Probably this is the reason why we do not invoke the god of war to discourage and frighten the enemy before a battle; but we’re gaining national identity, as some successful events have recently triggered our collective enthusiasm. Sports specifically, made the miracle of getting together the good people of this land to encourage the national team.
In 2008 Sandwich won an international soccer cup, an Olympic medal in basketball, some important cycling races… and what can I say about tennis? That cute Sandwichian boy, who wins all the tournaments lately, is known all over the world not only for being no.1, but also for his perfect body and outstanding butt.
Talking about tennis, some days ago Bob the Great phoned me with this tempting offer:
- Hey Len. Are you still cross? –he asked-
- No I’m not cross, Bob. And you? –I answered-
- I’m good, baby. I got two vip box seats for the Yoobie Cup final. The match will be tomorrow afternoon at the Arena. Would you like to go there with me? They have free grub’n’booze at the hospitality suite. And I promise to support the Sandwichian guys.
Sandwich is populated by people of different nationalities who coexist in peace and harmony. Just as a refresher: Bob was born in Zeewland, a small and proud country under sea level. Zeewlanders are big people –tallest in the world-, so they can do big things very often.
The Yoobie Cup is the premier international event in men’s tennis. The tournament was conceived in 1850 by four members of the Rocketts University tennis team in Orsinia, who wished to challenge the Burdish to a tennis competition.
Last year, Sandwich qualified for the Yoobie Cup and it was scheduled to play in 2008 against Orsinia. ITF gives Orsinia the first place in ratings. I’m not a huge sports fan, but the match was going to be the most important sports event of the century in Sandwich and to be sure, it would be thrilling. And also, it would be a good opportunity to make peace with Bob in a civilized way. That sounded good, so… why not?
- That would be lovely, Bob. –I said, accepting his invitation-
- Excellent. I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 2PM.
I put my ripped faded jeans and blue tank top on for the occasion. He wore his baggy trousers, Nike Air Max Light Academy and black t-shirt with the slogan ‘Sorry girls, I only date models’. He looked very trendy, in the most typical Bobster fashion.
Sandwich is a very small island and there’s no room for big sports facilities, due to lack of space. Instead of them we have the Arena, a reduced bullring where apart from bullfighting –which by the way, I hate-, some other events are organised.
The Arena was designed in the mid 30s and has a sitting capacity of 25.000. It’s often used as a concert and sports venue in summer. There are also Christmas pantomimes and circus for the kids in winter.
So that day, Bob picked me up at 2AM, as agreed.
At the Arena, we were escorted to our seats by a voluptuous blond hostess dressed in flashy blue miniskirt and white top two sizes smaller than it should be, who showed us the free buffet place and gave us two hats to protect ourselves from the sun –a privilege only for vip guests-.
The buffet counter was covered with mouthwatering sandwich mountains of all sorts: chopped egg with smoked salmon, date, walnut and cream cheese, California veggie wrap, croque-monsieur, focaccia, bagels and other tasty delicacies. Bob started drooling alternatively over the hostess and the sandwiches, until I pushed him gently to wake him up from his daydreams and move. Our box was excellent. We had very comfortable seats and impressive view of the tennis yard.
The Arena was packed with people. It was hot and the sun was beating down on the audience. The match could last up to four hours or even more, so almost everybody was wearing a newspaper hat, using a fan, having a drink or doing the three things at the same time.
Thousands of Sandwichian flags were proudly waved by the supporters, who started their chants with ‘We will rock you’, accompanied by horns, bass drums and a great fanfare. Just in case you didn’t know: Sandwichians are very noisy people. As a proud Sandwichian, I include myself in this category.
The Orsinian supporters –a small group seated on the first floor stands- were very quiet, probably intimidated by the impressive racket. When the players came onto the yard, a great roar filled the Arena. Sandwichians and Orsinians stood up as the national anthems began playing.
- Who did you shag to get vip box seats for the final match, Bob? They’re selling them for more than 200 G –I whispered into his ear-
- I didn’t shag anyone, babe. I’m not the only one who has contacts. –he answered, deliberately making reference to Ed-. I made a nice banner at home. Look, Len. What do you think? –he asked-
He opened out the banner. It read “UP WITH SANDWICH. FUCK ORSINIA” in big red flashy capital letters. I gasped in horror and snatched the banner away from him.
- Are you crazy??? If you show this, the security guys will kick you off and I’ll tell them I don’t know you. –I said, very nervous-
- I’ll tell them the banner is yours, then. –he replied-
- If you show the banner I’ll go home. –I threatened-.
- Oh Len, it was just a joke to scare you! –he said, pulling my hand-
What kind of joke was that?
- Fold it right now and hide it in your undies so that nobody can see it. –I said-
- Jeez Len, you have no sense of humour at all … -he complained-
- That’s not fun!
Bob was crazy. Definitely. I looked around, just in case someone who knew me would identify me with that stupid banner, if Bob eventually decided to show it.
But so far so good, the match continued and I put my hat back again.
The score was tied. As soon as the fifth set started, Bob began to fidget around on his chair and shake his legs.
- Hey Len, I’m starving. Gonna get some grub at the counter. May I bring you something? –he asked-
- Ehm… yes, a diet coke, please.
- Babe, why were you covering your face with the hat?
- Don’t want to get sunburns. –I whispered-
- Jeez Len, why don't you just use sunmilk? Sometimes you’re real weird. –he said, staring at me-
He quickly left to the buffet and just some seconds after, my cellphone went.
- Hi sweetie, how are you?
I recognised Ed’s voice. I looked back and saw him wave hello from the presidential box. And so did Hellgirl, who was sitting next to him.
- I’m fine, thanks. Nice to speak to you. I thought you were travelling.
- I’m flying to Burdishland tomorrow, babe. Why are you watching the match with Mr. Arsehole Man?
- Oh pack it in, Ed.
- Next time you see me with a woman and you call me into account after blowing up your temper, remember this.
- Bob only invited me to the match. There’s nothing more to add.
- That’s excellent. But I’m still waiting for the answer to some questions you brilliantly avoided a few weeks ago.
I knew that. The hour of truth was arriving for me and I was postponing it deliberately. I hated ultimatums, but after our recurrent affair, I owed him an answer for his repeated attempts to bring to an end my ‘available status’.
I had no power on my feelings and emotions, but desperately tried to hold them back; I was afraid to be lost in a flush of love; scared to think he might not be the right person; terrified to surrender independence and change my lifestyle; worried about the age gap and maturity differences between us.
And yet, my heart skipped a beat every time he was around. More than I could ever remember with any other man I had met in the past. Sometimes I even scared myself at the depth and intensity of my feelings for him.
I needed to strengthen our connection rituals before committing; to feel our empathy; to share our inner selves. I needed not only physical intimacy, but also emotional and spiritual closeness. And above all: I needed reciprocity.
I knew I was very demanding. I never found what I was looking for in my whole life, so I always assumed I was asking for too much.
- Ed. –I said-
- Can we meet now? I don’t think we should discuss this on the phone.
- You’re right. Let’s meet at the second floor terrace.
I rushed. I almost ran into Bob on my way to the terrace. He was carrying a big bag of sandwiches, ice cream and two soft drinks.
- Hey, where are you going, Len? –he asked-
- Eew… loo! I have an emergency! –I shouted, running to the corridors-
- Oh, ok but you’ll be missing the game! –he said, disappointed to see me run away-
Yes, I know this was a bloody awful miserable lie and I regretted that, but I had no choice.
I ran upstairs as fast as I could, asking myself why I was feeling so nervous and excited about meeting Ed. When I got to the second floor, he was standing there in the shadow, leaning on the ballustrade of the terrace.
There was nobody around and that made him look so lonely and strong at the same time. He smiled at me and I thought I was burning in a fire of a thousand years in the making. But I held back my passion for him.
- Hi sweet princess. Let’s hide over there; there are reporters around and I wouldn’t want to be photographed. –he said-
I smiled and followed him to the other side of the terrace, where nobody could see us.
- How are you? –I asked-
- How long will it take you to say ‘How are you, my love’? –he asked back-
I blushed and didn’t know what to answer.
- Come near, please –he insisted-. I love you, little one. You know that, don’t you?
I approached him and smiled. He grabbed my face and kissed me deep and passionate. Two seconds later, a great roar filled the Arena. Sandwich had won the match.
I closed my eyes and enjoyed his endless kiss. His stiff tongue licked and tickled my upper lip. I wanted more, and he started sucking gently on my lower lip. He wrapped his hands around my waist, pulling me closer to him. I took a deep breath and quietly moaned with pleasure. Then he tenderly kissed my eyes, my cheeks, my forehead, my hands and I thought I was going to melt right there.
Before our kiss would end, I saw what looked like several flashlights at the deserted corridor, opposite to the terrace. Somebody was taking pictures of us. Ed held me tight and whispered into my ear:
- Oh fuck, don’t look. I knew this would be happening sooner or later. I’m sorry, Leni, but I’m afraid you and I will be in the gossip pages tomorrow.
I rested my face on his chest. Ed covered my face with his hands, so that I wouldn't be recognized in the pictures. He became pale, but I was floating on a cotton cloud, dancing in the dark.
I didn't realise what was coming.
"A whiter shade of pale" (Procol Harum)