Tuesday, August 17, 2010

121.) Ghost

Soundtrack Song - Mumford and Sons, Little Lion Man

I only had time to drop off the extra tickets I had secured for tonight’s game as well as the passes to get them down to the visiting locker room. In fact, I was supposed to be napping right now, but I couldn’t sleep. My body was three hours behind, so even though I was adhering to my routine by practicing and eating with the guys, I wasn’t tired. Plus, I was so worked up over this game that I couldn’t calm my mind down; it was racing, and nothing I could do would work to allow me to relax.

Jo was waiting for me on the front porch when the taxi pulled up. I asked the driver to wait, since I was only dropping something off. When I got up to the porch, Jo hugged me tightly and for a long time. When I tried to let her go, she wouldn’t loosen her grip. “Okay, what’s wrong?” I asked, rubbing her back.

She frowned, trying to hide it from me. “I just miss you.”

When she still didn’t let go, I figured she wasn’t coming clean and telling me the whole truth. “Are you sure that’s it?”

It took a few minutes to answer, like she was seriously considering what she wanted to say. Finally, she sighed, “Yeah, that’s all. I mean, I’ve been alone all day. And I don’t have anything to do.”

“My mom’ll be back soon. She gets off work at three.”

If I didn’t know Jo so well, I wouldn’t have seen the slight twitch on her face to give away her frustration. She didn’t want me to see it, because if she wanted to, then it would have been more obvious. Still, I could see that something wasn’t right, and it had to do with Mom. However, just because she didn’t want me to know about it didn’t mean that we shouldn’t address it. “What is it?” I asked her. “What happened?”

“Nothing. It’s just that....” She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. You have your game to focus on, and I can handle this.”

“Tell me. What is it?” Sure, it was a little frustrating that I had to try to play mediator, but I had to help them get along.

Jo sighed again. “I tried to be nice to your mom, Kris, I really truly did, but I don’t feel like she’s reciprocating and trying, too. She won’t even give me a chance.”

“She’s letting you stay here with her. Isn’t that trying?”

“Is she letting me stay here so she can get to know me and see why I make such a good girlfriend for you, or did she just agree because you asked her to?”

“Both. I asked her if it would be okay, and I told her that it would be a great opportunity for you two to get to know each other,” I explained. I cupped her chin and made her look up at me as I smiled down at her. “Just don’t give up yet. She’s my mother, and she’s done so much for me.”

“I know, babe. I know that she’s a good woman and a great mother because I can see that reflected in the man that you are. But she’s not showing me that.”

“She’s not being mean to you, is she?”

“No, not mean. Just... not nice.”

“She’s probably as nervous about this as you are, and she’s waiting for you to make the first move.”

“Do you think I should do something to show her that I’m trying?” Jo bit her lip as she thought about it. “I don’t what though.”

The taxi honked behind me, the driver getting impatient. I remembered my mission and pulled the envelope from my pocket. “I’m sure you’ll think of something. But listen, I’m just here to give you these.”

“You can’t even hang out for a while? You were only here for a minute.”

“Nah, I should be sleeping right now, but I couldn’t. I got a few more tickets, for Henrí, Suzanne, and Charlene. Only two locker room passes though, I figure for you and my mom. I wanted to bring these, since will call is going to be crazy busy.”

“Charlene’s coming down?”

“Yeah. Next game, it’s Big Luc and Maryse’s turn for game four. It’s kind of last minute, but I got Nabby to order extra tickets and give them to me for these games, since he doesn’t have family coming up for them.”

“Oh, I’m excited! It’ll be fun to catch up.”

“Okay, so I’ve gotta get back and try to nap some.” I touched her cheek. “You’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll just keep trying. That’s all I can do.”

“Thatta girl. You’ll see, it won’t be so bad.” I kissed her cheek and then her mouth. “I’ll see you after the game.”

“Good luck, Kris. You’ll do great!” she replied, having all the confidence of the world in me. As I left her standing on the porch and got back into the cab, I knew I wasn’t so sure of myself. I was very nervous to be playing at the Bell Centre in front of my friends and family. This was probably the most nervous I felt over anything in my life, and my thoughts weighed on me until it was time to take the team bus to the arena.

I took more time meditating and thinking as we started to get ready for the game. Before I got dressed, I always like to sit at my stall and remember why I play and for who I play. Jo wanted me to play this series for myself, but I knew that that could never be the case. There were too many people who helped me get to this place that I felt I owed it to them. I was playing for Luc, of course, because I owed that to him as his best friend. And I played for his family, who had all been so nice to me, because they deserved to have someone out there, dedicating the game to them, for all the sacrifices they had made for Luc. But I was also playing for my mom and for Mamie, for all that they helped with and did for me so I could play the game I loved since I was four years old. And I was also playing for Jo, because I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t be in this position without her. She eased my transition from one team to another, being the only familiar thing that was the same from when I was a Penguin to when I was a Shark. And, by rule of association, I was playing for James, because Jo would not be who she was if it was not for him.

The arena was so loud when skated out on the ice, raining boos down upon us. We were expecting this, because we knew the atmosphere of the crowd in Montréal. Nothing about this series was going to be easy, and playing these away games were going to be the worst part. Even though we knew how intense it was going to be, we couldn’t be prepared until we had to go through it.

Cammalleri scored a fluky goal early in the first, and the Habs fans went wild. You’d think they’d won the game. We gathered around the bench as the players in red huddled together on the ice, patting themselves on the helmets and butts before they knocked gloves through the line. We told ourselves that it was just a fluke, and that we’d get it back. Everyone on D said that we needed to buckle down on defense, and all the forwards said that they needed to come harder at Halak. He may have been impersonating a brick wall, but he was not infallible.

However, all through the rest of the game, the score remained zero to one. With one and a half minutes left in the third, Nabby was pulled, and Pavelski joined me, Boyle, Heatley, Marleau, and Thornton. We were the last line of offense that would decide the outcome of this game. We would either fail the team and make us lose this game, or we could net a goal and tie the score, forcing the game into overtime.

We were pushing ourselves, desperate for a goal. We needed to lay it all on the line now instead of losing this game and simply telling ourselves that we were going to try harder next time. We needed to try harder now.

There was less than a minute left on the clock, but I refused to look up at the time again. I had to keep pressing on, keeping my eye on the puck. If I so much as looked away for a split second, something could happen that would affect me—and I needed to be ready for anything. Subban tried to clear the puck, a desperate move by their defense to relent our attack. I stretched out my stick and stopped the puck from crossing the blue line, keeping it onside. Heater was slamming his stick against the ice, hollering for the puck. But he was on the half wall, and there wasn’t enough time.

I aimed for the net. I knew that I would never make it from where I was, but I hoped that getting the puck to the net would result in a goal, somehow. First, I saw Pavelski throw his hands in the air, and then Thornton did it, too. Next, the red light behind Halak lit up, and the crowd let out a collective moan. We did it; we had scored the tying goal. Only then did I allow myself to look up the clock. Eleven seconds left.

In the dressing room between the third period and overtime, I learned that I had been credited with that goal. The puck had apparently deflected off Gorges and Halak’s glove, and even though Pavs thought that the change in angle had been his doing, a replay showed he never touched it. It was a fluky goal for me, which made up for Cammalleri’s fluky goal. We were even now.

We won in overtime, with Pavelski rifling a shot past Halak, finally getting the goal he thought he had already scored. It was a beauty of a shot and such a relief to everyone in a teal uniform. We were back in the lead, and we had won in one of the toughest buildings to play in. Even though we knew that we shouldn’t celebrate this win, since we still had to win two more games in the scheme of things, we were relieved to win in this building; that was one of our most difficult challenges in this series. We proved that we could do it. The only thing to do now was to channel our energy to do it again in two days’ time.

I was swamped by reporters in the locker room, and Emmert sent me out in the postgame interview room for the Sharks press conference when I was finished with my shower and dressed back in my suit. I sat a table with Pavelski since we were the goal scorers, and I drank from the provided water bottle as I was peppered with questions. It was fun to get interviewed in French by the Québécois media. This was one of the reasons why I loved Montréal. It was home, and I fit in here.

Once I was finished with my interview, I saw Jo and Mom hanging out quietly in the hallway. Jo was playing with the lanyard and pass around her neck, looking down at it. Mom spotted me and rushed over to greet me. She reached up and cupped my face, pulling me down so she should place a kiss on each of my cheeks. “Kristopher, you played so well! A goal in the Bell Centre, in front of all your family! I’m so proud. Could you hear me cheering for you? You should have heard me, Kristopher, because I told everyone around us that that was my son who scored.

Merci, Maman,” I laughed. “I’m sure that everyone was glad to hear that your son scored against their team.”

They are happy to see a hometown boy be so successful in the Stanley Cup Finals,” she informed me smugly. I wasn’t so sure of that, because I bet that they’d rather see their team score and win than a boy from Montréal.

I looked back at Jo, who was smiling broadly at me. She gave me a look to let me know that I should take my time with Mom—but she, too, was filled with pride, and couldn’t wait to hug me and tell me so. I said to Mom, “We have an off day tomorrow. I can come over in the afternoon, if that’s okay?

You don’t have to ask! I’ll tell Mamie, and we’ll have everyone over. How does that sound?” Mom went on for a little longer as she talked about what she would plan, and I let her go on even though I wasn’t really listening. It made her happy, so she could do whatever she wanted. I was just happy to have some time to spend with them while I was in town, since I didn’t think I’d be doing this until the summer, before Jo started her summer session of classes. As I thought of her, I glanced over at her as she hung back and let Mom have her time with me. Jo understood the doting mother she was, so she gave us space. Mom noticed that I was looking over at my girlfriend instead of paying attention to her, so she said, “Okay, okay, I get it. You’ve had enough of your mother. Come over tomorrow whenever you get the chance. I will try to get off work as soon as possible, since it shouldn’t be busy at the library on a Thursday afternoon.

She kissed my cheeks again and retreated to the main concourse to meet up with Henrí and Mamie, where they would wait for Jo. As soon as I was all hers, Jo squealed and wrapped me up in big hug. “Kris! Oh my God, I’m so happy for you! Not just a goal, the tying goal, seconds left in the third! I swear the people around us were about to dump their beers on us, we were cheering our heads off for you!”

I chuckled as I squeezed her back. “You’d better be careful. Habs fans can be ruthless.”

“Nothin’ I can’t handle. I’m not gonna shut up for anyone. I’m your biggest fan!” She kissed me and held me hand as we stood in the hallway.

“So? You and my mom? How’d that go?”

Jo sighed. “I had the great idea to make a pan of brownies. I figured, who doesn’t like brownies?”

“Mom doesn’t like brownies,” I replied, trying to suppress my grin. That was just Jo’s luck, I guess.

“Right. Not only that, but she had to rewash the mixing bowl, like I didn’t do a good enough job. It was spotless! Like, Kris, seriously, I’m trying.”

“I’m sure she appreciates the effort. Henrí likes brownies. What’s that saying? The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Jo giggled and dragged her fingers from my sternum, past my stomach, and down to my belt buckle. “Really? I thought it was a little lower than that....”

I grabbed her hand before it got too low, and I pulled her farther down the hallway where there was a bit more privacy. “Jo, you’re killing me here.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” she whispered as we walked down the corridor. “I’ll remember to keep my hands to myself.”

“Well, not all to yourself,” I mumbled, pulling her in front of me and placing my hands at her waist. She put her hands on my shoulders and pushed up onto her toes to kiss me. Her lips were soft and plush. When I pulled back, I could taste her spearmint Chapstick. “Mmm,” I hummed, pressing my lips together and distributing the balm. “Minty.”

She turned around and tried to lead us a little farther down, but she suddenly stopped. I had been busy watching her walk, admiring my name and number on her back since she was wearing my jersey, but when I crashed into her, I grabbed a hold of her to steady her so she didn’t fall. And then I looked up and saw why she stopped.

It was uncanny. It was like looking into a mirror that aged me twenty-some years. It was me; I looked just like him. He had brown hair that was graying at the temples, long but not too long and slicked back. There were wrinkles around his eyes. He was my height, with shoulders as broad as mine, but a slight paunch pulling his shirt tight around his middle. He had a pass around his neck, but I didn’t know how he got it. Out of all the times I had played here and been in this city, I’d never seen him before—but I’d recognize him anywhere. How could I not? He was my father.

Seeing him knocked me off my feet. It was a shock, a jolt to my core. The hair all over my body began to stand on end, and my heart started to race. It was the fight or flight reflex kicking in, but I couldn’t move to do either. I didn’t know what to do.

Jo recognized him, too. If I were to look back on this, it might seem funny that we both able to figure out who he was without knowing him, but the resemblance was so strong that anyone could have made the connection. She reacted, too, tightening her hold on my hand and grabbing my arm with her other hand, taking a step in between us like she was protecting me. Like she could have. Her lungs sucked in a sharp, loud breath like she had just been cut or hurt. Her words were barely loud enough to be heard. “Oh my God.”

“Kristopher.” Even though I heard him say my name, I prayed that this was all a strange coincidence.

Blake called me from the other direction. “Letang, come on, we’re starting to board the bus.”

Still, I couldn’t move. I was so taken aback that I was rooted to the spot on the floor, and all my energy was sucked out of me. Jo tugged on my arm and kept her voice low. “Come on, Kris. Come on.” Letting her take control, she pulled me in the direction of the visiting locker room. I didn’t have the ability to think or react, and it felt like I wasn’t in my body. Like I was looking down on this from somewhere else. Somehow, though, I knew that I could trust the girl beside me to help me do the right thing.

Jo guided me down the hallway, slowly walking beside me as I turned around and left that man behind. She led me into the locker room. The room was pretty empty, since the players were getting on the bus and there was no need for the equipment managers to pack up our things because we were playing here again. I sat down at my stall. Jo got down on her knees in front of me, and she reached up and held my face in her hands. “Kris, babe, say something, please.”

I shook my head, struggling with what just happened. How could this happen? Why? He just showed up, out of nowhere, the last thing on my mind as I concentrated on the Finals. I never thought I’d have to face him and confront this fear of meeting him; it was easier to pretend that he didn’t exist and that whatever interaction I’d ever have with him would never go past what happened in my early childhood. He’d effectively disappeared from my life, and I liked that. I didn’t want to be around someone like that, because I always thought I was so angry toward him. But right now, I wasn’t angry. I was shaken.

“Kris, please,” she pleaded, getting off the floor and sitting beside me on the bench. She forced me to look at her, but I knew I had a vacant expression on my face. “Are you okay?”

“What was he doing here?”

“I don’t know,” she said quietly, once again taking my hand in hers, covering it with her right hand, too. “That was weird.”

“I feel sick.”

“Shh, it’s okay now. He’s gone. Not here anymore.”

“Are you sure? He had a pass.” I wiped my free hand over my face, trying to take even breaths. My stomach was in knots, and I thought I was going to throw up. I was so upset that I was physically reacting. I never thought that I’d see him again or have to deal with this. Did he come back here on purpose? It couldn’t be that hard to find me, but I never thought he’d look. He didn’t love his family, and when we left, he didn’t care enough to chase after us with the promises to change.

“He didn’t follow us.”

“Why?” I asked, knowing she didn’t have the answer but needed to vocalize my internal torment. “Why now? What does he want from me?”

“I don’t know, babe. I wish I knew,” she replied softly, rubbing my arm. Jo leaned forward and pressed her forehead against mine. Her eyes were closed, and a tear streamed from the corner of her eye.

“Maybe it was an accident. It could have been an accident, right?” That had to be it. I hadn’t seen him for twenty years, and he never bothered before to try to be a part of my life. So he must have been here for some other reason. And seeing him was a coincidence—a horrible, mistimed coincidence.

“I don’t know. He knew this was where the visiting team was going to be. He would have known to stay away if he didn’t want to risk it.”

I groaned and leaned forward, my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. Jo reached around me and hugged me, her cheek against my back. “How did he get a pass? Those things are hard to come by. I had to beg for two for you guys. How did he manage to get one?” Jo didn’t bother to repeat herself since she didn’t have a clue. I didn’t either. “I don’t know a thing about him, except he’s an asshole dickbag. I hoped to never have to see him again, to never have to think about him, and all of a sudden he’s here. And it’s fucking up everything.”

“You know you’d never forget about him, because he’s exactly what you’re not. And you remind yourself of that every day, don’t you? That you are a thousand times the man he is. I know it’s crazy to see him again, but don’t let it upset you like this, Kris. Please. He’s just like a stranger to you, a no one.”

“But he’s not a no one,” I explained. “Next to Mom, he’s one of the greatest influences on my life. You’re right—he’s what I don’t want to be. But... he looks like me. He looks... normal.”

“What did you think he was going to look like?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know what to expect because I wasn’t expecting it, but I would have pictured him as something more evil, devious even. A monster, because that’s what I had made him out to be. I remembered him from when I was just a kid, but the actual memories had faded; I had blocked him out as best as I could.

Now that the initial confrontation was over, I felt the anger boil up inside of me. When it happened, I had been a coward. Now my courage was returning to me, and I wanted to fight it out. I wanted to take out all the years of anguish and mental struggles on his face. Now, I was frustrated at myself for being so timid and scared when I had had the perfect opportunity to show my father that he couldn’t fuck around with my family. The family he did everything to sabotage.

“Letang! Come on, let’s go,” Blake called, poking his head in the room. “Everyone’s already—wait, hey, you all right, man?” he asked, looking very concerned at me. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

He couldn’t have been more right.

11 comments:

  1. Every time I read this story I never want the update to end

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  2. Oh my gosh. Ahhh, wow. I feel so so bad for Kris. and I'm with Kristyyy, I did not want this to end. One of your best posts Jay...

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  3. OH MY GOD is all i can say my brain can't even function right now... can't wait to see what happens

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  4. Wow, soooo did not see that coming. Glad that Jo tried with mom, but really, I think there is no hope other than mere toleration :) Not a bad thing at times.

    Wonderful, as always, and the writing - mon dieu!

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  5. Gosh, poor Kris, coming off such a high and then getting such a shock. Kind of wished that his mom had been there at that moment, it seems like she might be the best person to handle the situation. Maybe it will lead to a bonding moment for her and Jo?

    The game was dramatic and exciting! Kris was a hero during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Jo and Marlene were kind of alike in the way they didn't worry about the hometown crowd at all. They're both kind of ballsy in their own ways.

    I think that Kris is right and Marlene is a bit intimidated by Jo, plus by the language barrier. Jo needs to keep on trying, I hope her impatient nature can handle it. Do it for Kris.

    Very exciting Jay, and I can't wait to see what's up next! You're full of surprises.

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  6. Great update! I love your writing, particularly your ability to avoid the more typical plot devices seen in so many other stories (cheating, unplanned pregnancy, etc). Your advancement of the plot through the conflict created by the trade and Jo and Kris' subsequent separation, Jo's motorcycle accident, etc--and now Kris' Dad's appearance--is brilliant stuff.

    Keep writing please!

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  7. That was amazing! Can't wait for more :)

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  8. OMIGOD OMIGOD OMIGOD.

    So much going on that I just...

    I didn't..

    I cannot form a coherent thought.

    And, what a slap in the face that Kris looks just like him. I think that makes it worse. Ugh, I...

    I will come back and comment later, I need to go read this again because my brain just melted.

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  9. You amaze me. Just when I think there isn't anything else that you can possible throw into this story, you find something else to add into it and make the story even more incredible.

    If Kris thought that having sex with Jo was a distraction I can't imagine how much his father showing up is going to screw up his head. Thank god Jo was there for him. I loved the line, "I knew that I could trust the girl beside me to help me do the right thing." He's so adorable...

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  10. I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!!! AT ALL!!
    Sorry folks this is long.

    I knew something was coming (I mean it's Jay) but I was thinking the girl next door was Kris's first love. Maybe there is still a spark between them. Jo and his mom have a big fight and he has to mediate in the middle of the Stanley Cup Finals (which would really piss him off).

    But his look alike dad? Nope never crossed my mind. But as I'm reading that, previous parts of the story came flooding back.

    I knew that he had been told he looked like his dad. So I had to go check Chapter "Mini Breakthrough" and found this little jewel;

    **“Mamie says I look like him, that I act like him. What if I become him?” **

    So then I reread "Open and Honest" and it made me cry just as much as it did the first ten times I read it. But I loved this part;

    **He was just a scared little boy back then, and it was like he was a scared little boy right now, too. And I wanted to baby him and take away his pain, absorb it, do whatever it took to ease his distress.**

    Those same protective feelings kicked in when she saw his dad in the hall. She put herself between them to protect him, she lead him away to some place safe, and she made sure that his dad didn't follow them.

    Just like his mom did 20 years ago.

    ** “She scooped me up in her arms and carried me out the door, and never once did she look back.”**

    Jo and his mom love him so much, they are more alike than either would want to admit. They will work it out.

    Poor Kris now he's mad at himself because he didn't do what he couldn't do 20 years ago, protect his mom.

    **Now that the initial confrontation was over, I felt the anger boil up inside of me. When it happened, I had been a coward. Now my courage was returning to me, and I wanted to fight it out. I wanted to take out all the years of anguish and mental struggles on his face. Now, I was frustrated at myself for being so timid and scared when I had had the perfect opportunity to show my father that he couldn’t fuck around with my family. The family he did everything to sabotage.**


    This is the thing that makes your writing so beautiful and almost delicate. I need a thesaurus because I can't find the right words. But this story isn't really linear, it's all wrapped around, and through it's self. Well those aren't the right words either but I hope you understand.

    Now on to the questions, I would like these answered ASAP, please.

    How did he get a pass? Has he been following Kris's career since Juniors? What if his mom has been sending his dad clippings and stuff? OMG what if he has step son that is with the Habs? OK that one might be a little out there. Did his mom know he was at the game? What if she knew where he was all along and never told Kris? It said in in "Open and Honest" that she still loved him when he was sober. What if they are friends now but they don't know how to tell Kris? I think he would be disappointed in his mom and he wants to beat up his father. So telling him probably wouldn't be a good idea. Who wins the Stanley Cup? Does Kris get a contract with the Sharks? Does Ray Shero's call of congratulation mean he wants Kris back? So many questions...

    I thought you made the Habs win the EC so I would quit nagging you, but nooooo you did for the good of the story!

    I always love your writing but sometimes it blows me away. This was one of those times. Just amazing, thank you.

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  11. So, I've returned to tell you how incredibly epic this post was. The last few posts all being oriented around the game, I really wasn't expecting the dad bit at all.

    Obviously great minds think alike and I did the exact same thing as msd and went and read so many chapters from the middle where they talk about his dad and get that all out in the open and it just made everything so much more dynamic and diverse and I really thought I knew this story inside and out but every time I read it or go back and read through the archives I am shocked by how simple and complex this story is all at once. It's like a real relationship and for some reason I feel like I am part of it. It's truly excellent to say the absolute least.

    msd's comment is also incredible and touches on a lot of the things I had thought about, especially the parallels of Kris' mom and Jo. They have both had huge struggles and they pulled through them to be there for Kris no matter how different the way, and their reactions and thoughts about Kris are very similar and protective. The paralleled contrasts make the literature nut in me actually squeal with delight.

    I am going to go ahead and say 'ditto' to everything msd mentionned. I am concerned that mom and dad maybe have been communicating, and I'm still concerned about where the neighbour and Sam and all that kind of stuff can fit into this not to mention the Cup and Kris' contract and Jo's school.

    This story never ceases to amaze me, and your writing is absolutely flawless. This is definitely one of my top favorite posts, and by top favorite I mean it's probably in the top ten of my 121 favorite posts because I seriously love every single thing you throw at us.

    Cannot wait for more to say the absolute least.

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