Quinn Carver Johnson
I Imagine Daniel Bryan Sometimes Feels Just Like I Do
Daniel Bryan cares so deeply about so many things that it must be hard to not feel crushed sometimes, to feel hopeless in the face of it all. I think Daniel Bryan probably cries at night (late, late into the night when the lights are out and the cameras are off). His wife must turn over in bed and touch his shoulder. I imagine, at first, she might ask What’s wrong? but now it’s become a part of their nightly ritual. I imagine she isn’t even fully awake when she turns to him now. I imagine once he had an answer—my job or the planet or you, dear—but now I’m not sure even he knows what the cause of his worry is. He just cries and cries and maybe he doesn’t even know it—maybe he thinks he’s made it past the crying now. He wipes the tears from his eyes like muscle memory, as natural as an elbow drop. He has nightmares about a sweet cow named Daisy. He feels a crick in his neck and his whole body shivers. Daniel Bryan lies awake at night and it rushes in, it eats away at him. He slips from his bed, unaware of the tears drying on his cheeks. He sits on a folding chair in the living room and rewatches the Edge tape—the goodbye, the tears, the ceremony. He’s terrified of the Hall of Fame call. Terrified that he might spend WrestleMania in a suit, waving like the Queen. He wants to go out like Flair. Wants to go out like Michaels—dreams of the lackluster return, of one more match years after his prime. Daniel Bryan is afraid of so much more than he could ever name. Tonight, Daniel Bryan is afraid he might be the villain—when a crowd in Fresno cheers wildly for their city’s pollution problem, when an arena boos him for recycling a leather championship belt. He knows, of course, that they’re supposed to boo him, that he’s supposed to throw a tantrum in the ring, that he’s supposed to be the villain, but he forgets sometimes (forgets it’s not real, I mean). When he opens the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink and tosses in the aluminum can from his cheap beer, his Washington home erupts into disgust. He asks his wife, Did you hear that? but, of course, she didn’t. When he flips on the evening news and another politician comments on the recent cold snap—What ever happened to Global Warming?—he hears them, screaming their praise. He forgets his lines are just lines, forgets about the canned applause, the laugh track. He just thought it would all be different. He sits in the living room and thinks about calling his therapist mother, dials her number and everything, but decides against it—She’s probably asleep, he lies to himself. Instead, he calls Phil Brooks and doesn’t even say Hello, just asks, Where did it all go wrong? The punk on the other end of the line just laughs and Bryan turns his heel, wearing circles into the carpet.
Quinn Carver Johnson was born and raised on the Kansas-Oklahoma border, but currently attends Hendrix College, pursuing degrees in Creative Writing and Performance Studies. A poet by nature, Johnson is the former co-host of a poetry review talk show on KHDX, Hendrix’s student radio station, the former Fiction Genre Editor and Nonfiction Genre Editor of the Aonian, the college’s student literary journal, and a current Hendrix Murphy Scholar in Literature and Language. Johnson’s work has appeared in several journals, both in print and online, including Nebo, Right Hand Pointing, Flint Hills Review, and Red Earth Review.