Sometimes I wonder if I deliberately injured myself that night, because I needed something to change. Like when you’re driving and you go faster and faster and you think you might soon go fast enough to flip the car off the road as you round a bend and a part of you doesn’t give a flying fuck and is in point of fact curious to see what it would feel like to sail through the air and be thrown about like a rag doll and break and bleed and die. And then you scare yourself with that vision, that not giving a flying fuck, and take your foot off the accelerator.
I was running recklessly fast that night, that minute, that moment, and it could have ended badly for either of us. Older, weaker, I was the one who came off worst. So I wonder. Maybe – subconsciously at most – I wanted an end to football, an end to work, a demarcation in my life. Maybe, just maybe, this was a kind of self-harm, the product of a mind maddened to breaking point. Maybe I wanted to suffer physically, the better to accord my body with my mind, my heart. Forgive me if it was so, though I can never be certain that it was. Because alongside that grain of speculative doubt, there is the heartfelt wish that I could rewind to that evening, and make sure that we play the game again with the slower indoor ball, so that I would not have needed to be running as fast after the skiddy outdoor one, so that no injury on this scale would ever have taken place, so that life would have gone much as ever, much as before. And not five minutes before the injury there had been that moment of clarity, when I had said to myself, blimey, I feel as fit as I’ve ever felt, I could run all night.
Maybe it was just life deciding to take me down a peg or two.
I miss the running, I miss the instinctive geometry of foot connecting with ball, I miss that beautiful journey home via the back lanes. I miss the weekly friends, the weekly banter. I miss telling you about it, miss dedicating my goals to you (schmaltzy softy that I am), miss turning each one into a carefully placed kiss, miss hearing you say how much you wish you could be a watching fly on the wall, miss imagining your actual presence there in the window above the hall, the heads you would turn, the eyebrows you would raise.
It’s all gone now and life is going on much as before, much as ever and I still have a job about which the best that can be said is that I tolerate it and it tolerates me. And much as ever, much as before, there is you and your absence and it still breaks my heart that my life is not your life, that things between us are not not going on much as before, much as ever. Because with you there was no much as ever, much as before. There never was and there never would be. That I know. Because neither of us would ever let it be so, you least of all. It was just one of the reasons why I loved you. And now, though I have looked to see, I can find no reason not to go on loving you, and so I do, much as before, much as ever.