The sun was blazing high in the sky, and there were no clouds nearby to get in its way. Traffic was far below the rooftop terrace where he reclined, tropical drink in his hand. He tried to remember a time when he was this relaxed, and he admitted to himself that it had been a very long time since he kicked back like this.
He felt quite fortunate, and not just for the view or the booze. Not everyone was cut out for life in lucha libre, even among the most prestigious families. Yet here he was, reclining under the sun as a direct result of his successes in the ring. There were those who claimed it was a “young man’s game,” but he thought of El Santo and the Blue Demon, who fought well into their 50s and never compromised the quality of their fighting skill or their loyalty to their fans. It was physically demanding entertainment, but it still profitable for everyone involved, and it beat working at a desk five days a week.
“Your pardon, Señor?”
The voice belonged to Carlos, his manager. Rather than responding, he pulled up the bottom of his mask to get the straw between his lips. The icy beverage sloshed in his mouth and down his throat.
“Señor, the time is approaching.”
Behind the black sunglasses, the luchador rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Carlos, can’t you see I’m enjoying one of these junkets for once?”
“This is no laughing matter, Señor. You were challenged to a relevos suicida. El Trueno de Guadalajara has been training non-stop since the challenge, and you are here drinking!”
He had to smile. A relevos suicida was a rare challenge for a luchador. It was a tag team match, with the members of the losing team fighting one another to see who would be unmasked. It was quite a spectacle, and the unmasking could lead to a serious blow for the loser’s career. Carlos was deep into the culture, and deeply feared the shame he would gain by association with an unmasked luchador.
“Do you think I am unfit, Carlos?”
“Am I flabby? Slow? Do I, perhaps, smell of defeat?”
“No, no of course not Señor, I merely…”
“El Trueno de Guadalajara is a good man. A good partner. He’s also younger than I am. He’s less experienced. Of course he has been training like mad. He not only wants to do his share in the ring, he wants to take every precaution against being unmasked. Not to mention the honor he’d gain in unmasking the son of the original Rayo de Baja.”
“Come now, Carlos, have you forgotten? My father first wore these colors when he took the name Rayo de Baja in honor of one of his favorite luchadors, as well as our home. His career has been long and mostly unspotted. I was, and am, proud to wear the mask and carry on the tradition. Yet I am a man. Is a man not allowed to have time to breathe, collect his thoughts, and enjoy the sunshine on a day like today?”
“It is for that reason I ask you to at least warm up, Señor.”
“Do you really think I would dishonor the family traditions in such a way?”
“I simply think you should be cautious.”
“I chose a good partner. I have trained quite extensively myself. The relaxation was soothing my nerves before you began prattling. What more would you ask of me?”
“With your match in two hours? Some stretching, perhaps?”
He lowered his sunglasses to look directly at Carlos.
“Carlos… do you have a cell phone?”
“Give me your phone.”
The manager did so, and Rayo de Baja, Jr dialed in some numbers.
“Hello?” The voice on the other end was gruff but polite.
“Papa, it’s your son.”
“Ah, hello! I did not recognize the number. Isn’t that relevos suicida today?”
“It is, in fact. I’m catching some sunshine to relax beforehand. Like you did before yours in Mexico City, what was it, ten years ago now?”
Rayo de Baja, Sr laughed. “Twelve. And what a match that was! Nearly lost my mask.”
“I remember. Would you blame the booze?”
“No, of course not! I had worthy opponents all down the line. I would never be stupid enough to let something like booze impede my fighting skill.”
“Do you think I would?”
“I’m having a drink here on this rooftop and my manager seems to think it’s a bad idea.”
“…Is this his phone?”
“Give it back to him.”
He did, and watched Carlos’s face as he listened to the elder luchador. He couldn’t hear everything that was said, but he definitely heard his father raise his voice. He took courage whenever he heard it, and he hoped Carlos would too. Or at least get shocked into silence.
“Did you have to do that?”
Rayo looked up. Carlos was off the phone, but still holding it.
“Call my papa, you mean? No, of course not. I know my father well enough. I don’t have to call him before every match.”
“He… asked me if I have no faith in you.”
“I’ve asked you that before as well, Carlos. Sometimes, I’m not sure you listen.”
“Perhaps I don’t always, Señor. I apologize for that.”
“Let me tell you something my father told me the first time I was humiliated in the ring.” He sat up. “Learn from this. Take what you feel now and let it reinforce the lessons to be found in this moment. We are only as good as our worst defeat. We can be better than that, but only if we learn. Understand?”
“Yes. Yes, of course, Señor.”
“Good. Now get yourself a drink.”
Carlos pocketed his phone, nodding as he left, reminding Rayo de Baja that he should come downstairs in an hour to meet his partner. The luchador raised his glass and settled back to soak up the sun.