I knew I was an excellent candidate, as they cheerfully say in medical circles, for sudden death. Most everyone on both sides of the generation before mine had suddenly dropped dead before the age of 60. Some had lingered due to repetitive strokes. Fortunately, I had passed the age threshold, but I wondered how much longer I could defy the odds.
Since the last entry, the boys of UE Sants have gone through something of a revelatory experience. What I mean by this is that they have won, twice in fact, including a comeback 4-3 victory against the adorably monikered Poble Mafumet, a performance reminiscent of the 2005 Champion’s League Final, or so said some throaty drunk bloke.
One of the joys of this level of football, a joy that detracts somewhat from the actual football itself, is the rapture of proximity. Whatever trials and tribulations the working week throws at you, however painful the boredom of retirement or the frustration of youth, all the rage that you carry can be readily directed at an arbitrary arbiter, or whoever is playing on the wing next to the only stand.
Summer’s over and like it or loath it, football is back. Green and white hoops are the colours of debatable success, conjuring up images of Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Celtic, maybe even Yeovil Town and as UE Sants graced the packed ‘Energia’ stadium, clad in the virescent and wan kits that defined last year’s halcyon days in Spain’s fifth tear ‘Primera Catalana’.
The basic truth of long-distance public transport rest stops is that although you get the stop aspect, no-one rests. This is due to a potent mix of acute social awkwardness, muzak and bad colour schemes. An empty bladder, stretched legs and popped-up blood sugar at a premium price is the best combo you can hope for.
It’s a typical Saturday night at the Java Jive. The bar is a Tacoma institution, a one-time home to two pet monkeys appropriately named Java and Jive. The monkeys are dead now, and so is your marriage. You’re singing karaoke because you’re trying to forget everything. You’re a lonely 41-year old single mom with two kids and a decaying house on the north end of town, and you know what it feels like to have your thrills vanish. So you’re singing your lungs out, and some guy bites your foot.
Senior year my mother did two months for larceny. That August she tried walking out with two carts full of groceries. I lived noir. I managed a story that became my first published in the school magazine. She was still in prison that October when my birthday rolled around. I woke up at three-thirty in the morning and read James Thompson’s Snow Angels until I left for the bus.
There are four Zadusnice in a year, one for every season: summer, autumn, winter and spring, and they always fall on Saturday. Saturday is the day of week devoted to the dead in Serbian culture. And Serbs are funny people. They are outgoing and talkative, and they love to socialize with one another, laugh and make jokes anywhere, even in the cemetery.
I have killed her in my head more times than I can count. I have attended her funeral. I have wept on her grave. I have cried alone in a room littered with pill bottles and years of filth because I wasn’t there to save her. Every unknown number from Connecticut is her final plea for forgiveness before she swallows the pills or slices the blade across pale blue-veined wrists. I am a bad son. I let her do this. It is all my fault.
For some reason, my first instinct was to assume that Derick Johnson was a figment of Nick’s imagination or a sort of creative in-joke between some of the players. The name, I observed, sounded like a character from Mad Men. I imagined a dapper fellow in his mid-thirties turning up to play, with a short glass of scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Do you remember Fridays? The indescribable feeling of utter joy that signified that thankfully school was over for another two days. The misery of sitting in a classroom against your will was to be alleviated and replaced with the respite of resentment from parents who didn’t know what to do with you. Yes, Friday was a fine time. Friday represented hope a brief, fleeting window in which anything was possible and the misery of school, with its press-gang style education was exposed for what it was, finite.
Mouth open as he presses cold metal against each tooth. Leaning over me, he recites codes I don’t understand to his assistant. When it’s over, he smiles and tells me, to my surprise, that I have good teeth. Good, straight teeth. It means more to me than it should. I tell myself he says that to all his patients. Within reason.
I’d swoop down upon you each night and stand before you as a silhouette, as a shadow, as a black canvas upon which you paint the faces of all those you loath, as an embodiment of your fear—I’d force you to face your fear, which is at the root of all evil; afraid of change, afraid of difference, afraid of unanswerable questions you’ve held your tongue, spat your lies, chanted your curses, lifted your arm in the air.
No one ever plans to end up as a dancer on Bourbon Street. It’s an employment choice born of pure desperation. I worked at a unisex joint called Sweet Mama’s. After only two weeks on the job, I despised every minute of my interminable shifts. I lurched around the club in stilettos like an awkward stork, as songs like “Strokin’” and “My Prerogative” pounded in the background.
I had shat literally all I could possibly shit, but somewhere, deep down, I knew I would need to shit again imminently. Such are the joys of food poisoning, or in this case some dodgy Albanian tap water. In fairness, the foreign office advice had been fairly clear cut.
To me, both language and football can give sensory pleasure to the ears and eyes respectively. When I hear a well-composed sentence, it evokes an appreciation of something far beyond the successful exchange of information. Equally, for an impartial observer in football, a crisply struck shot finding the top corner is of far more sensory merit than a deflected, scrappy effort sliding its way into the net, though there is no difference in terms of reward.
Cheap cotton tank top stuck under my armpits, the summer heat was making us light extra candles and pray for extra $5 donations. I was cheap and stuck at Saint Joseph Oratory under Mary’s smile and she gazed at her feet and I felt her son didn’t really save me. You had sad eyes and your hair was the best thing in the heat.
Last week David pulled his pants down in the class and farted in another boy’s face. David farts all the time. He loves the smell and sound of his own farts as do the rest of the class, chortling away when he breaks wind for the tenth time in the hour. David is also a racist, making Chinese eyes or calling the Latin-Americans dirty monkeys. David is 13 years old. There’s not much of a positive spin you can put on that ergo the utter bollocks above.
For a moment, I actually consider telling him that it’s bad form to dress up too much for a part. Then I imagine the horror on the faces of the auditioning panel as they stare at this fucked-up embodiment of a child’s nightmare. Goulée takes my hand and pulls me close to him. There’s a reek off him of booze and Tiger Balm. “Hey,” he says. “Do you know where I can find some Asian prostitutes?”
I bit my lip and concentrated as hard as I could at the grainy image on the TV screen. The brief vignette of femme désnudé from the 11 o’clock freeview on the tarot channel. Trying hard to neither concentrate on the phone number nor the colloquially lewd offers at the side of the tiny image, I worked my wrist into overdrive and finally came, it had taken over twenty minutes, fuck sake.
For ten hours on a few Sundays I had the chance to sit and talk with Louis Tindle Dees. I normally found him enthralled in a thick book about Winston Churchill, watching the latest news, or working an intricate puzzle with pieces too numerous for me to even attempt at age 29. He had just turned 92 years old.