Ass Tons of Chocolate
My sister’s getting married in a couple weeks, which means cheesy romance, Joker insanity and all around chaos. Mom thinks I should get her a present—something that can only come from a little brother. Thinks I should write her a story. Some funny as Hell, feel good love story, because let’s face it, this is my sister we’re talking about, and she’d love that.
I think she’s out of her goddamn mind. The love stories my sister likes—the ones that leave you feeling inspired or hopeful that everything will work out in the end—aren’t real. Not even close. Good love stories aren’t true love stories, because true love stories are boring as Hell. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Love sucks. No two ways about it. It’s the yellow flag after an end zone rush. That moment right before the car mows you over, where all you can do is close your eyes, take a deep breath and say, “this is really going to hurt.” They say it’s no different than eating ass tons of chocolate, but it’s so much worse than that.
This one is true. I went to high school with a guy who dated the same girl since he was about six minutes old. Actually, I should probably reverse that, considering she was my friend before he was anyway. Anyway, they did the off and on thing, long distance thing, the whole shebang. Straight up Corey and Topanga status. To hear him tell it, she was just better than all the others. Her version: it was like at twelfth sight. I like to think he just annoyed her until the tazer ran out of batteries, but that’s way to awesome to be true.
The whole west coast could tell these two were in love, even if neither one of them had the juevos to actually use the word. When you can get an eighteen year old to admit that marriage isn’t that terrible an institution—that’s a tell. Especially when it’s around the guys who might as well be her brothers, and as such threw more shit at her than angry chimps. Nobody was stupid enough to think it’d happen any time soon, though, which is why the earliest spot in the pool was a year out of college. I placed my bet on 2012, because that seemed an appropriate year to see him at the alter in a penguin suit.
So on the night of their like, nine year anniversary they met me at a party, and at the end of the night I asked him to drive me home. He drops her off, and on the way to my place, tells me they decided to call it quits. Mutual thing. Never really explained why.
Just like that, love’s dead. Over. Kaput. Done.
Love is romance, but it’s more than that. It’s sitting around a table with your buddies, drinking rum and pretending it makes you cool. It’s launching yourself onto a pile of sweat and testosterone after you’ve just won state. Hoot to Eversman, “it’s about the man next to you. And that’s it. That’s all it is.”
A mad scramble in stoppage time, not ten feet from the goal. More than once you took a shot to the face, and at least twice where nothing should ever make unfriendly contact. Ever. And then it’s over. Three long whistles and your fetal position puke session is totally worth it. Well, maybe not totally. After that it’s handshakes and a hot shower, then the victory party. Tonight you’ve earned it, and not even Coach is going to frown on underage drinking. Not tonight.
You’ll toast everything and nothing. Here’s to a damn fine goalkeeper. Here’s to taking balls to the balls. To the first state title in fifty-four years. You’ll drink, try to dance, and drink some more, and at some point someone will try to reenact Tyler’s third goal and end up knocking over the beer pong table. Over maybe some drunk ass just biffed it and took the thing down with him.
Or her. Girls can be drunk bastards too.
Love is four thousand students giving ten minutes of a standing O, because the dean just told varsity soccer to please stand. “Congratulations boys. You just made history.” It’s a week later, at the last team dinner of the year, when Coach said he’s never had quite so many studs on one team.
“Yea, but without you we’d just be a bunch of STD’s.”
Of course, the starting forwards missed that one, because they were saran wrapping his truck to a street lamp. Throw on a layer of duct tape, because dammit, you’re state champs. And state champs don’t half ass anything.
Love is breaking your hand in three places because you always always always defend your teammates. A two week suspension because the only answer you had for the dean was “dude, he tried starting shit with my goalie.” It’s five years later, wondering what happened to the boys who made history, and why you don’t talk to them anymore.
Love is brotherhood, but it’s also looking your best friend in the eye and telling him if he ever says that again, you’ll break his fucking jaw. And you’ll do it without blinking. It’s letting them go their own way without you, because no matter how hard you try, some of them just won’t last.
This one’s true. I knew a guy once named Jason Taylor, although for the sake of privacy laws I’ll leave you wondering if that’s his real name. We weren’t best friends from diapers, but five years old is close enough. Through elementary, up to high school, with a two year gap in the middle. Went through the same things as everyone else—sports, girls, and more of both. Plus a few extra-curriculars. Not the least of which was when his parents decided he was a bit too involved in the drug scene that almost exists in suburban Santa Clara, so they had him deported.
That’s only a mild exaggeration. They sent him to some badass rehab center down in Mexico, and he was there for a year and a half. This was freshman year, maybe sophomore. For the record, his parents didn’t immediately decide to ship him out, but I don’t know any of the lead up, so I can’t tell you any more than a tabloid. I remember having a chat about school and crap. Then he was gone.
He came back twice. Once for good, the other because of a hernia. How you get a hernia in a rehab center, I have no idea, but apparently they couldn’t treat it there. Both times I had two sets of sisters and four parents asking me to be some sort of hero and get things back to how they used to be. Which is actually a bit weird, considering we were both about twelve in that scenario they were clinging to.
It was one of those scenarios that proves adults aren’t as smart as their kids. We were going to give it a shot, but we weren’t best friends anymore, and neither one of us really thought we could be. A year is a long time; I’d gone through my own crap, and there’s no way he came out of that place unchanged. Not that we couldn’t be friends at all, but hoping we’d be elementary school buddies again is just a bit far fetched.
Our end was a quiet end, which is in some ways more tragic than the calamities. It was a game of phone tag. He wanted to go to Santa Cruz for a bonfire, and I was down, but couldn’t find the time. So a day turned to a week, which turned to two, and eventually the calls stopped coming. We’d still hang out and swap stories of the good old days, but only when we’d bump into each other at a party or out in the world. Eighteen months after he came back, Jason Taylor was one of those friends you push to the bottom of your MySpace page.
They say love is eternal, but it’s also that phone call in the middle of the night letting you know your family is one smaller. It’s hospital visits and medical bills, and coming away knowing they’re circling the drain. If you haven’t gone through that yet, gimme a call and I’ll buy you a drink, because luck like that deserves a toast while it’s still going.
I’ve lost my fair share, although it’s nowhere near the body count some people are burdened with. Off the top of my head there’s an uncle, two cousins and all four grandparents. Maybe it’s because it’s the most recent, or maybe because I can’t really remember any of the others, but the one that stung the most was a few months ago.
No joke, I had this cat for twenty years. My dad made me write a letter explaining why I deserved one, and committing myself to taking care of it. That includes poop, and no three year old wants to put their crap disposal responsibilities down on paper. I went through three drafts before Dad was convinced.
I. Loved. That. Cat. He was my buddy. Kept me up until midnight for about half a decade because long hair moves and my toes were apparently pretty scrumptious. Took him to Pet Day in first grade and he busted out of his harness. Only a diving grab by my fifty plus year old teacher kept him from running off into the California blue yonder. Mrs. McGary had a limp the next day.
I missed the playoffs one year because Simba bit my thumb down to the bone. My sister and I were giving him a bath—yes, it was a two person job. Kitty did not appreciate water. He tried clawing his way to freedom and I grabbed his leg, which we found out later had a hairline fracture. So after a justifiable banshee howl, my feline brother in arms chomped down until physics wouldn’t allow it, and spent the rest of the day as a soapy, pissed off shadow under my bed.
Some would say my cat was gay, but really he just held a grudge. And hated new people. Mom tortured him with that high pitched shriek of hers, and my sister sprayed him in the face with a hose like eleven times, if you don’t count that rather painful bathing experience. I tried explaining it them, but after a while you need to diversify your defenses.
“What do you expect? You’re ugly.” They didn’t quite understand my logic.
I was like six. Leave me alone.
My buddy used to be waiting for me when I came home from college, but about six months ago he stopped eating, and maybe two months after that his kidneys failed him. Gonna be weird as Hell not giving up half my dinner when I go home for the wedding.
They say love is bliss, and they’re fucking wrong. I’ve never met anyone who actually believed that. It’s the Hollywood cliché—the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and if you’re any good at it, you deserve a trophy, but will probably never get one. That’s the way it works. Your best efforts go unnoticed, because they go into the little things. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it should be.
Anyone who says love is bliss has never spent six months trying to get back on their feet. And that’s just getting your legs back—let alone those little details that made you first string defense. Blocking that shot or making those one touch passes. Gotta do a lot more than stand to get those things done.
Not that knee injuries are the rarest thing in the world, but imagine trying to sleep when you’ve got an MLS standard where your joint should be. Longest nights of my life. But I guess that’s to be expected when you consider I spent four hours with my leg turned inside out.
Here’s the scenario: recovery time is ten months, but playoffs start and end in nine. Which means you’ll have to be on the field and playing in no more than eight. So if you want to get back into the beautiful game, it’s gonna take double the workouts and a whole lotta pain. And pray to God you don’t tweak that ligament.
Six months of rehab. Two more of ridiculous conditioning. Four doctors and two surgeons were convinced I was out of my fucking mind. I was okay with that, because honestly, they were probably right. Worth it though—made it back with five weeks of the schedule left. Not quite the same speed. Not quite the same sniper round of a shot, but the little things I had. Pivots and give and go—sixty minutes of unnoticed commitment.
And a scramble with a historic ending.
I said you’d probably never get a trophy. Every once in a while you get lucky. Not that I’d count on it, unless you fancy waiting five and a half decades. But you should still focus on little details, because if you ever do get rewarded, those are the things that bring home a championship.
Love is suicide. Bleach and razorblades and Saturday matinees. Hospital waiting rooms and psych evaluations and all the things that should never happen and no one should ever be forced to remember.
It was a Saturday in March. Around 2:00 in the afternoon. I know this because it was the second intermission of the Sharks and Stars. Soccer isn’t the only sport worth watching. By all accounts it was a throwaway game. But even throwaway games, between teams that hate each other that much, are worth three hours of your time. There’s something truly beautiful about forty-four men beating the unholy Hell out of one another.
I remember my sister asking me something, but I don’t remember what, because I was engaged in a civilized discussion with the TV. Respectfully, sir, that was not a distinct kicking motion, nor was that goaltender interference. I mean no offence, good sir, but that goal should count. Respectfully sir, you’re a fucking hack and a horrible ref and use far too much hair gel. My sister didn’t quite grasp the gravity of the situation.
I remember my parents coming home from Monterey, asking how the game was going and telling me I could have the leftovers they just put in the fridge. I remember telling them Dani was acting a bit weird—well, not weird, but she turned down hot dogs and a hockey game. Which makes her weird. Anyway, she’d been in her room pretty much since she came home.
I don’t remember who won the game, but given that Dallas sucked and we didn’t, I have a fair guess. No clue how many hot dogs I ate—call it half a dozen. And I don’t remember how long it took for my parents to knock on that God damned door.
What I don’t remember must’ve been pretty intense, because I remember the bleach. Smell still makes me nauseous. I do remember talking to the EMT’s. Well, I remember them talking to me, and mom telling them how Dani had a fight with her boyfriend, which I must’ve told her because she wasn’t around for it. One of those melodramatic can’t live without you moments between periods.
She spent a week on suicide watch in the hospital. We visited her twice a day, and talked like it never happened. Which is really hard to do. She still has the scars, although that procedure really toned them down. Unless you know what you’re looking for, you can’t even see them anymore. But they’re there.
We were never quite the same after that. Not because she never told me why she did it—that part’s pretty obvious. There’s even something disturbingly admirable about it. She loved him enough to die for him, even if she couldn’t quite pull it off. I may never be able to relate to that, but I can at least respect it. But there’s something else I’ve never understood, and in the psych evals and ten years since then, she’s never tried to explain it.
He was worth dying for. I get it. Why wasn’t I worth living for?
I can’t tell you what love is. The best I can do is offer some bad proverb or contradictory metaphor. It’s pain beyond standing, but it’s also walking—not limping—into the locker room, and your goalie says, “welcome back.” It’s worth dying for, but it’s also stepping back and realizing you had a good run, but it’s over now. It’s soccer team pranks and scars that are still there, even if you can’t see them. They say it’s no different from eating ass tons of chocolate. But it’s so much more than that.