Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

the ground beneath her feet.

6 May 2009

i met her for lunch at a mexican restaurant near her house. it was the first time i’d seen her since i spent the night four days previously. that morning i’d been awakened briefly by a loud noise before drifting back to sleep, ruling that she had knocked over a hair dryer or similar device in the bathroom and that i had nothing to worry about but catching some more zzz’s.

i woke up again with her sitting on the edge of the bed looking confused and speaking sporadically, as if she were uncomfortable with the english language. i pieced together her false starts and mumbled phrases, repeating questions until i got an intelligible answer, eventually deciphering that she had had a seizure in the hallway, hitting her head when she fell. she suffered a concussion as a result. the rest of the day was spent in the hospital undergoing a battery of neurological tests.

she had never experienced anything like this before, and, as a consequence, i wasn’t sure how to approach her. i ended up taking the less tactful route. over a plate of arroz con pollo which was still too hot to touch, i began listing the hockey players whose careers ended prematurely as a result of too many hits to the head, some who had enjoyed a few very productive years before crisscrossing over the middle, puck on the blade of their stick, with their head down; others who had such promise, high draft picks who never even made it to the national hockey league because of a jarring blow to the head.

the outcome of her tests was largely inconclusive, but, at any rate, the doctors told her that it was nothing to worry about. her fall was an isolated incident that likely would never be repeated. i told her to proceed cautiously, warning her that science was imperfect, uncertain, and perplexing. she laughed nervously as i continued, comparing a concussion to an earthquake (i had read a book by salman rushdie where he had made a similar connection between strokes in the heart and earthquakes, so i figured i was in safe territory, speaking about facts, albeit cold and hard ones).

i said an earthquake, even minor rumblings that do not cause much damage, leaves a mark on the earth, rendering it forever vulnerable. once hit, the potential for another strike remains tucked away, promising to return with more devastating force. i took a sip of horchata, a milky-looking drink made from ground rice, almonds, and cinnamon, hoping that the pause would tone down my message, making it more palatable, less a doomsday prediction than a concerned friend who often gets carried away once he begins with a theory or a joke. all i knew is that i could not stop yet, before i had finished my analogy and united the two events based on this conceived similarity.

your head is the same way, you know? sure, everyone is telling you that you’ve escaped unscathed and you need not change your life in any way, but buried somewhere in your brain or skull or spinal cord (i told her i wasn’t sure which option since i’m not a surgeon) there was a tiny indelible imprint containing the scribbled details of the occurrence, sort of like microfiche. one night she would fall asleep, tucked into a warm bed, calm and whole, only to wake up the next morning bewildered and unsure of how she had arrived in the hallway. some part, an echo of her past, would be missing, like california drifting off into the pacific ocean.

i repeated the last line about california again for impact and partly because i liked the sound of it and was starting to have fun. we asked the waitress to box our remaining food, then walked back to her car, with me acknowledging that i had not delivered the motivational message i had envisioned. my only hope was that she had forgotten most of it as she was still foggy from the fall (that is, if she were a hockey player, she would have to sit out a few more games while her concentration returned and the headaches subsided).

maybe she would only recall that a guy who once treated her to lunch talked passionately about earthquakes and athletes while she ate.

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the battle of who could care less.

11 November 2008

a few years ago i heard about a research project conducted on public bathrooms that found that sensitive men use the middle stalls. since then i’ve always made a conscious effort to be a sensitive man, just in case the study’s acolytes are at the row of sinks, gauging potential suitors. even though i haven’t been able to find anything on the internet to corroborate these findings, which is leading me to believe i imagined them, i don’t see any reason to discontinue this practice.

unfortunately i was only privy to my own thoughts upon entering the men’s bathroom at nassau coliseum. obviously there were those who wondered where colin powell was seated after dropping the game’s first puck or if it was true, as had been speculated, that he was escorted to the roof and taken by helicopter back to washington. ten thousand people or less marveled at the free camouflage hat given away at the door and many tried to take pictures to send to their friends whose other obligations (work, distance, intelligence) kept them from the game. a few calculated how low they could bid on an autographed picture of rick dipietro with a yellowed section of game-used net and still win the auction. many wished that the member of the cast of entourage in attendance had been this guy rather than this guy, who is about four and a half feet tall in person (apparently the camera adds a few inches of height as well). some would have even preferred this guy, though they’d insist he adopt a different facial expression. a couple of people wanted to see this guy, but only so they could punch him in the face.

don’t get me wrong, there were also those who thought about the actual game, those questioning the national hockey league’s decision to replace the puck with a hot potato, as players consistently lobbed uninspired passes to the opposing team. the referees tried to help out the last-place islanders by giving them two five-on-three power plays but the team was too busy yawning to shoot. in acknowledgment of the lackadaisical play of the first period the islanders’ second period jersey featured a calico kitten sleeping beside a reddish-orange ball of yarn, the flyers mascot became a combination of three-toed sloth and flightless bird.

it wasn’t always like this in long island. for the first few years of my life, i thought that it was a requirement that the new york islanders be awarded the stanley cup, the team winning four years in a row following my introduction to the game (well, if i assume my introduction to the game came during my ninth month of life — and i ignored all the talk, during the 1979-1980 season, surrounding the montreal canadiens, last year’s champions).

just when the crowd was deciding on creative ways to end the game, russian roulette being, far and away, the top choice, danny briere faked a slap shot before wristing the puck over joey macdonald to make it 1-0. the only reason anyone stayed for the conclusion was that every child in attendance got to step on the ice and take a shot on goal. until then everyone sat on their hands as the intensity of the game demanded.


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