three of those things.”

”1) This neighborhood. Born and raised. That’s all I knew. The world outside the boundaries of our little hood didn’t really exist except on paper. I can still remember the people, the food, the carnivals in the sweltering Summers. Ahhhhh. Those days seemed like they would go on forever. But then the cold hard reality of time tapped me on the shoulder. Look around at this slowly dilapidating neighborhood. These buildings once housed dreams of the people looking to make a better life for themselves and their families. They now crumble into broken concrete and rusted out rebar, and those dreams fade into oblivion only to be replaced by something new. It serves as a reminder that all things end. Time doesn’t stand still. People grow up. People move on.”

”Sure, some of it still looks the same, it even feels the same. I can touch the worn bricks of these buildings and feel the sweat and blood we all spilled in this neighborhood growing up. I look around, taking in the old sights, as memory after memory floods my senses.” ”I can still remember the beginnings of my fightin’ career. I was flirtin’ with this guy, hell, I don’t even remember his name; but this older girl was none to happy about it. I mean, I thought we were just playin’, but she kicked my ass bloody up and down a baseball diamond one weekend, and I could remember from that moment on, I wasn’t about to let that shit happen to me again. So my training began. No, not in a gym. Not even in a wrestling school. But out here on these streets. Fightin’ wasn’t just a way of life here in Bridgeport, it was a rite of passage.”

”Leaving home was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. It was the only place I’d ever belonged. I knew there was a big damn world out there beyond the borders of our little section of Chicago, and I had no idea what was in store for me. But it’s funny. Anytime I find myself losing it – when I feel like life’s bringing me to my knees – I come back home to remind myself of what I came from and how I got where I am. I come home to remind myself that I don’t wanna ever *have* to go back cuz I got nowhere else to go. I see the ghosts of the little girl I was, not knowing who or what I’d become. Hell, I can still hear our laughter.”

”And then that day arrived that eventually comes for us all.” ”One night, I went home not knowing that was the last time I’d ever go out and play with my friends again…” ”2) The Chicago White Sox. To most, this is just another baseball team in a sea of other baseball teams. And they’re not even the popular team that City boasts about. They’re the perennial underdogs. The afterthoughts. There they’re forgotten ones.” ”Like me.”

”But to us Bridgeporters, they were more than just a baseball team. They were all we had. Tucked into a tiny little section of Chicago that most people never heard about, our little place somehow landed a professional baseball team. The stadium is right there in the middle of our tiny little place in the world. In a sea of low-income housing, there it stands, like some kinda monolith that hides the parts of our neighborhood nobody was proud of. It cut through our lives like a dividing line that separated dysfunction from function. You could see the fireworks for miles. And they were ours. That team belonged to us.”

”I remember the days sneaking into the park to catch a game with my friends. If one of us was lucky enough to land a ticket, prior to the days of “scanning”, we’d just hand it through the fence to each other until we all got into the game with the same stub. Yeah, they probably knew what we were doing, but they let us get away with it if they did.”

”But that was all part of what connected us to this team, this stadium, and this town. They were like an extended family that put a pause on all the issues affecting us. When we were at a game with friends, or family, all the petty squabbles were forgotten about for a few hours. Kinda how I feel about FYA. They’re my priority now. I may not be big on the name, but it is what it is. When I had basically called it quits after my rocket ride through the EWA, it was them that kept in touch with me. I don’t know why, especially after some of the things I’d done to them. Even recently. Yet the very man I’d slept with – not to mention his wife – took me in, and did so in spite of everything I’d done to them. That’s a team. No. That’s a family. For better or worse. When one of us falls, the others all rush to pick them back up.”

”Like the White Sox, we’ve had our ups and downs…and we’re just about tired of layin’ down.” ”And just like the White Sox, the rebuild is in full swing. The pieces of FYA are slowly being moved into place … and when the time is right?”

”Like Ronald Reagan once said, ‘The Status Quo, you know, is Latin for the mess we’re in.’

”And the Status Quo ain’t workin’ no more.” ”3) Wrestling. Wrestling isn’t just some little thing I do between my intergalactic travels for the world’s greatest Burgers while suckin’ up to ownership. It’s all I am, it’s all I ever was, and it’s all I’ll ever be. People like you don’t appreciate that, Betsy. You can’t. That’s why all of this comes off as some sorta joke to you. This is just a rest stop for you. I see your mousy little ass roaming around backstage, following Shawn around so closely that if he stopped you’d probably see what he ate for breakfast that day…” ”Wrestling is about more than what goes on in that ring. Especially here in FIGHT. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to be dismissed like it doesn’t matter. After all, that’s the part the fans see, so that’s the part that pays the bills. But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. When the years pass and I look back at the history we’re all making here, I won’t remember the bullshit squabbles or the petty little feuds. I’ll remember the people I hung out with backstage. People like Dane Preston. Allison Riggs-Preston. Murph. Ricky. Michelle. Ashlynn. Even arrogant pricks like Paul and Brandon…the people that take the time to live in the moment and enjoy the ride. That’s the stuff I’ll remember most.” ”I know how fleeting this is.”

”But you ain’t about the journey, you’re all about the destination. What’s next? Let’s get there! Right now! ZIP! Here we are! Okay, what’s next?! Let’s get there! ZIP! So next time you do whatever it is you do – and I can’t even really say what that is – because when I look at you, the only thing that comes to mind is, ‘I don’t get it’. But when you do it, just remember that for me, this isn’t just some rest stop along the way. FIGHT is my home. And I’m gonna defend my right to stay with everything I got in me. Even prior to you coming into FIGHT, I saw you all over Twitter, and I still didn’t get it. But I’m sure you’ll make sure I ”get it” at Venom, won’t ya? I know I would. And I’ll be lookin’ forward to it.”

”Wait, wait. Where are my manners? Hi Betsy. The Impossible Traveler. My name is Sahara, I’m sure you’ve seen me around … and if you haven’t seen me, I’m sure you’ve heard me. I’m kinda loud. I ain’t one to act like you’re here just because you know someone. You’re here because you fought your ass off to make it to the big time. So did I. But now ya gotta find it in yourself to stick around. I’m here because I got nowhere else to go, and quite frankly, I don’t wanna go anywhere else. And I sure as hell ain’t coming back home to Chicago with my tail tucked tight. So when you set your next destination to Venom, and zip your ass across the galaxy to get there, and you find yourself standin’ across that ring from me, know this shit and know it hard … I’m comin’ after you with every damn thing I got.”

”You call yourselves the New Status Quo? Well, you know what they say about the status quo, and as I said earlier when I took a stroll past those crumbling buildings that were once the new badasses in town…” ”Nothing lasts forever.”

~~~~~

From Dane/Allison:
Where are you?

From Ricky 💕:
Hello?

Lauren. Where are you? Lauren, what the hell? RESPOND Text me back when you get this Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

My phone went crazy when I finally took it out of airplane mode. I just wanted to be left alone for a bit while I wandered around the old neighborhood. Messages from Dane, Allison and Ricky were pouring in. It’s cute that they were worried about me. I’ll admit it, I was kinda worried that when I took it out of airplane mode that I’d get no texts.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

To Dane/Allison:
I told you I’m fine. I went home for a few days to clear my head. I left a message on the fridge

To Ricky 💕:
I’m fine, I just took off to Chicago for a few days, forgot I had my phone on airplane mode

Chicago?

To Ricky 💕:
Yeah, like the place I was born! I just needed to clear my head. You’re little buddy there gave me anxiety with all the ducking police protection and whatnot 😒

Ducking?! Goddamn autocorrect! Yeah, I saw what went down. I was none too happy about any of it You could have told us Found your note. Chicago?! What the hell, Lauren. Did you see Joe at Venom? He literally wanted to kill you and you go running off to Chicago on your own?

To Dane/Allison:
Relax. He’s all the way back in New York. I’m fine. Besides, I’m not going to live my life looking over my shoulder for Joe ducking Montuori, or any other Montuori for that matter

You said it yourself, I’m a trained fighter. So if he wants to come at me, all he’s gotta do is ask Joe’s not Mia, Lauren No, he’s not. But I bet he goes through glass just as easily 🙌 Besides, he’s not on my list of priorities right now. He’s a luxury at this point

To Ricky 💕:
You keep good company 🤣

You should talk. 😒

Then get your priorities in check. When you get back, come right to the apartment. Do not go to FIGHT Tower alone

To Dane/Allison:
Whatever

No, not whatever, Lauren. Come back to the apartment when you get back into town

To Dane/Allison:
Fine, I will. I’ll probably be back tomorrow, and I promise I will not pass Go, I will report directly to jail!

Not funny. I mean it

To Dane/Allison:
Relax. I’ll come to the apartment

So what are you doing?

To Ricky 💕:
Just visiting the old neighborhood, reminding myself where I came from. Currently sitting in this old coffee shop, they still don’t got a Starbucks here. This coffee is brutal, but for some reason it tastes great to me. Nostalgia or something

Better not let Starbucks find out, they’ll pull your endorsement or something. 😂 I see you got Granger this weekend. I got Warstein. Pretty excited to get back on the show

Careful with that one. He’s the real deal. And yeah, I can’t really understand why I got booked against her, but whatever. Space Ranger it is! Space ranger? Yeah, have you seen one of her promos? That chick is cuckoo for cocoa puffs 🥴 I call her Betsy Granger the Space Ranger Doesn’t that make her dangerous tho? Don’t be like Dane and underestimate her Yeah it makes her dangerous. But this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been doing this long enough to know what I’m up against. She’s tough. And this match is gonna be tough. But I didn’t grow up on the streets of Chicago without learning a thing or two about throwin down. One thing I cannot stand and one thing I will never do is underestimate my opponent. She will not be underestimated Good to hear. I don’t like seeing you get hurt. You got any advice for me on Shawn? Warstein? Yeah Yeah. Don’t die 🤣 That’s helpful lol

Dude, fire up the Occhi system in your room and study some of his matches. He has hard hitting moves that’ll rattle your dick. He’s strong style with his strikes so don’t play to his strengths. He’s way bigger than you, which means you’re faster. Use that. And watch goin in close on him, which I realize is easier said than done when ur wrestling, but if he gets you with that knee, it’s lights out

Okay, well that’s a little more helpful. But rattle my dick?

Yeah, leave that to me 😘

I don’t know what to do with you sometimes Sure ya do, you did it to me multiple times the other day… 😍

~~~~~

4, 3, 2, 1
Earth below us
Drifting, falling
Floating weightless
Calling, calling home…