He didn’t know which one of them was the first to not see the other one. One of them had to have seen the other one first because their eyes had never met, which would have been the case had they seen each other exactly the same time.
But they hadn’t.
Now, he had seen him clean the counter of the fast food place, and maybe he had been so focused on his work that he had missed the face of the first customer in line, or maybe he’d seen so many faces that day alone that they all looked sort of the same. And to stand out, it was probably best not to be a middle-aged white male.
It’s funny how one’s senses can go into hyper speed in a fraction of a second, he thought. Just a second earlier he had been leaning back in his boat, watching his two buddies pull the fish out of the water, and now he was in the water, his body and brain working overtime trying to figure out what was going on.
The water was cold, they said. It was dark, and he could hardly see anything. The lake didn’t smell, but he heard sounds of struggle behind him. He spat out the water that had got into his mouth when the boat had capsized.
“Hey, Jack,” said the young man with the aviator glasses.
“Hey, Tommy,” replied the man named Jack. He was sitting at a small round coffee table, with a paper cup and a newspaper in front of him.
Neither one said anything for a while as Tommy poured himself a cup of coffee, and then some milk, and sat down at the table.
Jack turned the page, then another, and when he finally had read the newspaper, he folded it up and threw it back on the table.
They sat at the table silent.
Then Tommy slammed his clipboard on the table.
“Here they are,” he said with a big grin on his face.
“Who’s here?” said Jack, and then barked:
“What are you doing here, Tommy?”
He said he didn’t kick the guy, and I believe him. He didn’t just say it, he screamed it, he yelled, he cried it out so the words echoed in the cold, cold rink. He was sitting on the plank that was also the stands, just seconds after the ref had thrown him out of the game, and he was just beside himself. He was so sad and so angry that he was almost delirious, it seemed.
“I didn’t kick him. I DIDN’T KICK HIM,” he yelled again.
The outdoor skating arena looked pretty much the same it always did. It wasn’t really a rink, not a hockey rink, anyway, because it was huge. On a good day, there’d be six or seven pickup hockey games going on at the same time, and half of the bandy arena was still available for people who just wanted to skate.
On one crisp December morning, though, there were no pickup games going on, because, well, it was cold and because the kids were supposed to be at school. The ice was clean and shiny under the lights that swayed a little in the wind.
I climbed up the stands, all the way to the top, and looked out to the arena. I saw just one boy skating out there.
“Hey, Timmy, do you even have a father,” somebody yelled from across the dressing room.
Timmy didn’t say anything, he just kept on adjusting his pads, as if he hadn’t heard anything. The question was repeated at least once, but when Timmy just got up and pulled up his hockey pants, and put on his sweater, the others lost interest. Somebody turned up the music.
“Born to run” was blasting off the stereo. It was a mixed tape, a pre-game tape, and it was time for Born to Run. Then it was time for “Highway to Hell”, and then, against all odds, “Against All Odds”.
Timmy got it before every game, which is why at this point in the season, in January, he didn’t care anymore. It was almost as much a part of our pre-game routine as the mixed tape was. It had been a little touchy issue at first, though, because his dad was never at the rink.
I saw the two women riding their bikes towards me as I walked up the hill. As they got closer, I smiled a little, because that’s what you do, especially when you’re on a campus. You’re a part of the team. You may not know everybody personally, but you know somebody who knows somebody who knows them.
Just as they were about to pass me, the following three things went through my head:
I keep losing things. I’ve always been one of those people that are always looking for their keys, their wallet, their pens, watches, or a magazine they just had in their hand but now seem to have misplaced somewhere.
As a kid, I had the home key in a hockey skate lace around my neck, and still managed to leave it at home often enough to become friends with the scary Mrs Hellgren who had the master key. Once I lost my wallet at my uncle’s place, must have dropped it on their yard somewhere, and the entire family with my cousins and aunts and uncles had to come out and look for it. After hours of search, we gave up, but the next morning, my aunt found it in a bush. How it had gotten there, I have no idea.
“Sir?” said the man.
I laughed. “Sir?” I repeated, looking at my wife, and lifted my old Oakland A’s hat, as if it were a top hat. A move straight out of an old movie. She laughed, too. And when she laughed, I laughed, because she was my wife, and we had been married for just 22 hours.
The other day, a friend of mine laughed when he told me about a hockey player who wore number 99. He thought it was sacrilege. Since nobody can be Gretzky, nobody anywhere should wear that number, he said.