Friday, 19 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 14

She I know him? Is this ecstasy real? Knowledge seemed to come not from her mind, as such, nor even her heart, but her entire body. It was enough to make her sit down, hard, as if she had fallen, rather than sat. And it was, to a certain extent, the same for him.

Unity: it was hard to believe this was what was about to be achieved, though it wasn't really the end point. She felt him and someone else pick her up, even though she was not moving. The two sides were going to clash, that much was more than evident, and she wasn't going to be part of it. She knew and she didn't know; she was separated from them before she could really see what was happening, though she had dreamt of it enough times.

Those dreams: of them in a tree, her in the treetop already, imitating a bird, calling out in the night. The one where she was with him at home but he could not see her; and yet he knew she was there. The one with them safe behind the broken glass, the melee begun elsewhere, not touching them, because they would be safe. "A waif and a great man are prisoners. Safe in peril - " said the oracle. Well, yes. Luck was turning their way, at long last. The others were wrong because they had been in the wrong, really, all along, but no one could confront them. They were the despoilers, the exploiters of her grief, her patience, her hospitality, even. That was what was the worst: that she had to be nice to them.

Now she turned her back on them and when they called, did not look back. She washed them off herself, dusted herself, shook them off. It felt radical, revolutionary, even. Yes, she could do it. How liberating it was, just to leave and go home. The morning air was sweet; birds circled and flew together in formation, the sun's rays bleached everything clean. The beauty of the world hit her, and even if he wasn't...him (she was yet to really believe), then at least something, at long last, was happening.


Friday, 5 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 13

They remained there for a moment, motionless; she was too tired to move, really, and he was, as well.

"Love is not superficial." She started to mumble. "Yeah, I could have eaten that gun. But I want to know what happens next, what happens underneath..." She paused a moment. The smell; she smelt something she had not smelt in some time. Pangs began, modest at once, then growing; she continued to talk, more to herself than anything. She felt as if luck was finally, finally turning in her direction; an axis had shifted, that inner earthquake had happened and she had survived, amazingly enough.

"The madness of it all. Just..." She turned to him. "You know? I think you know what love is. It's resistance, in my case. I mean, I could listen to the music here all night long, I am living on it, I am living in it. Oh shit, this is all nonsense, what the hell. know. I know you know."

"Love is able to see right into the heart of things and not flinch," he said, even as she turned her head from him. And yes, I know. I know full well. An eagle could spot my love a hundred miles away. A lost cat would find it, a bear could catch it on the leaping wave."

They were testing each other, and looked at each other.


They huddled together now, each saying the others' words, regarding each other anew. It could well be that they overwhelmed each other, him first, then her; she was suddenly shy with him, as if they were meeting for the first time, which they were, in their own way.

The sun rose, the famous rosy fingers here and there, a full moon resting in the top of a tree, birds sang and improvised their calls. She told him the dream she had about the eagle, about the wolf, the one that looked at her with pleading eyes. "It talked, it really did. That was the good one. In another dream there was a beast and it came after me, and I woke up crying..." "Ssshhh," he said, his hand, his fingers very gently on her back. "That is enough knowledge for me right now. I am too full up with it. I feel as if I am at the end of everything, almost."

The song played and it seemed to describe them from a lifetime ago, as they once cautiously danced around each other, then had the courage to actually meet.

"Are we just as courageous now?" she asked him. He nodded and drank. She drank as well. His friend quietly slipped away, looking happier than he had in some time.


While they cooed and hooted, each to the other, they did not notice the ferment in the crowd. The protesters were gathering strength; the green-eyed radical was happier than he had been in some time; the man with the gun, the players, were putting up a front that they didn't really have. People were starting to take sides.

"We all have choices to make, and this is one. We are told we can't change things, but that is false; we can and do change every day, after all. But some stand in the way of change, and by that I mean nothing superficial, but real, lasting, bone-deep soul-satisfying change. The kind you can be proud of, that legends are made out of, after all. A woman here tonight could have let someone tell her what to do. But she didn't." So concluded the green-eyed radical to his friends. "She is with him now, and they won't be separated. I am inspired by them, we all are." They assented, looking dubiously at those who would have separated them. The suitors, they were nicknamed, the suckers, as some already had been calling them.


"Do you want to dance?" "I would love to, good sir." And so they danced, a dance of defiance and celebration, the vivid lights and colors around them, the energy, negating anything but themselves; a dance that was for one side, clearly, and not the other. They had nothing to lose, really, nothing beyond the moment mattered much to them anyway; and they were fighting by dancing, dancing by fighting. They didn't stop, they saluted the DJ, they blessed the floor and music itself.

"I love dancing here, I love you!" she said with her eyes. He repeated this with emphasis. They danced outside and inside themselves, their limbs together and apart, jumps and spins and whirls causing the protesters to whoop and cheer.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 12

Darkness; utter darkness. The shadows appeared then and disappeared. She was dragged this far and no more. She could not move; then under a harsh light she was stuck, more or less, and could not move in any case.

"He's not coming back. Give in."

The words were not spoken as harshly as you might think. He was only trying to be reasonable. A box was in his hand yet again, a different one this time.

"He is here. I can tell. He is."

She was a stubborn duck; he had to give her that. Outside the locked door the clamour grew; someone was pounding on it, whether deliberately or not it was hard to tell.

"Take this, please just take it. Your problems will be over. The wait will be over. That is what you want."

She looked at the gun; she knew it was a test. She pondered it as she knew he would. It was tempting and she had her pride, but she did not accept the inherent promise that if she won, he would leave her alone. It would only make her more desirable. She already felt like the plainest woman there, and this guy would not leave her alone.

He would never treat her this way; he liked to test her, true, and she liked to test him, but he was patient and understanding, even beyond her comprehension sometimes. Why this man wanted to test her she didn't know, except maybe he heard she liked this kind of thing.

Wrong. Another woman would die for her husband, yes, but not her, she had waited too long.

"You're never going home" she said to him as he left.


She was calm in her refusal; all he could do was walk away. There were worse ways to treat her, but her nobility snuffed them all out. The door was unlocked, she could have left, but instead she longed to be home, remembered the time she was home with him, in their bed, his ruse of insanity having failed utterly, crying and laughing and then stoically resigned. Things fell on the floor and they didn't bother to pick them up. They gave each other nicknames; she washed his clothes and he promised he would not be long.

How many times she had put up with things that seemed...the word had not been invented yet, maybe it never would be, but she was attached to him and that was that. He was in her heart, and even thinking of stopping that would stop him as well. She slumped down and rested and willed something to happen. The party outside was as raucous as ever; it was now long past midnight and maybe it was the stress, the noise, but she could hear a bell ringing; a sign. A clear sign at long last.

"Well windypants, that guy doesn't seem too...happy, so things are indeed turning out alright. Hasn't left though. Hmmm." He looked at him askance, wanting him dead but keeping what countenance he could. Though they were indoors he could feel the morning coming in, the l'heure bleu all silent and full of promise. The girl no longer pestered him; the others in the club were greeting the new day euphorically, as if they knew what he knew. Everyone knew, somehow.


She walked back into the club. It was just how it was when they met; she began to remember things, to put them back together. She was here; he was there. She looked in that old direction, just by the lights, as far away from the speakers as you could get. Right by that side, there. And there was someone there.

She walked towards him, not knowing who he was; she kept thinking it was him but at this point could not trust herself. He made no obvious moves in return, but merely kept his head down, looking shyly at her - he could not believe he was being shy, but there he was - pulling her towards him, just as he had done in the first place. The club seemed big, bigger than it was before; as if all that time they had spent apart was somehow making it expand in some odd way.

The chair next to him was empty. She sat down and ordered a drink, not able to look at him, not really wanting to look at anyone. She could sink or drown, but right now she just wanted to float for a while, meet on a friendly island with someone, or just plain go home. He looked at her and smiled inwardly; the green-eyed radical sighed and gestured, that he should get her out of there as quickly as he could, but not rush things, either.

"This is a good drink. The first one I've had here for a couple of..." She began to cry. He nodded and took her hand.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Apologies for interrupting Lena’s magnificent 2009 – A Club Odyssey series (which I hope you’re all reading and enjoying) but we thought it a good moment to take stock, catch our breath and revel in the witnessing of pure art.

Before Sunday’s Olympic final I hadn’t watched any ice hockey matches, although Lena is a keen follower. I’m always eager to learn new things – why, otherwise, do we continue living? - and rule-wise the game is very easy to pick up; the general pattern of football with some necessary brutalism on loan from Australian Rules football but structured slightly differently. And, of course, there’s the ice.

Earlier on in the qualifiers Canada had been thrashed by the USA 5-3, so this second meeting was never likely to be a beamingly friendly one. And despite thirteen gold medals – the first ever won by Canadians on Canadian soil at the winter games – this was the crucial one, the one which counted, the one which would render all of the others irrelevant or make them all the more priceless, the last and biggest event of the Winter Olympics. Canada stood still for two or three hours.

Three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, not including frequent stoppage time, and both sides were busily aggressive without yet suggesting desperation. But the Canadians were getting more shots at goal, not quite getting them past the impenetrable, Zappa-like Ryan Miller but not missing by much. At the other end, Canada’s goalman Roberto Luongo was impeccably impassible.

For a while it looked as though attrition would be the order of the match, but someone had to break eventually, and happily it came down to a Mennonite – Jonathan Toews – to put the first puck into goal. There had been quite a bit of pushing and shoving but the balletic grace of some of the puck-pushing was pretty remarkable. In the second period Corey Perry made it 2-0 before Patrick Kane – no, not that one – set up a beauty of a solo run for Ryan Kesler to bring it back to 2-1. There was already some air of complacency about the Canadian team? Which one is this Sid the Kid guy again?

In the third period Canada basically sat on it and the Americans became keener, hungrier, to win the match. The Canadian play became diffuse, vague, muddled. Sidney Crosby was definitely identified by me as number 87. He hadn’t scored in two games and it was akin to watching Kenny Everett on stage in the ill-fated Hunting Of The Snark musical some 20 years ago; for 95% of the time he hovered around, eagerly tapping his billiard cue, but only had one mediocre number to himself and really his part could have been played by anybody. He looked neutered, confined.

Then Crosby had an immaculate one-on-one chance to shoot for goal and he missed. That was almost it. The same old story. The big chance missed. The grand job they couldn’t quite finish. And, with the most predictable of inevitabilities, Kane equalised, magnificently and imperiously, with 24 seconds of the game to go, or to be more accurate the puck slid between Luongo’s arm and leg and through the goal mouth.

Well, that was it. 30 million Canadian heads in hands. On to extra time, sudden death, and in all probability a shoot-out. All they needed was that magic closer of a third goal, the last, deft touch to make the game and the world theirs. Myself, I thought they’d blown it, and who was this Crosby kid anyway? Just another hype-up, another would-be great sportsman who looked at his page in history and scrawled it out with crude crayon.

Well, someone must have said something to them in the break, since, although the Canadians still looked asleep for the first five minutes or so of extra time play, something – I don’t know what, some fugitive spark – touched them, threatened incineration, and all of a sudden they woke up, started lunging for Miller as though landing at Normandy. They realised what they had to do and they went for everything, and so did the Americans.

More specifically and importantly, Crosby woke up, seemingly remembering what he was there for, ankle injury or no ankle injury; he forgot himself and thrust, once and then twice, for goal. He was possessed, entirely in and of himself – and in the fourteenth minute it happened; with the casual elegance of Noel Coward tipping ash off the end of a never more golden cigarette, he found his angle, spotted his destiny, and skied the puck into the goal with uncanny, Astaire-like artistry.

It was won, Canada indeed owned the podium, and I was proved utterly and thoroughly wrong. In those last two minutes of hockey, Crosby reminded me and everybody else of why we should pay attention to him; he knew what was at stake and, like Antony Sher at the end of God On Trial, suddenly revealed that the game belonged to him.

And it was art. Pure, magnificent art, when you see a human being exceeding their own self, going beyond what they know to be their own limits, doing something supernatural, something neither you nor I could ever hope to do. This is why we attend to sport, why in its glorious irrelevance it is so vital (and as with sport, so with art); the possibility that we might witness and perversely participate in the phenomenon of man becoming more like God.

Monday, 1 March 2010

2009: A Club Odyssey pt. 11

And so they remained, united though apart; she rubbed her thin skin and looked out at the crowd, knowing she could not be seen. They began to grow a little easy within themselves, however, and both began to grow lax to things they should have seen coming, but could not. Still, she could feel that underground stream, ambling along, steady, taking its time, and sat back down for a moment.


On the floor, in the meantime, there was a drunken sense of freedom in the air; and it grew and grew as the night went on. And it did go on, past any sense of reasonable limits. He grew sharper and saw her; she was outrageous in context and he could not look away from her. She, who had been there all night luring, or at least attempting to lure, men, all by being forward and backward at the same time. It worked, of course, and while the players knew of her and regarded her as one of their own, he had never seen her before. His friend said, in passing, "She's trouble. You can't let your guard down. Shut your eyes, don't look at her. Go deaf if you can."

Not that this did very much good.

She stared down from the booth at this insolent girl and grew fearful, despite any tidy inner reassurances. This was exactly what she was afraid of; she looked away. The DJ picked up on this by osmosis.


The music could not save her. It was too much. The girl was like her, a mirror image almost. She felt sick. She wanted the place to be done, the exhaustion and longing to end. And yet the music dragged her in despite herself, like that whirlpool she had dreamt about. She knew he was there, she didn't know he was there; every man was him, no man could possibly be him. The dancers danced, the music bounced off the walls and ceiling to the floor, the bass and beats created and destroyed everything to the pulse of her own heart. She was the music, she felt, she had to give herself up to it; it was like stepping into the dark, not knowing where your foot would fall, or what it would touch. She had to be sick first before she was well, and she may as well be very sick before that wellness could possibly arrive. She left the booth with the DJ's permission, hiding herself and staying near
the wall in the shadows, as close to invisible as she could make herself be. She was noticed by the green-eyed radical, of course, and he grew a little tenser.


The music energized him as well, but in a vitalizing way. It was like the blood transfusion all over again, and he began to dance with the girl in a way that was sincere, earnest, awkward. It was not the dance he liked to do, but he was desperate to dance with this girl nevertheless. She wanted him and he was flattered; but he felt as if he was testing himself again, to see if he would withstand her attentions, her looks, the shapes she made and remade with every step. He wanted her, he wanted her, he didn't want her, he was sick with longing, it could be so easy, so incredibly easy and who would know; but then everyone was here, she was here. He knew it.

He had spited and cursed himself before for even wanting this, and now he was getting close to something and suffering for her; for them; as if this stood for everything.

The girl didn't understand the complexity of this, could not read it, and thus didn't know what to make of his ability to withstand what no other man could have withstood. She tried again.


She held her breath; this was not easy. Even looking was not easy. For once she felt nauseous, not just physically but emotionally. She was with him, whoever he was - did it matter? - and she had no way of measuring herself against this other woman. She wanted to melt into the wall; or become invisible and omnipresent and loud like the music itself. She had clear edges, but this girl was all over him, all over him without actually touching him; this she noted with some puzzlement. The curious look he gave her was like that arrow; she only hoped the arrow would miss. I have no rivals, I have no enemies, she told herself, I can create and recreate myself at will; I could be her. I once was her.

She sank to the ground, numb, sick with envy that was pointless, the sounds flying around her and cutting her like so many birds' wings.


She sang from her heart, and the DJ picked up on this song; yes, she was heartbroken, dammit. If he was here, then he should know. She was not going to hide it anymore; there was no point.

And so she danced, and he saw her dance. The girl didn't see her at first, up on the table, mouthing the words. The green-eyed radical smiled; it was as if she was throwing off a veil.

He watched and forgot the other girl; he watched as she pointed to the sky, the sea, the desolate beach, watched her mime the strength she pretended to have. She could have gone through the floor with her stamping, flown up to the ceiling with her exhortations. She was not going to just sit there, she was never going to just sit there; but being visible to him meant being visible to all, and the player saw her and grabbed her before the song was over, dragging her off without much warning nor fanfare. He watched and was astonished; his friend reassured him that she was not going to be hurt. But he doubted this. Clearly she was hurt beyond all measure.