Monday, August 9, 2010

118.) Motivation

Soundtrack Song - Jimmy Eat World, Futures

I wasn’t sure how to approach Kris on the first day of the Finals. Not only was it the first game of the series, but it was also the two-year anniversary of Luc’s death. He was stressed as it was just because of the games and their importance. I had no idea how he was going to react today.

On James’s anniversary, Kris had been my rock. He rescued me from the cemetery like a knight in shining armor and took me home with him, making sure that I wasn’t alone. He said that he wanted to be there for me, and he was. And now I wanted to be that for him, do that for him, and make sure that he wasn’t sad on today of all bad days. Well, I knew he’d always be sad on this specific date, but I didn’t want him to be devastated. Death reminded us of all the reasons we had to live when we weren’t so torn up about our loss, and that seemed to be Kris’s philosophy; I hoped that he’d remember that today, too.

Usually, he’d quickly turn off the alarm after it sounded because he didn’t want it to wake me up. He’d carefully ease himself out of bed, trying not to disturb me as he’d let go of me and toss back the covers. Then he would get ready for practice or the morning skate—whichever was going on that day—and tiptoe around. All the while, I’d stay in bed with my eyes closed, pretending that I was still sleeping. Once he was ready, he would gently sit next to me on the bed, wake me up, and tell me that he was leaving. He’d hug me, I’d kiss him, and we’d both say, “I love you,” before he left the room and I’d roll over and fall back asleep.

Today differed from that routine. Kris was slow to wake up. When the alarm went off, he hit the snooze button; Kris never hit snooze. He was a seize the day kind of guy, so I automatically knew that this was going to be difficult. He held onto me tighter and nuzzled into me. I kept to our routine and pretended that I hadn’t heard the alarm. His breath hit my cheek as he held me against him, his fingers walking against my skin.

The alarm went off again, and this time he turned it off. His voice was very quiet, just in case I was still slumbering. “You awake?”

“Yeah,” I answered. There was no point in feigning sleep. Rolling over onto my side to face him, I brushed his knotted hair out of his face so I had a clear view of it. There was pain in his eyes. “How’re you doing?”

He didn’t answer me like I had hoped he would—but I had expected that evasion. “I love you, Jo. I just want you to know.”

I touched his face, my hand on the side of his head and my thumb brushing his temple. I had expected that as well. “I know, babe. I know. I love you, too.”

“I know,” he assured me. “I’m gonna head out to the morning skate—”

“Can I come with you?” I said, interrupting him. I didn’t want him to be alone. He did the same for me. Being alone on a day like today was a bad idea. “I know that it’s closed, but I’ll walk with you—”

Kris softly turned me down. “No, that’s okay. I probably won’t be back until I take my nap.”

“Oh. You’re gonna go out to lunch with the guys then?”

“Probably not. I just... need some time to think.

I wanted to ask him: Think about what? I wanted to know what was going through his head, but I bit my tongue and kept my mouth shut. He probably wanted some time to remember Luc, maybe to call Suzanne and Charlene. That was no different than when I went to the cemetery to talk to James last December. So, I decided, just as Kris met me there and pulled me out of my sadness, I would provide that to him—on his schedule. He’d have to come back for his nap because he had to adhere to his routine, and I would be waiting. “Okay. Well, I'll be here when you get back.”

There was plenty of time to kill before he would be coming back; that is, as long as Kris stuck to his timeline as strictly as he usually did. He had already deviated from it today, so there was no telling if he would this afternoon. He typically napped from anywhere between one, one thirty to three, three thirty. Either way, I’d be ready.

Once he got out of bed, he haphazardly threw on some clothes, planted a long, lingering kiss on my forehead, and left. It didn’t take him more than five minutes, and he didn’t even brush his hair. Just put on a baseball hat and walked out the door. Kris was taking this hard, but it could have been worse. Instead of hanging around in bed, I began my day. I slipped into my bathing suit, noticing that the stitching was pulling around the silver embellishments. I’d gotten more use outta this thing in the three weeks I’d been in California than I had all last summer in Pittsburgh.

I headed for the pool. It was cold, but I think I read somewhere that cold water is good for your skin. Keeps you young looking, supposedly. Once I started moving and after a few lengths, I didn’t even notice the temperature of the water anymore. It was a good way to burn off my nervousness about what the day was going to hold and whether or not I could handle it. I stayed in for a long time, longer than I normally did. My arms felt like jelly by the time I climbed the ladder and sat on one of the chairs to relax. It was too early to tan. Since the air was cold, I toweled off and wrapped myself up in the plush, terrycloth material to trap my body and keep warm.

One of the lifeguards walked over. She was twirling her whistle around two of her fingers, obviously bored since I was the only one at the pool this early in the day; it opened at eight, but no one ever showed up earlier than eleven. “No boy today?”

“Nah,” I replied with a smile. It was kind of early to be friendly and talkative, but Kris was always a good conversation topic for me. “He’s working today.”

“So....” She was trying to ask me something, but it took her a few seconds to voice it. Brushing her red hair behind her freckled shoulder, she finally questioned me. “Is he your brother? A friend?”

It was instinctual for me to tense up. She wasn’t coming over to chat with me; she wanted to see if Kris was single and ripe for the taking. Well, I was going to clear that up real quick. “He’s my boyfriend,” I informed her.

“Oh. I didn’t get that vibe from you two.”

Vibe? What kind of “vibe” was she looking for? A neon, flashing sign above our heads? We had seriously cut back on the PDA since we wouldn’t be having sex anytime soon—apparently that was enough to let the antennae of the horny bitches perk up. I didn’t have a good response to that. “Well, we are together.”

Then she smiled at me. “Does he have a sexy brother?”

I laughed. “No, unfortunately. He’s an only child.”

“Such a shame,” she sighed, tossing her thick hair over her other shoulder. “His parents should have made a million of him.”

At first, I was going to agree with her, until I realized that Kris’s experiences were what made him into the person he had become. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what Kris went through. I nodded and excused myself, leaving the pool and heading back to my room, where I showered for a long time. Well, the shower probably only took about ten minutes, if that; the other twenty minutes was spent touching myself. It was unsatisfying and superficial, but that’s only because Kris had spoiled me. He knew my body better than I did.

I took my time, so when I was cleaned and dried and dressed, it was lunch time. I left The Fairmont and went to a local deli. Just because Kris didn’t venture out of his norm didn’t mean that I couldn’t. When he went out on road trips, I went out and did my own thing. Sometimes Jamie and I would go out for dinner so we could talk about Pickles and Kris, respectively, and sometimes Brandy would come pick me up and I’d hang out with her and some of the other stay-at-home WAGs or Samantha, who by now looked like she had swallowed a watermelon.

After lunch, I still had an hour before I could begin to expect Kris. I checked my e-mail, logged onto Facebook and caught up on the latest news out of Pittsburgh with Tubby and Dave, and then I did a little more Hawaii research. Kris and I hadn’t gone over any of this yet, and I knew today would be a bad day for it. Hopefully, tonight’s game would go well and then we’d be able to talk about it tomorrow. The longer we waited, the more expensive it would be—and it was already going to be way expensive.

When Kris came back, I could tell how distressed he was. His shoulders were slumped and his hands were in his pockets, which was a very defeated posture. I closed my laptop and turned and watched his every movement. He tossed his key card on the table in the sitting room, and then he crossed into the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, he ran his hands through his hair, let out a breath, and looked up at me.

“Hey,” I said softly, breaking the ice. “What’s up?”

Kris cleared his throat like he was preparing for a speech. “Jo, so, I did some thinking today. I skipped going out with the guys so I could have some time to myself and try to sort out what was in my head. And I want to tell you something.”

I was a little on edge when he said that. There something about his phrasing or attitude that worried me. I nodded, silently beckoning him to continue. He patted the mattress beside him, and I joined him on the bed, ready to hear whatever it was he had to say.

He laced his fingers with mine and squeezed my hand. “You know, two years ago, when... well, you know, it was tough. We were in the Finals, and Kent had called with the bad news, and.... It was hard, really hard, and I couldn’t play. I had no energy, not even any interest in playing. I went to the arena and put on my skates, because I know Luc would have wanted me to play, but it was physically impossible. It felt like I was skating through wet cement. All I wanted to do was to go home and be with Luc’s friends and family and his girlfriend, to be with them so we could comfort each other. The Pens ended up losing, but I didn’t feel like I had a vested interest in the 2008 playoffs. Luc was like a brother to me, my best friend, and family is more important than the Stanley Cup.

“It wasn’t until the next season that I realized the opportunity I had had but lost. Last year, as soon as the playoffs started, Luc was with me every day, every game—moreso than the regular season. When I was on the ice, he was out there with me, every single second of every single shift. When I got hit in the second round, it was like I had his strength to suck it up and get back out there. It was his dream, our dream, to win the Cup together, and last year, we did. When we won in the Finals, he was with me, on my shoulder, and that’s how we did it together. When I lifted that Cup, I lifted it for him. In his honor. On his behalf. I was beyond lucky to get the chance to do that for us, for him, just a year after his death.”

Shaking his head with two swift motions, he kept going. “Different people have their different motivations when they play, and they try to win for different reasons. Like, it was a monkey off Sid’s back when he won last year, because everyone thought he was predestined to win the Cup by the time he made it into juniors. And Geno, it was like he needed to show everyone that he wouldn’t slump like the year before, and he ended up becoming MVP and winning the Conn Smythe. And some people dedicate the wins for their parents or the people who supported them, or family members who have passed. For me, last year was all about Luc.

“This year, I don't know...” he sighed, shaking his head again. “I don't know about this year. Every game, I play for Luc. But this year, I just don’t feel the pressure to win the Cup for him. I mean, I still want to win, I do, and I know that I’ll feel like Luc will be right there with me to celebrate, but Luc and I won it last year, so this time, it’s gonna be different. So, I told you all that to tell you this: that I was thinking, and I mean, if it’s okay with you... I wanna win it for James.”

He held up his hands before I could speak. “I know I didn’t know him, and if you think it’s disrespectful, then I completely understand, Jo. But I know from everything you’ve said about him that he loved to play, and he was determined to make it into the NHL someday. Maybe he doesn’t have the chance to hoist it himself, but I will do it for him.”

I started to cry. I didn’t mean to, but it was the first thing that happened. Kris turned so he was facing me completely and cupped my face. “I’m sorry, Jo, if you’re not comfortable with this then I won’t—”

“No,” I told him, swallowing a gulp of air to speak to him. “I think it’s great of you to want to do this for him.”

“Then why are you crying?” he asked, searching my watery eyes for the answer.

“Because I don’t want you to feel the need to win the Cup for anyone other than yourself. Last year, you did it for Luc, and I can totally see why. The timing was spot on to do it for him the year after. It’s like you fulfilled the promise to him to play and win together. Maybe it wasn’t how you wanted to do it, but you did.

“Now, you can do it for you. Because of everything you went through this year to get this far. For all your hard work that you put in season after season, year after year. For all the sacrifices you’ve made. All the desserts you’ve passed on after dinner to stay fit. All the mornings when you wanted to sleep in but you got up to go work out anyway. All the stress and upheaval of your trade. Turning that losing streak around. Being celibate for the past two weeks. Make this all count, Kris, and win because you deserve to, because you earned it. I’ve never met anyone who deserved it like you.”

I scooted into his lap and put my arms around his neck. This was supposed to be a sad day for him, but I was sad for him. His beard was so thick and bristly now, but I didn’t let that impede me from burying my face into his neck.

“Hey,” he cooed, rubbing my back and trying to pull back to look at me. I wouldn’t let go of him though. “Hey, Joey. What’s this about?”

“Do you realize that you’re always the last person that you do anything for? I mean, Jesus, you say you wanna win because you don’t wanna let your teammates down, or the coaches, or the GM, or your family. But don’t you wanna win? For yourself?”

“Yeah, of course I do,” he replied softly, running his fingers through my still-damp hair.

“Then do it for you. Be selfish and claim that damn Cup because you want it. Play your hardest because it’s been what you’ve been training to do. Know that I’ll be cheering you on, and so will Luc, and you know what? So will James. Everyone who knows you will be rooting for you. For you to win—not for you to win for someone else.”

“I do win for me. My name’s the one that’s on that Cup. I’m the one who gets the glory.”

“That’s the way it should be, because you’re the one putting in all the hard work and effort.” I sat up and straddled him as he sat on the bed, so I could look him in the eye. Maybe it wasn’t fair to compare our different experiences, but on James’s anniversary, I had to schedule my classes for the upcoming semester, thereby forcing me to look forward to the next stage of my life. “Today’s a day to reflect, to look back and remember. But you also have to use it to look toward the future. This is supposed to remind you to take advantage of your life. Win and bask in the glory and celebrate it.”

“Well, it’s not that easy, Jo. You know that. We’d have to win first before we can celebrate.”

“You can do it if you set your mind to it. I don’t think you realize the man that you are,” I told him. I tucked his hair behind his ears and then kissed his eyes. “Because you are an amazing person, with such strength that I’ve never seen before. Kris, everything you need to win, you have inside of you. You don’t need to find an external motivation.”

He was quiet for a while, the cogs turning in his head. As he thought, his big, strong hands moved from my shoulders, down my arms, and to the small of my back. “You know, all you had to do was say ‘no’ if you didn’t like my idea. You didn’t have to poke holes in the philosophy that took me all afternoon to come up with.”

“I just want—”

“Shh,” he whispered, placing two of his fingers against my mouth. “Just relax with me, okay?”

We lay down on the bed together, even though we were dressed in our clothes. Kris didn’t seem to mind, so I didn’t say anything. He closed his eyes, but I couldn’t tell he was still awake. I tried to talk to him again. “I’m sorry for—”

“No, Jo, it’s okay. I mean, I was just thinking about Luc and how he died around this really important time of the season. I feel bad that he can’t play anymore, because he loved the game. He loved life so much, you know?” I didn’t know, but I nodded. He felt the movement as it translated through the bed, and he took it as a sign to continue. “And I figured, since you talk about James the same way, that it would be nice to do the same for him.” He opened his eyes long enough to reach out and touch my face. “When I said that Luc and I wanted to help you, it really was the two of us working together. And Luc would understand if I did this for someone else this time around.”

“You are doing it for someone else this time around,” I whispered, taking his hand in mine. Then I sidled up to him and put his arm around me, making him hold me. But he didn’t need any encouragement, because he hugged me tightly. “You.”

Kris closed his eyes again, but this time he didn’t say anything. In just a few minutes, his breathing slowed and deepened, falling into his pregame nap.

5 comments:

  1. That was beautiful. Your writing is extraordinary and the way you are able to express your character's feelings is ineffable.

    Kris wanting to win the cup for James is quite commendable. Yet if anything Kris needs to work on, which you nailed right on the head, it's that he needs to concentrate on his writing.

    I never want this story to end. Can it just go forever?

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  2. Seriously, I sigh every time he calls her Joey. I don't know why, but it's so cute I can't do anything else but sigh.

    This chapter was pretty much awesome because it spoke volumes about the strength of both of them individually and now as a unit. I LOVE them and I'm curious to see if the Sharks are going all the way now.

    Great chapter Jay!

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  3. Seems like someone that altruistic has got to win the Cup. But only if the rest of the team is equally angelic, which is quite unlikely.

    Jo continues to have some jealousy twinges, not without cause, but if she's going to stay with Kris, she'll have to learn how to deal because he is undeniably hot.

    Jo and Kris seem to slightly out of kilter here, but poor Jo is trying hard to tiptoe around his sensitive nature, while being true to herself. I'm not even sure if there is a right or wrong as far as motivation goes, so whatever is going to work best for Kris is great.

    And I agree with Tillie, that Joey nickname is so adorable.

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  4. Ohhhhh when he said he wanted to win the cup for Luc = <3
    Too cute.

    He better win the cup after this chatper.
    Just saying.

    <3 it's all been amazing lately as always.

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  5. I am with the other girls. 'Joey' just friggen kills me. Girls just like when guys call them their name in general, but a nickname like Joey - too fucking cute.

    HE WANTS TO DO IT FOR JAMES! Ugh, and that was what was bothering him, that he was dealing witht he idea of doing it for someone other than Luc. MELT MELT FUCKING MELT.

    That is adorableeeee! He is really considerate, sometimes a little overly so, and like MelTing, I like when Jo tries to deal with his intense sensitivity and trying to stay true to herself. It would have been off as they seemed as connected or understanding as they are regularily during this conversation because it wouldn't be genuine. I've lost a friend and I'm the world's biggest bitch on that day, and whether Kris has a 'live for them' attitude or not, it's a wierd day all the same and Jo knows that and that's why she's a little tentative with him.

    I agree with Jo though, Kris needs to do something for himself sometimes. I know it's his nature, I mean, everything he does is for Jo or his mom or his team mates and he is really anti-selfish, which is appealing on so many levels, but for me, if I were in a relationship like that anyways, like, if I were Jo, it would kind of make me feel bad about myself and bad for Kris. Not that I am super selfish, but I am definitely not as selfless as Kris and I think that I would feel like maybe I wasn't offering enough to the relationship, like things were unequal. But, then again, Jo has changed so much and done so much to be with Kris, so I guess they both have reasons to feel that way.

    Bah, maybe that's just me going on a ramble, again.

    I really hope the Cup thing works out, and I am glad Jo agreed to go to his games in Montreal. I am definitely excited to see how Mama Letang deals with Jo now that things between them are obviously more glaringly serious, she is in San Jose with him, she's coming to the Finals, she has his number tattooed on her back, etc. Haha, I am anxious to see what friends/family say about the tattoo.

    so much to look forward to and I am really enjoying the frequent updates. You are on a roll for sure because this stuff is pure literary gold.

    Loved it, Jay.

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