Deathbed

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write a story that involves sabotage.... view prompt

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Fiction Sad Contemporary

Dear Brian,

We now are in our twilight years, myself, bedridden and at death's door from years of abuse. I can’t help but think about our glory days. We both were fierce competitors. Although it may not have seemed it, I had tremendous admiration for you. It went far beyond that, in truth, I had a fear of you. It derived from my own inadequacies. You see, I have always been jealous of your talent.

It started shortly after we first met, I’ve heard of you prior but still expected to beat you. At that time, in my mind, I was unbeatable. In our first competition, you proved that to be untrue. I had lost before but I had never lost when I was that focused, when I put in that much effort. Until that point, I had only lost to myself.

I clearly remember our first meeting. It was at a 400 meter. Right from the beginning, you took the lead. It was like you had some sort of psychic ability, to start as soon as humanly possible without jumping the gun. I tried to catch up but you kept on pulling ahead. I gave one hundred percent, pumping my arms as hard as I could, pushing with everything I had in each step. Normally during a race, I can look around and get a quick glimpse of random objects, the crowd, the infield, whatever. Not that race. I had a cement-like focus on your back. My whole world, at the moment, was the number 79 and it still wasn’t enough.

Some people think that racing is not action-packed enough to keep their interest, mere running in circles. They are more interested in sports like boxing and wrestling, something with blood. To me, those peoples experience with racing is limited to a foot race with the neighborhood kids. It’s a one and done, then huffing and puffing.

When you’re running, for sport, giving it everything you got, it makes no difference if it’s against another athlete or the clock, that is the epitome of competition. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, the emptying of one’s soul and the refusal to give up, that’s what makes it, what it is.

I remember putting every ounce of myself into this thing I’ve done a million times before. And there is someone next to me doing the same thing, then they start to advance. So I dig just a little bit deeper and pull out what I didn’t know was there. Running shoulder to shoulder to the bitter end and winning because I gave everything.

I’m sorry, I got off-topic, I think I was trying to recreate past triumphs through digression. I hope a memory came back to you as well.

Anyways, after our first race was the moment I realized I met my superior. My whole life up to that point was training and competition. I had one goal in life, to earn a gold medal. The defeat you handed me made me question everything and I didn’t like the answers. Yet any inferiorities I felt, I ignored, I had to continue, that’s what champions do, right?

1960 in Rome, was my first Olympics. Just like any starry-eyed athlete I expected to take home the gold, at least in one event. To my dismay I only got silver, 4 of them to be exact. The guys on the podium below me were all different but there was only one above me, you.

I may have been able to accept the fact if there were different winners. It would have given me hope that I would have my day. The fact that it was the same person beating me, only solidified that I was number 2, the same number they give shit by the way.

In 1964 in Tokyo the story repeated itself. In the years leading up to it, I trained harder and improved my performance. In my mind, I knew I was going to take home at least one gold medal. But no, there you were, the bane of my happiness, my victory, my everything.

The next year I hit a low point. My whole life I was waiting for a moment that would never come. There was one person that stood in my way. Still, I wasn’t going to give up on my dream. I was going to approach it differently.

This is the reason I write you. I had adopted a new strategy, more of an “If you can’t beat them, cheat them" kind of a thing. I knew I was never going to beat you fairly so I took whatever measures necessary to win. I came up with a few plans, one idea was to Nancy Kerrigan you. I decided against that, I only wanted to win, not to permanently handicap someone. I finally decided to chemically enhance my performance. I didn’t want to cheat but if I had to go outside the rules a little bit to achieve my lifelong goal, so be it.

Although in 1968 in Mexico they started to test for steroids, it was nowhere near as stringent as it is today. One unfamiliar with Mexico would be surprised at how easy it was to buy clean urine. One way or another I was going to leave that country with a gold medal and if need be I had a contingency.

Even with the performance enhancers I still couldn’t win. That is just a testament to how good you truly were. I really didn’t want to have to take it this far but if I wanted gold, I had to go all the way. Plan B wasn’t to beat you physically but to beat you mentally. A few months before I had found out your wife was, let’s say, engaging in extramarital activities. I saw this as an opportunity, an insurance policy. I was able to procure some photographs of her in the act. I think you know where this is going but needless to say, it was me who spread them around that night before our last event. I heard you were up all night arguing with her on the phone. I didn’t want to interfere with someone’s relationship but even more so, I didn’t want to lose again.

I still vividly remember that race. I was still relatively new to steroids and I could feel the effects they had on me, how they coursed through my veins, I could feel them in my muscles. On the starting line, I was itching to go. Once the race began, my whole body worked as one big muscle, flexing and pumping. With every step, I could feel the power just pouring from me. Each pump of my heart felt like gallons of blood went through it. Each breath I took, it felt like I left a vacuum of air in front of me, until I exhaled and gave back the earth what I took. Every muscle I had, my legs, my arms, my chest, even the muscles in my toes, seemed to possess such power.

Me and the steroids gave everything we had that day. With all that, the steroids, your sleepless night, and the mental torture of finding out about your wife cheating on you, I barely was able to beat you.

I finally tasted victory, yes, it was tainted by my impure actions but nevertheless, it was still sweet. I had won medals before, so I have experienced the winner’s circle but I never won a gold one there, it wasn’t the same. The press conferences seemed different, the media treated me with more respect, the opportunities that presented themselves were better. All because the color of the medal around my neck was different. I instantly fell in love with that feeling. I knew I had to have it again. Some of that feeling was the novelty but it was more than that. It was my pride, my greed, my ego, that didn’t want to give that up.

For Munich in 72, I had to win. It wasn’t an option. Again there was only one person who stood in my way. Before I had ethics, not great ones but still I had them. Now I only had one thing, a desire to win. Anything that came between me and my goal must be eliminated, at any cost. I’m not sure if you know this but I was the reason you failed your drug test in Germany.

After Mexico, I came up with a plan. I flew to Germany and was introduced to some people who liked to gamble. Well, maybe not gamble as much as they liked to win money. At that time it was no secret that you and your wife had gotten a divorce and you had been partaking in the pleasure of random women. We set it up so that you would meet a beautiful, charming, funny woman. You knew her as Mila but her real name was Hannah. She had been spiking your drinks, not with enough for you to gain a competitive edge, just enough to show up on a test.

I had anticipated the results to come in before the games took place. How they stripped you of your medals is one of my greatest regrets of this whole thing. At the time I was so involved with dope, I couldn’t have cared less. All I knew is I was a champion again. The fact that I cheated hadn’t even entered my mind. It was a shame no matter how much you denied it, no one wanted to believe the truth. The court of public opinion can be fast and unjust.

After that, I heard you took a turn for the worse. All your sponsors had backed out, most of your friends and family turned their backs on you, every opportunity dried up. All because I was a scumbag who couldn’t handle not winning. For that, with my whole heart, I’m sorry.

I know this is no consolation but afterward, my life fell apart too. My addiction got the better of me. I wish I could say the guilt began my downward spiral, but it wasn’t, it was my lust for more. More winning, more fame, more drugs.

Fast forward a few shitty decades later and my health declined. First I started to lose my mobility, it got to the point where I needed a walker to get around. Next, it was a wheelchair, finally, it got to the point of being confined to a bed. I was alone most of the time. Anyone who spends too much time alone is eventually visited by their own demons.

That is why I’m writing this, the guilt is overwhelming. I don’t have many days to right this wrong and I know this doesn’t come close to making up for what I did. I cannot change the past but maybe I can change the future. It is my hope that this letter will be enough to overturn the previous ruling against you. Possibly return some of your former glory. If it’s not, I’m also including 4 of your gold medals. The four I cheated you out of.

One from Mexico and three from Germany. There is one from Germany that I am keeping, you tripped and didn’t even place. That is the only one I feel I ever earned. Yes, I was on steroids but I beat all those guys before and that time I won by a substantial amount. If they feel it’s that important to take it away from me, they can exhume my body and have it. I don’t know how to even begin to say I’m sorry. All I can say is I apologize, I apologize for cheating, I apologize for any negative my actions brought to your life, I apologize for not doing this sooner.

I don’t expect forgiveness, nor do I deserve it. I’m not trying to excuse what I did. I just wanted to paint the whole picture. I have done a lot of horrible things in my life but this one stands head and shoulders above anything else. Hopefully, this explains something you may have questions about.

Odds are that by the time you get this, I will have passed. So the slim chance of a reconciliation is probably not there. I know that we were never really friends but I felt we both had a camaraderie, a professional civility, at least in the beginning. And if nothing else I at least owed you the truth. Please use this and regain your good name, live the rest of your days as the champion you are.

Forever remorseful,

Rober Hulugg 

October 03, 2021 17:26

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