“Should I bother with the paint?” Mitch asked Louis, who was in the process of applying his own makeup in the congested locker room. “They’re just hearing my voice, right?”
“Hmm…” Louis stared into the mirror, focused on a spot he’d missed. Dipping the cheap sponge into a compact of grey facepaint, he gingerly blotted it onto his cheek. “Camera sometimes focuses on commentary, doesn’t it? In between matches?”
“Shit, you’re right.” Mitch frowned.
“Might help you get into character, too,” suggested Louis. “Since, y’know. Anxiety.”
“Yeah, I…” Mitch sighed. “I don’t even like to watch my own matches. Or listen to my own voice. I recorded some albums with my old band, and I never listened to them.”
“That’s not unusual. Lots of people are like that.” Setting down the sponge, Louis closely examined his face for further mistakes. After a minute or two, he hummed satisfactorily, then turned to Mitch. “Want me to do yours?”
“Yeah, please!” Mitch put his hand up his forehead and lifted his bangs out of the way.
“Sandy’s gonna be upset that you didn’t go to her first,” warned Louis. He grabbed a fresh sponge and swiped the white paint, then traced down the bridge of Mitch’s nose.
“I know, but…she’s busy preparing for her match. And you’re better at this.” It was the honest truth; Louis’ hands were the steadiest Mitch had ever seen, which made sense given that his day job involved vinyl graphics and screen printing, and maybe the occasional bout of graffiti. And yes, it was a shameless bid at flattery, not that he’d admit it; besides, he stopped barking up that tree ages ago. “She’ll be fine. I’ll take her out to a cafe later or something.”
“She doesn’t need caffeine,” Louis chuckled. Resting his free hand under Mitch’s chin, he manipulated it while painting with the other.
“C’mon, frappuccinos barely have any coffee in them. It’s all sugar,” he joked.
“Oh, even better!” Smirking, Louis ran the applicator along Mitch’s cheeks. “Hey, gonna need you to close your mouth for a little bit.”
“Alright.” Mitch did as he was told, letting Louis work in peace, trying not to fixate too much on the thick fingers at his jaw. Despite the chaos all around them as everyone rushed to get ready, being in the position where he didn’t have any control whatsoever had a calming effect.
“By the way, did you bring your ears or collar or anything like that?” The sponge made contact with his lips, and he parted them slightly. Louis paused, then pointed out, “Y’know, most people dislike eating paint.”
“I’ll deal with the taste. I prefer having even coverage.” That was a bold lie, but he wasn’t about to get into Pavlovian responses with his tag team partner. “And no, I don’t have any of my gear. And I’m sorry that I’m still talking.”
“It’s your face, not mine,” Louis remarked. “I have extra ears on me that you can borrow.” Mitch’s mouth opened again, but he was interrupted before he spoke. “Just nod if you want them.”
He nodded. Louis paused to rummage through his bag, then pulled the spare pair out and handed them over.
While he applied the prosthetic ears with spirit gum, Mitch half paid attention to the usual locker room speech that Nathan -better known as the vampire Yours Truly- gave to the others as they also put on their finishing touches. Being one of the first students to graduate from Monument Wrestling Academy, he was more or less forced into the role of locker room leader, and over time learned to embrace it. He had a natural charisma that promoters adored him for, and a presence so massive that it commanded attention. It was impossible to not be in awe of him, especially when he was in character, at 6′ tall with a slick black pompadour that added at least another solid two inches. Much like Louis, it wouldn’t be surprising if The Fed whisked him away in the near future, despite the vehement denial that he’d ever abandon the indies.
(In private, he’d disclosed at one point that he went to Florida for a tryout, but during that process, comments were made about his ‘shape’. It left him discouraged to pursue it any further, and Jodie had to be talked out of driving down to Stamford to go rip a billionaire’s head off with her bare hands.)
But Mitch had heard this speech time and time again for the better part of three or so years, and it was meant mostly for the newer roster members, or students that hadn’t yet debuted. The bones of it were mostly “don’t be shitty and let’s have a great show”.
If nothing else, it felt good to be part of something where “don’t be an asshole” was the code of conduct. In the past, Mitch took bookings where that wasn’t the case, and ended up taking off as soon as he got his envelope with $25 in it -not even enough to cover the cost of gas. Because he wasn’t sure if sticking around was safe, not when some of the other guys casually tossed slurs about it their lockerroom.
“And Mitch,” Nathan’s voice cut through Mitch’s thoughts. His head whipped up, and he looked over to where Nathan stood at the center of the room. “Good luck tonight, man! You got this!” He gave a big cheesy thumbs up and everything.
“Oh, uh. Thanks. Thanks, man,” Mitch returned a much more tepid thumb, fighting the urge to curl in on himself as everyone else repeated the sentiment with a goddamn round of applause. Ducking his head, he turned back to the mirror and focused on that when everyone settled down. The paint looked great, and neither the bomber jacket nor the collar were necessary, he decided. Anyway, he wasn’t actively feuding with anyone so he didn’t have an ID tag with an opponent’s name imprinted on it (the employees at the local pet store must be relieved that he hadn’t been around for some time to buy one).
(For whatever it was worth, he did explain multiple times over that it wasn’t a kink thing, but bringing up wrestling unsolicited was no better. And most people didn’t see the difference, anyway.)
He certainly wouldn’t have any need for the mouthguard with the sharp teeth printed on it, since he’d be talking. He could do this, he knew that he could. All he had to do was portray the character he’d been regularly playing for the past year. The accessories didn’t make Zevon. Mitch made Zevon.
He nodded, ready as ever, then sought out a trash bin to dry heave into.