Everyone has a breaking point, turning point, stress point, the game is permeated with it.
The fans don't see it because we make it look so efficient.
But internally, for a guy to be successful, you have to be like a clock spring, wound but not loose at the same time.
~ Dave Winfield
My Momma taught me a lot of things in the short time that she had with us boys. One of those was how to be a gentlemen, and to say 'Yes ma'am, no ma'am, Yes sir, no sir'. There ain't a lot of folks that still use such addresses, but in the South, it's as common as flies in summertime. I've said those words all my life, the respectful sounds slipping easily from my too-thick lips. I always used to get teased for those 'girl lips' of mine, and my wiry, untamable curls. I didn't say too much back, just ignored the jeers and the laughter. I just took my brother under my arm, and walked us both home. There was only really once when I was a kid that I got into a serious fight, and funny things is, I really don't remember it much. All I know is that it scared me.
I was older when it happened. This was long past when Momma was no longer with us. It was these same kids that I'd grown up with all through school, and all the time, all of them teasing and taunting and never stopping to take a breath, or to get to know me, or to look in the mirror at their own ugly faces. They just pushed, and I let them push until I had nowhere else to go. I let them push until my toes were curled round a crumbling ledge, my wild eyes staring down into a dark, endless depth that threatened to eat me up if I let them have just one more round of laughter at my expense. I stood my ground, clinging to that breaking ledge, as their biting, stinging, hateful words pushed like mean hands against my back, as they grabbed my ankles like clutching claws, something changed. I watched those talons grip my flesh, blood seeping around the pointed fangs of fingernails, I watched. I watched as my feet came out from under me, and the ground gave way, and I was standing on nothing-not standing at all. I tumbled down into that void. I let them push me to my breaking point, and beyond, and I was consumed in darkness.
The only thing I remember is opening my eyes to see my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I was confused, because I didn't remember the rest of the walk home, loping up to the house, or opening the front door. I sure didn't recall walking down the hallway into the bathroom. But, there I was, staring at that face they liked to laugh at, only I bet they weren't laughing now. There was blood smeared onto that face, and I realized I could feel it on my shirt too. I looked down to see it coating my trembling hands, and smeared onto the thick material of my Levi's. I was scared, I was afraid of what I had done. Frantically, I peeled the clothes away from me and jogged naked down the hall, dumped them into the wash, and turned it on. Back in the bathroom, I scrubbed myself and then the sink until no traces of the blood was left, as if somehow that would make the fact that it was there to begin with, any less of a fact.
Maybe I'd just imagined it on me, maybe. I'd never hurt anyone, especially wouldn't damage someone bad enough to be covered in their blood. I peered into the mirror, interrogating my big, frightened brown eyes. Those were the earth-tone jewels who everyone counted as warm, and kind. For a moment, for a terrifying, paralyzing moment, I thought I saw something darker flash behind them, some glimpse of a shadow behind the circle of iris, and the hole of pupil. But then I blinked, and there was nothing. With a little shiver I walked myself away from the mirror, and reached for the doorknob to leave the bathroom behind, in exchange for my room and new pair of clothes. Then I'd start dinner for Jeff and I, and Daddy when he got home from work. As soon as I gripped that handle though, an icy prickle raced up and down my spine, and fanned out along every nerve in my body until I felt numb. There was a touch of crimson, like a forged and horrible signature, on the wood grain of the door.
Dinner that night was eerily silent. The two mouths chewing seemed loud as thunder in my ears, and if my mouth had been chewing too, I dare to think how noisy the quiet smacks and chomps would sound. I just couldn't eat though, all I could do was shift the food I'd made around on my plate, and feel Daddy's eyes watching me. Jeff said hardly a word, which was as out of place as a clown at a funeral. Jeff was the picture of ADHD and always at dinner time—and nearly every other time too—his voice, which was still pitched high with boyhood, would twitter away like a singing bird, first to one subject and then before that was finished, the words would veer off into something completely unrelated, but relayed with just the same dramatics and vigor that the others had been. It got to be so much that I wished to sedate him sometimes, but I don't guess I'd ever think that way again. Hearing my brother's silence at our table was just as bad as seeing a fat, black, crow pluck and worry a wiggling pink worm from the ground. You can only watch in shocked fascination as those yellow eyes remain haunted and unblinking, as the black, awful head twitches and twists at its relentless pursuits. The soft-bodied worm is caught between that pointed, unforgiving beak, and you know the worm is screaming, as its tube-form is being stretched, and stretched, and stretched, and finally pulled apart from itself. You know it has to be screaming, but for the life of you, you can't hear it.
Daddy blinked at me, and then over to Jeff, who was burrowed into his food and probably already considering seconds.
"You boys have a good day at school?"
Jeff nodded his head vigorously, and I kicked his foot under the table.
"Yessir." He yelped out, through a mouthful.
"Yes Sir." I echoed, my words unlike Jeff's, not crashed together like an alphabetical collision.
Dad sighed, but this time he didn't correct us. For the longest time, he'd been trying to get us to stop 'yes sir-ing' him. He said that was fit for other people, but not for a boys Daddy. That was fine by Jeff, but I couldn't bear to part with the instructed words, because Momma had always told us to say them. So, they continued to come from my mouth, and to be nudged or kicked, or pinched from Jeff's by me when he forgot.
"Well, that's good then." Dad said, but he didn't seem like he believed it. You could never fool my Dad, and he knew easily that something was amiss, but he didn't push. That was just his way.
After dinner was done, Dad retired to the living room with a six-pack tucked under his arm, headed for his chair and the T.V. He drank, but never to the point of being a drunk. It was just a pleasure he liked to indulge daily, usually in front of the tube, and after losing his wife and having to raise us two boys on his own, I never did see any harm in it. I watched him from the corner of my eye, as he eased himself into the well-worn chair, and popped the tab to one of his cold ones. He plucked up the remote, and surfed the television for something good, the channels and programs hop-skipping by in their usual too-loudness.
Jeff nudged me with his elbow, and when I turned to look at him, he shoved his hand over his mouth and burst into a fit of sputtering giggles. He'd wrapped the dishtowel around his head like a turban and thought it was the funniest thing ever. He unwrapped the headdress, and just draped the wrinkled towel over his head like a saggy curtain.
"I'm the Iron Sheik!"
"More like, Iron Geek." I teased him, with a small smile, and started the dishwater. Jeff leaned up against the counter, his green eyes sparkling naughtily.
"The Iron Sheik, I say! I got a big black mustache, and I eat greasy pussy, and get the hairs stuck between the spaces in my big square teeth!"
I yanked the towel off of his head, and laid it onto the counter.
"Jeff, that's enough."
I shut off the faucet, and delved my hands into the hot, foaming liquid. Jeff was quiet, and tilted his head at me. He must have been shocked that his latest routine hadn't gotten even a smile from me. Normally, Jeff's one-liners and quick-wit would always have me in stitches. The boy could come up with some real funny, crude, things to come out of his mouth. A pussy or cock joke was guaranteed giggles from me, but not that night.
He quieted himself and went to drying the cleaned dishes that I laid them in the drainer. Sometimes I glanced at him, and I could see the wheels turning in his sharp mind. Jeff's teeth chewed his lower lip which meant he really wanted to speak to me, but was trying hard to keep the words from tumbling out. I really wanted to ask him, but I was afraid to know just what had happened. I assured myself that it must not have been that bad, or else a squadron of screaming cop cars would already be grouped in our front yard, lights flashing via some angry parents who had taken their half-dead bully-children to the hospital and gotten my name from their busted, bloodied lips. The wet plate that was in my hand slipped, as a flash blinded my mind for a moment, and just as quickly was gone. The plate shattered onto the floor, the sound like a gunshot, and the shards sprayed over the tile in every impossible direction. My heart jumped up into my throat, seeing nothing but bits of that plate spewed onto the floor, like porcelain vomit. My trembling hands plucked up the shattered pieces, and it occurred to me that they seemed like bits of broken bone. The razor edges pricked and sliced my clumsy fingers, dotting the floor with ruby droplets. Daddy had came to stand over me and watch as I struggled with my mess, but the only thing I could see was a dark shadow. That shadow did not belong to him, and in my head behind my frightened, warm, and kind eyes, a foreign, sinister, laughter rumbled. It belonged to me, and it belonged to some demon, and suddenly, I felt sick to my stomach.
Luckily for me, that didn't happen again until later in my adult life. I'm sure you all can guess when the monster reared its ugly head again. I mean, a lot of you saw part of it unfold on live T.V. Once again that ledge had greeted me, and once again I had been shoved, and this time so much harder than before, over into that abyss. This wasn't some schoolyard bullies, picking on my inadequacies; this was my heart being torn from my chest and stomped on doubly by two people I held closest to it. Both had been my best friends, and one I was in love with, and had every intention of being attached to for the rest of my life. I intended to ask her, and put a ring on her finger, and spend a blissful future with her by my side and me by hers, but that was taken away from me and not by a stranger but by a man I loved. I guess that's always been another one of my faults, is being too good of a friend, loving too hard, giving too much.
That dark pit, that horrible, familiar and unfamiliar thing, consumed me again. I don't remember a lot about that time, I only remember broken pieces. I can hear shouting, and screaming, and line after line of damnation and snarled curses, as if the words have been molded of scorching fire and brimstone. I remember phantoms of a blind rage, of Amy begging me to stop, of Adam's face covered in blood, and that blood splattering onto my own face. I can remember his eyes, a kind of white-hot fear in them that I have never seen in anyone or anything before or since. I don't remember much else, only days, weeks, near months of time blotted from my memory as if some mental white-out has been dumped over the written records of my mind. I've seen too the one piece that is on camera, only one of many confrontations with my betrayers, heartbreakers, and back-stabbers. There were so many more that eyes have not seen, that even my eyes have not seen, even though they were there. I've watched that one piece many times, and I can never remember doing it. The man I see in those frames must be someone else, but he looks exactly like me. He whispered from the violent scenes, his name into my ear. Sometimes I wake myself up from the little bit of sleep I can snag these days, and it's that name that I'm screaming, the title writhing from my lips: Matthew.
He is the boogeyman that every child fears, but he doesn't lurk under my bed, or hide in my closet, he lives. He lives in me, and I don't think there's any light now that can swoop into the shadowy-dark corners, and banish him. Back then, I was still able to sort myself out. Eventually, those blotted out moments gave way to brighter days and I felt like I was real again. I told myself all the things that sound so Matt-Hardy when I replay them in my mind. I told myself that it was for the best that Amy and Adam had one another, that it was better to find out before I'd put that ring on her finger, that I loved her, both of them, and that I only wanted their happiness. I called them both and apologized again and again, and so sincerely from my heart. I told them that I hadn't been myself, and I knew that was true. Whatever blackness had possessed me could not have possibly been any real piece of me, and I extended my hand in hopes of a new and repaired friendship, to the woman I had loved who had taken my best friend, and to my best friend who had taken the woman that I loved. I told them that everything was fine. I told myself that through the pain of loss comes strength and wisdom, and that I would be a better man for my sufferings. I can't believe that I could think such things, I can't believe that I truly believed them.
My life did go on, however. I watched as my dreams unfolded, were crushed, and stalled. I was doing what I loved to do, but corporate hands were holding me back and heavy heeled boots were stomping me down. It was my fault, too, because I was still Momma's good little boy always 'yes sir-ing' to all of them. Jeff on the other hand was flying high, the fan favorite, the better Hardy, the pretty Hardy, the one who was bound to climb the highest ladder both figuratively and literally. I know I still had my fans, and I've never been able to thank you all enough. But still, I always felt like an afterthought. I told myself year after year that things would get better, that next year would be Matt Hardy's year, but those months would pass and the ball in Times Square would drop, and it was still never Matt Hardy's time. I looked into the mirror, so many nights, my mind clouded and slowed with too much to drink, and I wondered what it was that made me not good enough. It must have been my too-thick lips, or my strange-looking pinched up nose, or my big monkey ears, or the raven hair that frizzed up from my scalp like an abused and knotted bunch of steel-wool. Maybe it was the wide set of my hips, and the way they made some of my movements jerky and awkward. Maybe it was my too-kind eyes.
Jeff was pretty, Jeff was everything that I wasn't. I've always been proud of my brother, and I don't want to take away from his glory, but I feel lost in wondering why I couldn't stand in that light too. Maybe in some former life, I was The Missing Link, and Jeff was a beautiful angel. Maybe I was an ugly cripple, hidden away in shame by our royal parents, and Jeff was the beautiful, perfect son, paraded and worshipped by all the adoring countrymen and women. Maybe I was the moon, which hides its true face, and he was the sun.
All I can say now, is that time has finally worn me down. I tried to stay positive for as long as I could have. I tried to be happy and accept what I had, even on days when I felt like staying in bed and crying, I got myself up and forced myself to smile, and give every ounce of wavering strength that I could to the amazing fans that I did have. Even on my worst days, I would never, ever, try to rob you all. It is your faces in the crowd that keep me from drowning, it is your signs hand-drawn and written on colorful poster board, it is your fan-letters, blog replies, tweets, and love that keep me from telling the whole world to fuck itself, and curling myself into a ball, and letting it all slip away. I couldn't ever do that to all you MFer's, because you've always been here for me when I felt like there wasn't anyone at all.
You all may be wondering what it was that finally pushed Matt Hardy into a wall of depression, but I'm sure most of you know. His name makes my face contort, and it tastes like bile on my lips. After all I've done, after all I've given, after all I've kept hoping and holding onto, I've finally let go. There is no more wishing for Matt Hardy's time, there is only a taking of that time, because I've realized that it will never be given to me. Drew McIntyre has been this 'chosen one' and that was what did it for me. I just couldn't take it. He was new in the company, he hadn't paid his dues like I had, he hadn't suffered, and lost, and kept going on as I had. He just came in and flipped his hair, and Vince decided that this man was going to be made into the new god of his company. Hell, I didn't even want that much, I just wanted what I deserve, but as he always does, Vince simply brushed me away as if I was some bothersome fly and he smiled and waited for those soft, compliant words to roll off of my tongue. Yes Sir.
There is no more Yes Sir.
There is no more Matt Hardy.
Matt Hardy's eyes are too warm, and too kind. Matt Hardy is too nice, and he has rolled over one too many times. I lay in bed and I stare at the ceiling unable to sleep, because I thought I had become a good man, and I've found that all of that means nothing. I listen to that voice, that beautiful, strong, dark one that lives inside of me, and tears creep from my eyes and puddle warmly into my ears. That man would never allow me to be treated the way I have allowed myself to be. If I take one more fall, I know I can't get up this time. I don't want to be this man anymore, I don't want to be this doormat, this hurting, twisted piece of flesh anymore. I want him to take me and demand vengeance for the wrongs done to me, to shed blood for each tear that I've cried in solitude, to tear my way into the place that I deserve and stand victorious in that red-tinted light, my feet planted in the bloody, mangled, shells of those fuckers who think they can make me into a shadow. I'm done being kind-eyed Matt, I'm done being Momma's gentleman Matt, I'm done being Yes Sir Matt. I'm not afraid of that other me anymore; he is who I want to be. I accept him, and his wrath, as welcome as the kiss of dawn to a long, stormy night.
I am Matthew now, and I love it.