na foine ting
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
I miss Paul.
Becca found this today, in old files. Nothing I remembered having, and a treasure, considering who he was, how things were, how they ended up. A letter, written on stationery from a hotel in England. He'd just come from Germany back to the UK, which meant he'd been holding onto the stationery for a while. Maybe debating writing, my invitation to do so, to break the natural barrier of virtual and real.
It's an earlier voice of his. I had forgotten about his sense of humor, that play that so rarely came out, and came out very likely oftener with me than anyone.
I miss him. I want him back. I want to know what happened to him, and that in the final few days I didn't fail him.
- Dear Maenad
I thought I would take you up on your offer to write to you, if for no other reason than I cannot recall the last occasion upon which I wrote a personal leter (I except letters of complaint or bewilderment to commercial organisations).
I have been travelling a great deal over the past few weeks, both within the UK and in Europe. I returned from Germany last week, the flight being chiefly notable for a small girl who elected to entertain us with her version of "Kumbaya" -- which, unfortunately, never progressed beyond the first line. I at least had the consolation that a similar ordeal was undergone by a character in a Saki story (the pen-name of an author called H. H. Munro, well worth investigating if you have not come across him. I do not know how well-known he is in the U.S.), his story took place on a train and the song in question was "The Road To Mandalay" but it was otherwise identical. It also had the merit that I began to regard the possibility of a terrorist attack with anticipation rathre than apprehension.
I am back to Gatwick tomorrow.
I hope to complete my time here in the first quarter of next year. There is -- and will continue to be -- plenty of work to be done but I am confident that others will be in a position to shoulder my responsibilities.
Being back in the UK for an extended period of time has been a salutary experience, particularly since I have been seeing so much of it. It feels claustrophobic and somewhat oppressive -- although I must say the strident and simplistic patriotism so pervasively evident in the USA is refreshingly absent. I think the British people have an inbuilt skepticism which prevents them from being stampeded en masse in quite the same way, although they came close during the Falklands conflict.
I trust that all is well with your family and yourself, and that your life progresses in approximately the direction and pace that you would like it to.
I am not sure that letter-writing is quite my forte, I think I may attempt to spent more time in Internet cafes. One should always try new experiences, I suppose.
Ironic, in a way, that I feel responsible and that I didn't do enough, and I was poised to write to someone I'm fond of about how there's no way to ride a death to the grave and not feel that sense of inherent failure. No matter how well it goes, if such a thing can ever go well.
I still regret not doing more for Jon. Or doing the wrong things.
I still remember his parents' needing so desperately to know that I'd been good for him, that I'd made him happy, cured him of his virginity, been some bright star in his sombery gray sky.
I hadn't, you know? I did love him. We did actually fuck, the once, and it was stunningly mediocre and yes, if you must know, I regret that too. I didn't love him enough, and however happy he needed to be to avoid killing himself, I certainly didn't get him there. I may have contributed, by creating contrast, to his isolation. In some moments, I think I may have been the cause.
It's impossible to be the one left standing and not feel guilty. For being alive, for being luckier, stronger, healthier, less crazy, take your pick. It translates, inevitably, to this feeling of somehow having failed.
We did, in our various cases, all we could. In my case, far far less than you.
And there is another critical difference, one I'm not afraid to point out.
She knew you loved her. There was no question.
With Jon, I'm not sure I can say the same.
When you measure yourself, if you have to make that bitter, terrible measurement, think about that. However you felt, however much, she knew.
If I had to go through it a second time (which left me asking in a cosmic sort of way what I might not have learned the first time around, that I needed to do it all again?), at least I had that to hang onto. I had a few exchanges with Paul, before the end.
I made fucking well sure that old British bastard on his mountaintop, taking his last breaths alone, yorkie to his fucking mastiff, I made fucking well sure I'd told him how it was, how important he'd been, how much I cared about him, inappropriately or otherwise.
I made fucking well sure there was no question.
Maybe that was the lesson.
And damned if it wasn't marginally easier, the second time around.
I played my first league game since I broke my foot, last night.
Nothing I'd really planned, although it was a Tuesday, and I called Ryan on the phone and he said, yeah there's a game at 10:15pm, which is when I'd planned to be at the rink for pickup, and we contentedly dissed all the team leadership and bitched about a few other things, and I really miss him, come right down to it.
But he was busy, so I went alone to the rink. Not that I'm ever alone at the rink: Slo was there, and I skated around with him and the big black guy in the Bruins fleece; I forget his name, and then Brian A was there too. There's never really 'alone' in hockey, which is one of the things I really like about it.
Brian A's on some big national team, and coaching some juniors team up in Canada, and still coaching down here. He stopped long enough to shake his head over my stride. A year or so ago, he whipped my ass up and down the ice several billion times, teaching me to skate European style, or so he called it. It resulted in a sudden increase in my speed, probably because the mechanics were better suited to my strong but admittedly kind of stumpy legs.
"I reverted, didn't I?"
My transitions are smoother, almost back to where they were before the break. I was going from backwards to forwards to forwards to backwards, and he was just skating along. Shaking his head. "You reverted," he said. "All that hard work, for nothing."
I could tell from the tone he meant all his hard work, not mine. "When are you going to Boston again?" he asked, like somehow he could fix the damage between now and then.
The scary thing is, it's Brian. He probably can.
We talked about Boston hockey, we talked about his hockey, the Jr. Sharks kid he was coaching skated along with us and occasionally threw in his twobits. Brian said he'll teach me how to check, since apparently they play check hockey in Boston. He volunteered his Jr. Sharks student to help. "You get to kick my ass," I told the kid cheerfully. He looked me up and down, and nodded pleasantly. "Cool."
Brian A had nice things to say not about my hockey skills or skating -- more headshaking, more of the disappointed sighs one expects to get from a parent not a former coach -- but about my work ethic. "The whole beginner division's gone to hell since you left," he said. "I saw the stats. There was a significant drop in the quality of play."
"Brian," I said, "if you look at my stats at all you'll see as far as quality of play goes I was hardly a contributor," I said.
He shrugged. And in his subtle way, moved from personal trainer chat-up banter to the real conversation. "you brought integrity to the ice," he said. "It's a mood, and everyone catches it." He shrugged again. "Your team called me to coach them again," he said. "I told them no."
Maybe he was buttering me up because he knows I'll pay him $40 an hour to learn to push off the top third of my edge and not the flat. Again.
But I also know he hasn't coached the Hounds since I left, and they told me they asked him. So, you know.
I asked the AC, the other AC and the C if I could play tonight. Somehow at 10:08 I still hadn't been invited into the locker room. Finally JJ came out and saw me and went "hey, Kate, what the hell? What are you doing here?" And I said
"Pickup," and added "but I'd love to play with you guys. I told Chris I wanted to."
"So come play," he said.
"No one's told me to."
"I'm telling you," he said, in a sort of very un-JJ emphatic sort of moment. "You coming?"
They put me on D and I wore my Hounds jersey, and as I got out and warmed up and said hi to everyone I realized how badly I'd missed it.
Not the Hounds, really, although Pants was there and I'd really missed him, and it was nice to play D with Scott, who can really share the ice, and same with JJ, not just side to side but back and forward. He plays deep, I play more back, we cover diagonally, nice and smooth.
But it wasn't them I'd missed, or the Hounds, just league play. The banter back and forth, and where it's fun and you're laughing and you give their struggling beginner player who just got the puck a little bit of time to carry it past the blue line, since you used to be there too. And then the jostling and getting into the corner with some guy who must have mistaken me for some other girl, since he shouldered me like I wasn't going to cross check him right back.
I realized, afterwards in the locker room, that I'm fond of a lot of these guys.
But in the end, with a few exceptions, guys who are friends like Ryan, Erik, Pants, it could be any team. I could walk onto the ice at that level league play and have that experience pretty much anywhere.
It's the beauty of the sport, and why, while crossing the country, I'm not really leaving at all.
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