“If you want to leave early to see your girl, hand me your gloves.” the coach said sternly to me in front of everybody during the start of the training. A concoction of anger and bashfulness rushed through my brain, I clutched my fists which were still gloved.

The coach outstretched his hands, wanting me to hand over my gloves. “Give those to me now!” my teammates smirked, beleaguered me from behind. They could do nothing against the coach, neither could I, he had the carte blanche over us. I reluctantly removed my gloves, he snatched them away from me and sent them flying to the bin nearest to him.

“What the fu…” Tadashi and Charles restrained me from landing a punch on that sucker.

Calm down.” Charles whispered harshly to my ears, “we will sort it out later.”

“No girlfriends. No hangouts. And absolutely no skipping the training! I had imposed the warning from the beginning of the day! If you can’t comply, get your ass out of here!” The coach was furious, “First match, we were conceded by 3 goals. Second match, we had a draw. Third match, if it’s not for Tadashi, we would be defeated by two-nil. If you want to screw the fourth match up, the exit is there.”

I was at the point of exploding, he sullied me as if everything was my fault. football is not solely dependent on the goalkeeper to defend, but on the team. I had to swallow all of my anger and continued with the training.

“You are going to train with me today.” the coach stared at me, “Tadashi lead the other mates.”

The coach walked past me, “If you can block 3 of my shots in a row, your training will be done today. If not…” He drew his index finger along his neck. I’m screwed.

I prepared myself for the worst. I felt so vulnerable at the goalpost, my hands were ‘naked’, I had to end this as soon as possible. The coach placed the ball at the penalty spot, took five steps to the back.  One. Two. Thre… The ball plunged right into my face, hard. My reflexes failed to respond. Another shot was sent to my stomach. I cocooned myself in pain. Another shot was sent to my back. The pain was excruciating. I just noticed that the shots were effortlessly executed, he got 10 or more balls ready to be shot.

“Hey! Get on your feet! Weakling!”

I struggled to stand up. My goalkeeping intuition twitched, I punched the ball which was flying to my right face.

Clap. Clap. “First one. I wonder how many shots you can take!” He shot another which was heading towards the  top-right corner. I did not react. Bang! The ball sucker-punched my face, I laid on the ground in great pain.

“Five rounds, fifty push-ups, fifty sit-ups. We will continue five more shots after then.” the coach chuckled. I got up, ran the pitch, did the requirements by the coach. He was in the London first team in the 1980s for a good ten years which was why he was a tough nut to crack. He was flabbergasted by the terrible results of our team since the past few years. The coach was exceptionally strict with us to ensure the betterment of the team. However, I could not stand his attitude, especially his ego, I wanted to prove him wrong, today.

Thanks to the consistent cardio training, the punishment was a cinch to me. I positioned myself steadily in front of him once again, determined to obliterate his ego once and for all. The first shot caught me off-guard, it hit my head and deflected into the goal. Brian. Focus. The sun flares blocked my eye sight for the second shot, I helplessly see the ball slide into the goal past my right foot.

I regained my goal-keeping consciousness, One, two, bottom left corner. Dive! I astutely saved the shot, quickly got back into position, One, top middle, ball curve downwards. I pushed the ball away, suffering the pain from two shots simultaneously, I scrambled to my feet.

One, two, where… Gamble. Left. The ball bounced of the crossbar, leaving the goalpost to tremble, the coach ran towards the ball, about to fire the shot, I sprang to the right, stretched my arms as long as I could, my right hand was stacked above my left hand, the ball landed on my hands, I swept it to my body, letting my body to absorb the remaining shock.

The coach turned his back to me, “Leave.” He said in an undertone. Argh! My body was decimated by him, I left the pitch without my gloves, just my shoe bag and bottle, devastation and lumps of pain.

1031, emitted by my cracked phone. One of the shots hit my bag, damaged my phone, shattered my glasses, sent my whole bag in shambles. I went to a convenience store to buy ice.

“What happened to your hand, lad?” the cashier asked as I put two packs of ice on the counter.

“Nothing. Just the training.” my tone was scarred.

“Don’t push yourself too hard.” she handed me the change, “Have a nice day!” she beamed. I replied with a nod. I placed one of the packs on my stomach, another one on my face, half walked, half limped across the bridge.

The ice melted as soon as I stepped in the street where I was just a few blocks away from her. I discarded the packs into a trash can along the street, my pain on my stomach and my face was subdued for the moment, I went up the stairs carrying the agonizing pain of my hands.

Knock. Knock.

“Who’s there?”

“Its Brian.”

“Brian who?”

“Just open the door.” my tone was heavy.

The door flung opened, she was standing by the door, “Hey…” her voice trailed away with her jaw dropping, “What… happened…?”

“What?”

“Your… face…” she poked my face.

“Ouch!” I grunted.

“Come in. Lemme treat you. I was a St. John.” she grabbed my hand and led me in. The moment we were in contact which was unintentional, the pain was relieved at that instant. She pulled out a chair, instructed me to sit, I followed meekly.

She poured some ointment, rubbed it against my bruise, “Argh!”

“Hold it for a while.” She did not seem to concentrate when treating my wound, instead she radiated the usual pristine looks.

“Show me your hand. You have no gloves today, it must be worse.” my arms were trembling when I lifted them up. “The coach must be a vicious guy.”

I did not reply, I looked down at the floor, letting the healing touch soothed my blacken areas, I rested my head on the table, dosing off unknowingly due to fatigue.

The first thing which came into my eyes was the dim atmosphere in the room. The warmth of my body was trapped by a blanket, her scent was tickling my nose. I took off the blanket, and noticed there was a note left on the table.

Brian,
Here’s the ointment and your clothes,
remember to lock the door before leaving,
don’t come with injuries next week.
                                                                 Joy 🙂

The last sentence was out of my expectations, a paroxysm of joy surged through my bloodstream, leaving me on cloud nine.

I went back to my hostel, the room was empty, they left me for dinner. I lazily slumped to the couch in the living room, switched through the channels casually, waiting for something interesting to pop out.

‘The Trio Discovers’ got verified by NASA, Harvard and many other research and development institutions. The parties who acknowledged them had featured their blog page at their respective websites. They would also like to fulfill their dreams by offering places and jobs in certain fields. The parties had sent e-mails to contact them, but they have not reply….

I was psyched up, I scrolled through my phone to check my e-mail, it was not empty, it was brimmed with offers from various organisations. The ones from Harvard and NASA caught my eyes. Reading through most of the offers, we got 2 places in Harvard to study any course we wanted in exchange to be lecturers there for 5 years, and a fully sponsored lab for us. NASA only offered us a job there, it specified the job was more on researching in maths and astronomy. None of us knew astronomy, maybe Tadashi did, but it was less compelling that neither of us would shoulder the offer from NASA.

Most of the e-mails were sent to us a few weeks ago, why did they not inform me anything about this? I was partly pissed off by them, partly thinking about my future. If I take the offer, would she think about me? If I take the offer, would she be disheartened? If I take the offer, would I miss her?  Definitely.

Our relationship was just at a nascent stage, my move of accepting this would tantamount me to a cross road of choosing which side to abandon. I did not have the endeavor to juggle both aspects at a time, between her and my dream, it was a dreadful piece of memoir to rekindle. Streams of my past flowed in my mind like the Amazon river, beautiful, but at the same time, it was wrenching, painful.

The 15 years old me was bedazzled by someone who felt we were meant to be together. I sought my friends’ and my teachers’ advice, but what I got was disappointing, majority of them asked me to abandon the thought of being together, they said this would put me in dire situations because she and me was not going to meet or interact with each other for a long period of time due to location problem, we live in places which were far apart, we were not even in the same school.

My obduracy, my persistence, and my puerile belief that I could get anything that I yearned for if I put in unremitting efforts for it. This phase of my life proved me wrong. I attempted to establish this long-distance relationship, but only resulted to both parties suffering unwarranted adversities. Both of us did our best to maintain this far fetched idea. We got to meet each other by an arranged plan by us, it was a year and a half, I waited, only receiving text from her, she did not even pick up my phone when I was at the lowest time of my life due to her strict parents who forbid her to interact with any males via social media.

At that point of my life, I gave up on her because I could neither accept nor comprehend the fact about her strict parents, her prohibition to pick up calls from opposite gender, the parochial mindset of her parents, and her unwillingness to walk the extra mile to entrench our relationship.

After the year and a half reunion, I got to embrace her, but something went off, it felt like two worlds jived as one but the feeling was not as before, distance was the one of the attributes which put our relationship on the rock. We got into a ‘game of feelings’, heaps of misunderstanding were generated from texting, I could not find a reply for her when I deliberately blundered across my social account by posting a couple picture with another girl, we got into a fierce fight using text, I was the one who called it an end. Our relationship was marked with an hideous full stop, both sides were hurt, being normal friends became impossible.

My heart prompted me not to get into long-distance relationship again because my focus would be zeroed in on her, I would lose my spirit and passion in doing anything. However, I had committed to my memories from my battle scars, I would never let anything to hinder me from my dreams. Time is never on our side, an axiomatic fact which led me to make wiser decisions. Go with the flow, a motto which I believed in as much as the previous fact, I had wasted so much time putting up a losing battle against destiny, fate, or whatever it is named in the preceding phase of my life. I would never waste my time again.

But, what if… My thoughts were broken off by them. It was around midnight, they assumed that I was asleep, so they could escape my interrogation. I wanted them to explain why they did not tell me such a huge thing. Their main reason was about Joycelyn, they were concerned about how I would handle her after knowing this piece of information. I was not bewildered by their reason, instead I thanked them to let me figure this out myself, so I could be in the know of my current situation.

We discussed about the major offers from NASA and Harvard. Tadashi and Charles voted me to go for NASA, work for them, discover a breakthrough for the furtherance of the world. I refused at my first thought, instead I voted for Tadashi to take up the offer, but they insisted that I was more gifted in that particular area, they were not in any of those fields. They convinced me like a mother persuading her three-year-old to eat his greens, their facts and words made sense to me, I also needed a springboard to achieve my dreams, this was a golden opportunity, I agreed to them. Tadashi helped us replied the e-mails, a response of approval was almost instant, I had until the finals of the football match.

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