Featured Illustration: Georgia Harmey
Design: Kate King
You drag me to your training session, knowing I hate all these shuttle-running, sweaty fuckers. Back slapping smiley pricks.
Did you always know I’d surrender? Well, it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do, since. . . well, since all the shit hit the fan. It’s not good to wallow in a fetid hangover fug forever, going over and over the same old stuff.
You yank me out of my pit, no sympathy, week three. You say, Get your lazy, miserable arse in gear. This room reeks, open the fucking window, mate. Enough is enough. You look like shit. Plenty. . .
Don’t say it.
Plenty more. . .
Don’t say it.
Plenty more fish.
You do and I retch. Again.
A drizzle of lurid yellow bile dangles from my chin.
You know this can’t go on. You’re employing the tough love, the only love you know. Even if it’s not love, it’s better than being left to my own devices, which is to grind to a halt, go to sleep and never wake up. Although, that is still an option. After training.
Not done anything like this for years, not since school. Irritatingly positive, you are adamant I don’t stick out like a sore thumb, flabby, shit kit, borrowed stick. No gum shield.
You say, You’ll be fine, and grip my shoulder.
You indicate I should copy you, stretching and bending, dizziness ensues, vomiting is not totally out of the question.
Swallow it down.
You lead a jog round the pitches, then nod encouragingly whilst handing out bibs. They smell worse than my room, ripe with other people’s sweat. Putrid stale onion base layer. You have not given yourself one. Why would you?
You push the ball towards me, but not at your usual pace. It’s your kind, ‘playing with the loser’ pace. Dad to kid. I return it. I like the sweep, the crack of the ball as it’s slapped back to you on this cold winter’s night. Pitch (’scuse the pun) black with floodlights burning my retina out. I return the second ball and the next. You mis-trap it.
Yeah, fuck you, I’m not as useless as you think.
It flies off the pitch. You are more annoyed than surprised. Game on.
We engage in intense warming up, pushing, slapping, hitting that ball as hard as we can. I take my sweatshirt off, already regretting the remaining two layers. You grunt as you get low and fire the ball at me, sympathy evaporating swiftly.
You excavate the old me, the together, in control me. In a rising spiral of something I can’t describe, we pass the ball between us and I grow taller, stronger, better, bigger. You raise an eyebrow. Expected me to be utter shit? Come on, I’m just knocked. A bit not me. You know I’m not always weak, unplugged, inert. Dead.
We split into teams. I’m sent forward, to goal hang.
The defender cuts in front of their right wing’s cross at the other end. Defender looks up, spots me. The intercepted ball is twatted the length of the pitch and
Finds it way onto the end of my stick.
Run it in
I do go. I fall forwards, I grunt, I push the ball past the goal keeper, I score. Gooooaaaaaallll.
Something clicks, a connection, Ratatouille being struck by lightning. Experiencing the new flavour? A shift, something rejoined, kick started. A goal.
You high five me. My heart pumps madly, out of time with my nonchalant return swagger to the halfway line.
Buzzing as you drop me home. Head quiet, body alive.
See you next week. Cheers, mate.
First published in The ENERGY Issue. Pick up your copy on campus or read online.