By Michael Chin
Saturday afternoons when we were twelve, I watched wrestling at Ricky Morales’s house. The Iron Sheik was my favorite. Less a colorful character, he came across as an athlete, body all sinew and malice. He finished men with the camel clutch, a hold that saw him sit on his opponent’s back, and then use both hands to pull up on the victim’s chin, cranking the neck, contorting the back, forcing the submission.
Ricky and I weren’t the kind of boys to roughhouse. The both of us were brought up to play it safe, the both of us too scrawny to ever hold our own with most of the boys at school. We worked out exchanges on those Saturdays, though, along the lines that he could hit me with a flying elbow drop off the couch if I could lock him in abdominal stretch. I’d give him a side Russian leg sweep in exchange for his figure four leg lock over shag carpet that was always littered with lint and potato chip crumbs.
Most of all, I gave Ricky the camel clutch.
Those first iterations, I imagined myself as The Iron Sheik, and went so far as to imitate his accent and yell down at Ricky, Iran? Number one! Russia? Number one! USA? I made a spitting sound.
But, like most of our holds and throws, I only pulled so hard. Like I said, we were safe. That is, until a rainy Saturday afternoon when The Iron Sheik battled Tito Santana. I didn’t just hope for Sheik to win that day. I knew it would happen, and I craved the sight of him yielding a submission via his signature hold.
The match went to a no-contest instead—a double count out brawl without any resolution. The show went to commercial break and when they were back, there was no mention of how the post-match fight wound up, no satisfaction in seeing the Sheik trounce his foe, and apply the clutch to humble Santana.
Maybe it was that absence of resolution that made me apply my camel clutch a little harder that afternoon. When I closed my eyes, hands over Ricky’s mouth, his spine bent to my will, I pictured that I was applying the hold to the Sheik himself. I pictured the back of his bald head, soaked in so much perspiration that I could see my reflection in the glossy surface.
But then, the idea of anyone—let alone my rail thin self—applying the clutch to The Iron Sheik was absurd. So I imagined the Sheik holding me. Clutching me. Forcing a scream from my writhing body as I surrendered to his muscle and heat. Though I was not bald, I nonetheless wondered if Sheik might look at the back of my head, and see himself in me.
Ease up, Ricky said from beneath me.
I’d forgotten he was there.
I don’t remember what Ricky wore that day or if he resisted when my hold grew tighter or how long I hung out at his house after the wrestling show gave way to an infomercial.
I remember the handlebar moustache. The way leather boots curled upward into dangerously sharp points in the Middle Eastern style. The way purple spandex bulged around thighs and hugged ever curve of his lower body. The slippery, steaming sheen of sweat.
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently lives in Georgia with his wife and son. His hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press and he has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.