Thursday, September 2, 2010

126.) Anything Could Happen

Soundtrack Song - Rufio, Deep End

Kris had practice the morning after game four, so I had catch a cab alone when I arrived back in San José. It was a first for me, because Kris had always been there for me to either see me off or welcome me back—depending on where I was going and where he was. But then again, not much was going the way I had thought it would. I thought being in California with Kris would make everything right again, but it didn’t. There wasn’t any distance between us to put strain on our relationship, but there was still strain in our lives, especially Kris’s life.

The Sharks won game five at home and had a chance to close out the series in Montreal and win the Stanley Cup. The atmosphere in the Bell Centre had been indescribable, and I may or may not have feared for my life while wearing my teal Letang jersey. However, the Habs had won game six when Halak shut out the Sharks and Gomez scored in a double overtime.

The only good thing about that outcome was how quickly the team had to leave Montreal to return home, leaving absolutely no time for Kris to have another possible run-in with his dad. And with everything weighing on his mind, he wouldn’t have been able to handle another confrontation at this point. I hoped that this summer, though, Kris would be up for going and talking to Marcel; I didn’t tell him that I thought that talking with him would be good for him, because Kris was acting like he wanted to avoid it at all costs. Once the season was over, I planned on bringing up that topic and making him see how important it was for him to address his past in order to move forward.

After that game six loss, I was so upset for Kris. His team had had the chance to win the Cup, and now they were in a position to lose it all in a game seven. My appetite was nonexistent because I was so worried for him. I tried to remind myself that this meant that the Sharks had a chance to win the Cup on home ice, but that didn’t negate the fact that they had already lost it once, and they could potentially lose it again.

I made it my mission in life to be there for Kris during his stressful time, in whatever capacity he needed. After all he had done for me, I could do this tiny little thing for him. I had nothing of my own going on at the moment anyway, and Kris was so overly burdened with emotional baggage at the moment. It was my job to make sure he was okay. When he was feeling frustrated and nervous, about the game or what was going on in life generally, I would gently and soothingly rub his back and talk to him about our plans for Hawaii. That proved to be a nice distraction, and something that both of us were looking forward to immensely.

Our trip was officially booked. We would be leaving two weeks after game seven—which would give him enough time, win or lose, to wrap up everything after the 2009-2010 season—and we’d be there for two weeks. I wanted to go to luaus and do typically Hawaiian things, and Kris wanted to kick back on the beach and relax, so we compromised. First we were going to spend a few days in Maui at a large resort, and then we were going to this intimate little cabin with a private beach as far as the eye could see. The price for it was outrageous as far as I was concerned, but Kris had pointed to it and declared that that was where we were staying the second we saw it. It was posh for a two-person accommodation, fully loaded with every amenity we could need, and we’d have no need to ever leave for the week we had it booked. After that week, we were going to Honolulu for the remainder of our vacation.

Talking about it helped to ease Kris’s tension. We talked about all the things that we wanted to do. I’d tell him how excited I was to learn to hula dance, and Kris would reply and tell me how he couldn’t wait to watch me dance in a grass skirt and coconut bra. He’d tell me about how he was going to go fishing and snorkeling, and I’d reply and tell him how I couldn’t wait to watch him as I laid out on the beach and soaked up the sun.

Hawaii was like this bright star on the horizon, our northern star guiding our path. We were keenly aware that life was going to get all crazy hectic again once we got back from our vacation, because he wanted to go back to Montreal to visit some more with his mom and Mamie before we had to set up camp in Pittsburgh again for my summer session of classes. I was going to have to fill out transfer applications, too. I guess this is what it was going to be like now that I was acting like an adult and taking on adult responsibilities and relationships.

Marlene had flown in for the deciding game. The whole town was humming with anticipation and excitement, and the frequency could penetrate the walls of our hotel room sanctuary. It made it harder and harder for either of us to relax. I was just as anxious for this whole Stanley Cup mess to be over. But as soon as it came time for that fateful game seven to start, I didn’t think I could stand to watch it. I wanted to rewind time and go back to a moment when the outcome of the game didn’t have to be determined yet. I was terrified about the possibility of Kris and the Sharks losing. Since Kris was down at ice level, skating around during warm-ups, intensely shooting stray pucks at the goal, waiting for the game to start, I didn’t have to put up a confident front.

I didn’t want Kris to have to suffer through the devastation of losing the Cup after everything he had gone through this year. He had been traded from the team he had been drafted by and played for or on for years; there was so much stress that he had gone through because of that, because of me, because of his father; and he had poured his heart into making it work with his new team and try to accomplish this ultimate goal once again.

If the Sharks didn’t win, Kris would blame himself. And it would just rip my heart out. After all the bad things that had happened to him, throughout his life, I only wanted good things for him. I didn’t think that there could possibly be a more deserving person than Kristopher Letang. He deserved to win the Cup, he deserved to celebrate and revel in the mirth and joy of accomplishment and success, and he deserved nothing but the best in every aspect of his life.

Frankly put, the Sharks had to win. They just had to.

The arena was buzzing. Everyone around me was excited and nervous and anxious, but in a good way. Not like the way that I was worried. I was uneasy and scared, totally sick to my stomach with nerves. By now, the starting line-up was setting up on the ice while the rest of the team took their seated positions on the bench—and I was sitting in my seat, slightly hunched over, my arms around my stomach. My feet were bouncing up and down because I couldn’t sit still if my life had depended on it.

The guys were about to take the face-off, but my eyes were pinched shut. I couldn’t watch. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. This wasn’t one of those instances where the girl says, “I can’t watch,” puts her hands over her face, and peeks through her spread fingers. No, I couldn’t watch, or else I would probably barf.

“Are you okay?” Brandy asked me, glancing to her left and observing the greenish hue to my face. She was on my right, and Marlene was on my left, and I couldn’t understand how either of them could look so... calm at a time like this.

I was surrounded by the WAGs and other family members, too, and it surprised me how very few of them were sporting any kind of Sharks gear. I was the only one in a jersey with my man’s name sewed across the back, and a handful of them were either wearing teal or a Sharks logo somewhere on their body. They didn’t look like they were being supportive of their men at all. Plus, even as fans, how could they not want to proudly don the colors of the team they came to cheer on?

“You have to chill out, Jo,” Amber advised, taking a sip of her drink. I didn’t know how she could possibly drink or eat when I was worried about keeping down the few bites of breakfast that I’d forced down ten hours earlier. “Win or lose, you have to be there for Kris. You can’t let him see you upset if they lose.”

“Can you please not say ‘lose’?” I choked out, leaning back in my seat and looking up at the ceiling—anything but looking at the game. By the sound of the crowd, I’d say that the Sharks won the face-off and were in control of the puck. However, that good start didn’t do anything to ease my anxiety.

For a second, the crowd was silent, inhaling and holding in a bated breath. Someone must have taken a shot. There was no cheering, so Halak must have deflected it.

The first ten minutes of the game were intense and heated as various members of the Sharks and Canadiens strove to score that first goal. Halfway through the first period, I could sense the shift in the arena as someone—it doesn’t matter who—in a white jersey scored.

That wasn’t bad. Being down one to nothing in the first in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals wasn’t bad. It didn’t mean that the Sharks still couldn’t win. When they went down two to nothing before the end of the first, that’s when I had to bite my lip hard enough to stop the tears that wanted to leak out.

“It’s okay,” Christina promised, looking at me. I could see the concern written across her face, though. She was upset, just a little bit better at hiding it than me. “Forty minutes left. Anything can happen.”

I fidgeted throughout the first intermission. It felt like electricity was coursing through my veins as I waited for the next period to begin. I couldn’t sit still, but I did start to watch the game as it started back up again—until Gionta potted the Habs’ third goal. That’s when I had to excuse myself and leave the stands. I went into the nearest restroom and ran cold water over the pressure points of my wrists to help me cool off and calm down. I hung around in a vacant stall in case I had to blow chunks. I hated that I couldn’t be out there watching, but my mind was too busy thinking.

What would I say to Kris if I had to meet him after a loss? And not just any loss, the big loss. The ultimate loss. He’d be crushed. I didn’t think that I’d be able to comfort him or coax him out of such a low. When the Pens lost the Cup in 2008, Kris had been dealing with a much greater loss: the death of his best friend. Losing the Cup was nothing in comparison back then. Of course, the Pens came back in 2009 to win it, meaning this would be his first real time losing the Cup. How equipped would he be to handle the utter devastation?

At some point while I was hiding like a coward in the women’s restroom, I heard the crowd erupt with raucous cheering. The Sharks had scored, meaning the score had to now be three to one. Even though they were still losing, they weren’t giving up. No one could give up in a game seven. Not when everything was on the line.

I pulled on my big girl panties, metaphorically speaking, and went back to my seat. Marlene hardly noticed as I stepped over her because she was so intensely staring onto the ice.

Amber proudly announced, “It was Dan who scored. A gorgeous shot from the point. See, don’t worry Jo. Anything can happen.”

There was no further scoring in the second. The Sharks were playing excellent, crisp defense. Kris especially. Even though I was sitting up so high, I could tell that he had a very determined look in his eyes. When he was on the ice, he never let the puck get too far past the blue line. He was tenacious and aggressive, focused and exact. I was still nervous as all hell, but I was also so proud.

In the third, the Sharks came out looking like a different team. They had a fire lit under them now, and they were determined and vicious like real sharks. They attacked and attacked, never relenting until they had scored two more goals. Now it was tied at three a piece. If I thought I had felt sick before, then it was nothing to the way I was feeling at that moment, when the clock ticked down to three straight zeros and the score was still tied.

Game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals was headed for overtime.

7 comments:

  1. ARGH! you can't leave it there.

    I hate how all the San Jose WAG's are like "we're stone faced; we have no emotion" when it comes to wins and losses. Get over yourselves :P

    More soon please!

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  2. Ahh! And you're commenting that I'm leaving you hanging? I guess I should have known from the title, but I kept scrolling down and hoping for the ending. Of course, there's no predicting how things will go, but all my NHL-watching experience tells me that the team with the momentum has the edge.

    But does it really matter? How Jo and Kris react to whatever the result is, is what counts. I am so much like Jo when it comes to big, close games, I can hardly bear to watch.

    Love the "big girl panties"!

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  3. Ok Jay.....you're killing me chica! I know I'm in Hockey withdrawl when I am getting way too into it in a story...but you are doing a great job putting us there with Jo!

    Please write soon!

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  4. GAHHH you need to update this SOOOOOOOON!

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  5. Great ending to this chapter, a cliffhanger, love it. I agree with Molly's comment above, as well...update soon, please!

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  6. BAHHHHHHHHH CLIFF HANGER!!!!

    Jo is cute being so worried for him - but I agree with her EVERYTHING changes based on a won or losss!

    MOOOOORE

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