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Down on terra firma, it’s my turn to pass through the weathered red, flaking door and into the gloom. The entrance is a small and, currently crowded, five metre square. Despite the doors being open, there is a musty, damp smell which overwhelms the huge spray of carnations, roses and lilies on top of the near empty mahogany bookcase in the corner. I am handed the white order of service by a faceless man and then it’s my turn to whisper clichéd condolences to two men, one of whom I know very well, the other I have never met.
Folk music, formerly the prerogative of ale-swilling beardies, is now cool, a bit like smashed avocado and Swedish backpacks. What happened to the old scene? Where are the pork scratchings? What happened to ‘Dirty Old Town’ gurgled into a pint glass for single figure audiences?
Nanny Pam and me are watching This Morning; there’s a woman on talking about how she’s been cheating on her husband with a ghost. The TV presenter asks if she has ever been intimate with the ghost. Nanny Pam stares at the TV while her Rich Tea biscuit breaks off into her coffee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The affair happened more than ten years ago. We worked together on a project with four other colleagues. She was married and had two small children. During the holidays, she texted me several times saying that she was thinking about me. The first two or three messages, I ignored. I erased them. I seriously thought she was a no-go. The fourth time, I wrote back: “You’re married.” I thought that would end it….
It used to be a very simple task to purchase a light bulb. Check the wattage on the dead bulb at home, go to the store and pick a similar one from the display shelf, take it home, remove the burned-out bulb from its socket, replace it with the new one, wrap the old bulb in some newspaper, and toss it in the trash.
Viewing Renaissance art can be numbing. Let’s be honest, it can be boring. To some, it might even seem irrelevant. We’ve all taken some art history classes and/or sat through tiresome exams where we’ve crammed so many dates and names and mediums into our heads we’ve vomited oil on canvas for eight months straight.
It might sound strange for a non-native speaker, especially for an English one, that in addition to the common classifications we all use to distinguish substantives such as singular/plural or concrete/abstract, the Spanish language has one particularly problematic noun class that involves genre.