Friday, January 22, 2010

27.) Sidelined

Just a little note: you guys are fucking awesome. I don't say it nearly enough, but your encouragement and comments absolutely mean the world to me. I say that with total sincerity; I read those comments every time I need a boost throughout my day, whether it be for motivation, inspiration, or just a smile when I need it. I love you all, and I hope you enjoy this post. I got the inspiration for it while sitting in the stands at yesterday's game against the Caps.

Soundtrack Song - Alicia Keys F. Ludacris, Like You'll Never See Me Again

My shoulder was killing me. The team doctor had given me something to take to help with the pain, but I didn’t want to take it. Taking any medicine would be like accepting that I was injured, and I didn’t want to believe it. Juvenile thinking? Perhaps—but I didn’t want to admit defeat.

Out for two weeks with a shoulder contusion. The same shoulder that had bothered me last season, especially during the Cup run. I wanted that rebound; I wanted to score that goal. I’d scored my first of the season against Anaheim, but then I’d been held off the score sheet in LA and the team had lost. I know my priority should always be defense first, but I was supposed to be an offensive D-man, and I needed to prove my worth to get re-signed. Pittsburgh’s an athlete’s dream, and I wanted to stay. And if I wanted to stay, then I needed to show them that I could help the team win.

But instead of scoring, I became a liability—and I was pissed about it. In the first period of the game against the Sharks, no less. I traveled to Boston with the team on Sunday morning because there wasn’t enough time to book a flight straight to Pittsburgh. It wasn’t fun for me, and it certainly wasn’t fun for the other guys that had to put up with me. After the plane touched down in Massachusetts, I headed straight for Pennsylvania.

I should have been happy that the MRI and X-ray were good. I should have been happy that it wasn’t a worse injury that would keep me out for longer. But I wasn’t; I was miserable. I was prescribed anti-inflammatories and rest, neither of which were going to ease my mind. I blockaded myself in my apartment with no intention of leaving until I could at least hit the gym.

Injuries are a player’s worst nightmare. They suck; first of all, you’re in pain. Not a pleasant experience. Second, you’re sequestered from the team like you’ve got the plague or swine flu. We’re all friends, so it’s not like we don’t or wouldn’t stay in contact, but I’m supposed to be resting, which means no work outs, no practices, no hanging out in the locker room. That twenty-four seven camaraderie is missing. Then there are all the thoughts about who’s going to come in and replace you. Will they play better than me? Will I have to try extra hard to regain my spot? With all those thoughts in my mind, no wonder I didn’t want to be around other people. It's as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing.

I opted to order lunch and have it delivered so I wouldn’t have to change out of my sweats or leave my apartment. There was no reason for me to leave, and I had no motivation to go anywhere anyway. Maybe it was mopey and lame to want to sit around and do nothing—but hell, I was told to rest, and that's what I was doing. At around one, I heard my buzzer go off, signaling someone at the main door was requesting entrance. Figuring it was my food, I buzzed the delivery person in, grabbed my wallet, and opened the main door.

“This should cover it,” I said, holding out a twenty. When he didn’t take the money and I didn’t get a response, I looked up and my heart fell. It wasn’t the delivery person from the deli; it was Jo, red-eyed and visibly upset. “Jo, what’s wrong?”

We hadn’t spoken in a few days. Since the team was on the west coast, playing the California teams this week, we should have been able to talk more often than what we did. The time difference matched well with her work schedule and crazy sleep routine. However, talking on the phone was difficult for us. We could discuss the mundane and the trivial things, but heavier subjects are best left to face-to-face conversations. Plus, Jo had seemed a little more subdued from stress since her birthday. I knew it had to do with the overwhelming worry from restarting her life and getting out of the rut she had been, but that only increased the impossibility of talking about those types of topics while I was on the road.

So I hadn't expected Jo to just show up unannounced, and especially not in her current condition. This kind of emotional display was not typical for her. Jo opened up to me when I asked her questions, and she was always honest—in fact, brutally so. She was not the type of girl to hold anything back, even though she never offered her opinions unsolicited. Jo wore her heart on her sleeve more than any other person I ever knew; she couldn't hide her emotions if she tried. However, she did often try. Today was not on par with that. She was upset, and she wasn't bothering with trying to conceal it.

“What the fuck, Kris? You couldn’t call? You couldn’t call to tell me you were okay?”

I stood there silently, trying to figure out what in the world was going on. This was why she was upset? “Of course I’m okay. I’m fine. It’s just a deep bruise,” I told her, wondering what the big deal was. I obviously wasn’t seriously injured.

“I was working. I didn’t know what happened—I had to hear about it from Tubby. Fucking Tubby, Kris, who refuses to watch hockey and had no idea what happened. So all I knew was you left the game with an undisclosed injury.”

It wasn’t easy to keep my patience, talking about something I wanted to forget about. “I just fell on my shoulder funny. I’m out for a couple weeks, but honestly, Jo, I’m fine.”

“I didn’t know that. All these hits, Kris, like the ones on Tucker and Booth. So many players are getting sent to hospitals on stretchers.... And I didn’t know how you were. I thought you’d call to tell me you were okay. I thought you knew I’d be worried about you.” That’s when the fresh tears started as she futilely tried to blink them away. “Why didn’t you let me know?”

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks—I’d been so caught up in my misery over my fresh injury that I never thought about how anyone else would feel about it. Least of all Jo, which was a great disservice to her, because of course she’d be worried if I had gotten hurt. She’d gone through that with her brother, learning after the fact how a seemingly innocent hockey hit had quickly turned devastating when James got sent careening head-first into the boards.

“I’m sorry, Jo. I didn’t even think about it, what with James—”

“Forget about James!” she cried. “I was worried about you! No call, no message, nothing. No word at all. I thought you said you cared, Kris. You should have at least let me know you were okay. I was expecting the worst.”

At that point, Jo completely stopped trying to hold back her tears, and the only thing I could do was reach out with my good arm and wrap it around her as her body shook. “Why don't you come inside?” I sighed, opening the door more and guiding her into my apartment from the publicness of the hallway.

“No. I’m so mad at you. So mad. I don’t even want to be here. I just had to check you out for myself, in person, to make sure you were okay. You can go fuck off now, for all I care.”

“You don’t mean that,” I mumbled, closing the door behind us. I felt bad for Jo, that she was so upset, but I wasn’t in the mood to handle her emotions because I was so caught up in my own.

She shrugged out of my hold, spinning on her heel and glaring at me with daggers in her eyes. “Yes, I fucking do. You can’t just ignore me, especially during the times when I need to hear from you. You probably talked to your mom, right?”

I nodded, knowing that I talked to my mom, Charlene, and Luc’s mother, too. But they had all contacted me first, and I had called them mostly to get them off my back. Injuries are frustrating, and I didn’t want to deal with anyone. “Yeah, but she called me. I don’t remember hearing from you.”

“Don’t you dare,” she spat out at me, her words dripping with venom. “I’m not the one who got hurt. It wasn’t my fault. You should have been more careful!”

“It was an accident. It’s not like I tried to get hurt,” I groaned. I couldn’t believe Jo was making me have this conversation.

“Of course you didn’t try. No one ever tries. But you did. And you need to realize that if you get hurt, you’re not the only one who has to deal with the pain. I can’t even believe you didn’t even think about how I felt.”

“It’s not that I didn’t think of you specifically, Jo. I really didn’t want to see anyone. I don't want to see anyone, okay?”

“Well, guess what, mister? You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to waltz into my life and then decide that you want to wall off just because you feel like it.”

“You wouldn't understand,” I grumbled, plopping onto the couch and grabbing the remote to flip through the channels.

“No. Don't you do this, damn it!” She stood in between me and the TV, blocking my ability to focus on something other than her. “Don't insult me by telling me what I would or would not understand. I'm pretty fucking smart, remember?”

“This doesn't have anything to do with that. It's a hockey thing. You just wouldn't get it.”

Jo knelt on the couch cushion beside me, so she was looking down at me. It made me feel like I was a child being scolded. “I might not've played, Kris, but I know a thing or two about hockey.” I didn't answer her, but I didn't try to ignore her again either. She lowered her volume and cooed, “Come on, Kris. Don't shut me out here. I was really, really worried.”

“I appreciate the fact that you wanted to make sure I'm doing all right. I'm fine, and now I just want to be alone. It's not about you. Don't take it personally.”

“How can I not? How can I not take this personally? Of course I'm taking this personally. You're acting like an ass.”

“Name-calling. Nice,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“I didn't say you were an ass. I said you're acting like one. But you're right, this isn't your fault—it's mine. I should have known better than to talk to you. I should have gone with my instincts and blown you off and never called. I should've never allowed you to be in a position to do this to me. And this is exactly why. It's funny, though, because I never took you to be a douche bag.”

“I'm not. Stop trying to make me feel bad, okay? I feel bad enough as it is, and I don't need you to make it worse.”

“I'm not trying to make you feel worse. I'm supposed to be able to make you feel better. I can't do that if you won't talk to me, so please just talk to me. I let you in. I told you things. Now let me do the same for you—let me help you.” She reached over and tousled a section of my hair. The feeling of the pads of her fingers and her nails as they brushed against my scalp was soothing. “Kristopher.”

I let out a breath. “I hate being injured. I hate that someone is going to come up and take up my spot on the roster. I hate that I can't play.” I turned my head and looked at her. “I have to play, Jo. I don't know what to do with myself until I can play again.”

“What do you mean by 'you don't know what to do with yourself'? The world doesn't stop just because you can't play. There's plenty for you to do.”

“I told you you wouldn't get it,” I sighed, once again focusing on the television.

“Don't underestimate me. I get it,” she assured me, removing her hand from my hair and placing it on my far cheek and then turning my face so I was looking at her again. “This is about Luc. You play every game for him, because he isn't able to. And if you can't play for Luc....” She paused. “You've lost who you are in trying to dedicate yourself to his memory. It's not just about playing for him, Kris. Everyday you live is a day you live for him.”

I looked at Jo, who was looking back at me with sad hope in her eyes. She knew it all, without me having to tell her. It's like she read my mind. More than that, it's like she knew my heart. Somehow, she saw through me completely, but it didn't make me sad or make me feel vulnerable. It made me feel a little less alone, which was weird, because I never before felt lonely.

She continued, “Luc wasn't your friend just 'cause you played hockey. He was your friend because you're a good person. You're selling yourself short by thinking it's just about the game. It's about life. Don't just live for Luc, Kris. Live for yourself, too.”

I looked at Jo, trying to figure out my next move. She was partially right, because Luc had a great influence on the person I had turned into. I played for him, and I tried to live my life in a way that wouldn’t make up for his death, but would make me feel like it wouldn’t have been totally in vain. I learned from him and shaped my life around those lessons. But it didn’t mean that I did everything for him. I was still my own person. I played hockey because I liked it, too. I did what I thought was right by my own moral code.

Jo interpreted my silence as sadness rather than contemplation. “Come on. Let’s go do something to get your mind off this.”

“I don’t feel like going anywhere,” I told her.

“Don’t let this get you too down. You can be upset that it happened, but you can’t change it so don’t let it change you. Why don’t we go for a walk or go see a movie, hmm?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.” I reached up with my good arm, placing my hand at the back of her neck. “I want to stay in.” Applying a little bit of pressure and pulling her toward me, Jo obliged and leaned forward to kiss me. It didn’t fix anything, having her here with me, but it made me feel a little bit better.

10 comments:

  1. awww... she gets him... she really gets him...

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  2. the last paragraph melted my heart : )

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  3. Ohhh, you lucky duckie, going to the Pens game yesterday! Too bad they didn't win ):

    Anyway, so so sweet! Jo completely surprised me in this chapter. I couldn't believe how much it meant to her that Kris never called to say he was okay. It was absolutely heart warming<3

    I completely agree with Heather, she really gets him!!

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  4. All I can say is way to go Jo! I loved reading about her telling him off this whole chapter :)

    I really, really love the depth of these characters.

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  5. So Jay do I see a 'quid pro quo' coming...is Jo going to make him wait now?!?!? hmmmmmm.....The character development in this story is fabulous...Now you have me sounding like my English Lit Prof in College....You are THAT good!

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  6. Jay, First off you went to the Caps/Pen game the other day. Therefore you suck.(kidding) but this post rocks!! (so we're cool again)

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  7. Yet again another awesome chapter! I'm totally in love with Jo and Kris! I can't wait to read more!

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  8. Let me start with... YOU'RE FUCKING AWESOME TOO! Loooove =)

    Now onto the post...
    This whole update was full of fantastic epicness! I loved it!

    Let me first start by saying... Kris made me so annoyed when he did the "o0o0o0o0o name calling!" thing, that I hit Consti. Of course I've already told you this but seriously... I actually full wound up and punched him in the arm as he came inside... that's how revved up your writing gets me!

    AND... Jo in this update?! AMAZING! She was so... ugh, I don't even know. Just perfect. Everything she said, everything she did... so good!!

    The ending, just beautiful... although, I wish it had of gone a bit longer =P just saying!

    "You can be upset that it happened, but you can’t change it so don’t let it change you."
    ^^
    Oh that Jo, what a smart girl lol. I loved this whole, flip flop of the situation... her trying to get through to him... I'm so glad they're both able to help each other.
    AND, if they have sex, I'm sure Kris will feel super... just sayin... >.>

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  9. OK, you had me when he opened the door and it was Jo...wow!

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