Immortald Dreams Published Novel Part 5 of 10
‘Everybody gets those moments when they think they can’t, simply can’t go on; some just go on anyway because they don’t know how to stop.’
Sunny and I decided to stay in California for a while. Anya wasn’t going home this Christmas and I had no plans to either, so the three of us spent Christmas together at Anya’s apartment. Jenny stopped by for one day just before Christmas, before going home to family for the holiday season. She had just finished a reasonable first year on the biggest tour in ladies Golf, she hadn’t set the world alight, but she had earned enough prize money to be back on the tour next year, and that was what all rookies were looking for. Sunny and I swapped stories with Jenny of our golfing exploits from the last year. Although the two of them kept in phone contact throughout the year and rarely went more than two weeks without speaking to each other, they still found plenty to talk about.
During the year Anya had established herself within her field of work. As well as the actual tennis coaching work, she was also one of the community development officers for sport. That meant designing programmes to increase participation and the enjoyment of the kids. She was working mainly with kids from underprivileged backgrounds and loving it. Of course there were some difficult moments, there always will be working with kids, but overall Anya was overjoyed with and enthusiastic about her job. Sunny and I went into her work place one day, the facility is fantastic and the happiness on the kid’s faces was truly something to behold. Plenty of other sports are run there, Anya gets to have an input into most of the plans and programmes, but in terms of coaching she sticks to the tennis.
My first Christmas abroad wasn’t all that dissimilar from one back home, only hotter. Still ate a lot, lazed around, watched some festive television shows and had some laughs with friends. Between Christmas and New Year, Will came over to spend a week or so at Anya’s apartment. With the help of a fold down sofa the place was big enough for the four of us. Everything in America does tend to be bigger than back home.
One day the four of us were talking about what had happened to my wrist and I began to bemoan my luck a little.
‘Don’t forget there is always someone worse of than yourself,’ a typical half hearted attempt to make a point from Will.
‘That’s true for everybody on the planet apart from one person. So are we saying that only one person is allowed to get annoyed? I’m sorry but I think I’ve got the right to be a little pissed off, no matter how badly off some people are. Still doesn’t change the fact that I got caught in a gale at the Honda, somehow managed to miss the cut by one at the US Open and that the most freakish chip in you’ll ever see stops me from qualifying for The Open. Then to top it all off just when I’m finally playing well when it matters, I’m in control of my game and well on the way to getting an excellent tour card, I end up in a fight with some morons in a bar and get my wrist smashed. All this in the one thing I’m truly passionate about. It’s like someone is messing with my dreams, leaving me tantalising close, have a look at what you could have won Jack. They know that the nearer I get the more I’ll want it. Perhaps they’re just telling me to give up, to get the message that I’m not supposed to be a professional golfer. No one else really gets it, just how much it means to me, most people don’t even come close. They seem to think that I’m just joking around and trying to avoid getting a job. All those people at university that talked to me plenty of times, but never got to know a thing about me. People just don’t give a shit about other people. Other than you two nobody has spoken to me since leaving, with the exception of that excuse of a New Years party last year. They just hang out in their gangs of like minded people, they don’t care about the individuals around them as long as there’s somebody there. Not even sure if they like the people they hang out with a lot of the time, people are just weak and believe in some sort of safety in numbers. Anyway I’ve gone off topic here, another point is that I’m not taking shit about whinging from somebody who could whinge for England,’ my outburst grabbed the attention of the other three.
‘All right fair enough,’ Will always looked unfazed and was most comfortable when conversations were kept shallow.
‘I thought you like having an elite band of friends,’ Anya wanted to delve deeper.
‘Oh I do, I just find it amusing how people can be so concerned about being sociable yet not really care about the people around them,’ Anya and I could talk about virtually anything without either of us taking anything personal or being upset by the other person.
‘Don’t get me wrong Jack, I mean I love you to bits but you are very difficult to get close to,’ Anya pointed out with a classy amount of candidness and awkwardness.
‘Oh I know I am.’
‘That’s why we get on so well,’ Sunny chirped in.
‘Exactly. I think that generally people don’t want to know about my life so, unless I’m asked, I don’t tend to share. I know it can come across as cold and emotionless but it’s an attitude that can highlight just which people actually care about your life or are just being sociable to create a good impression of themselves.’
‘I haven’t heard one of your rants for a while, this is fun,’ Anya was clearly enjoying herself.
‘I’m glad my mental breakdown is amusing you.’
‘Oh dear poor Jack is feeling sorry for himself.’
‘Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m pissed off, not feeling sorry for myself.’
‘The difference is important is it?’
‘Yes, pissed off is a tough guy’s emotion,’ even when essentially being very serious Anya and I always tended to give the conversation a light hearted edge. ‘You guys are a lot more sympathetic when you’re drunk.’
‘Are you telling us to get drunk?’ Will asked, as if he actually was awaiting my permission.
‘I’ve never stopped you from getting drunk before and I’m not going to start now.’
‘Yes you have,’ Anya protested.
‘No I’ve stopped you getting drunker at times, never stopped you getting drunk.’
‘Your way with words gets you out of it again.’
The big difference for me seeing in the New Year in California rather than at home was that it happened eight hours later. A couple of days into the New Year I got a phone call from Darla asking if I was still in California because she’d bought a house in Los Angeles and had just flown over and invited us all over to help her break the house in.
I’m not sure when a house becomes a mansion, but Darla’s new beach side home looked big enough to be a mansion to me. The patio and pool area out the back went right onto the beach, a classic luxury beach house. Darla had left a note on the front door telling us to walk around the back. She was sitting in her wheelchair, sipping a cocktail and catching some rays.
‘Hey guys, come on in and enjoy my luxury home,’ Darla was most welcoming, even though she’s only met two of us before.
‘Looking good honey!’ We all climbed up the steps to the patio and grabbed a chair each. ‘Darla this is Anya and Will, my two good friends from my university days. You guys this is… well you know who this is, you’ve seen her on the telly.’
The three of them exchanged pleasantries.
‘So did you guys have a good New Year’s Eve?’ Darla asked.
‘I can’t really remember it so I must have had a good night,’ Will couldn’t help but revert to type of excessive drinker and proud of it.
‘What is that saying about at all?!’ I wondered aggressively. ‘You can’t remember what you did last night, you might have killed a couple of people, you might have….’ I had to stop myself from saying ‘raped a girl’. ‘…hit somebody, stole from somebody, anything. But even though you can’t remember a single bloody thing you did, you class it as a good night. I bet that some people have got ready for a night out, gone downstairs, fallen, bumped their head and ended up unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. Wake up the next morning and then they tell their mates, ‘Tell you what I must have had I belting night last night, I woke up this morning on the floor at home and I don’t remember a thing, I don’t even remember how I got home.’
‘Anyway,’ Darla intervened. ‘You guys want to come in and have a look around?’
The base of the patio door stuck up from the floor a little.
‘Are you all right getting in and out of here in that thing?’ I asked Darla as she slowed down to a stop just outside the door.
‘It is a bit tricky actually. The whole place needs accommodating for wheelchairs, shelves need to be lowered, and a couple of ramps put in and a couple of light switches are out of my reach. I just loved the place so much that I bought it anyway. Next week I’ll get some people round to make all the changes, it will cost a bit and they’ll be the inconvenience of having people in the house but it shouldn’t be too much trouble. Although on second thoughts this would be a whole lot easier if I just got up off my arse and walked.’
Darla pulling herself out of the chair and walking steadily into the house before turning to face the four of us, who produced the literal jaw-dropping response that Darla had intended.
‘Oh wow! I’m an emotionless ice man and I’m nearly crying, I did say nearly,’ I said whilst hugging Darla.
‘I don’t mind crying,’ Sunny joined in the hug and Darla began to produce tears too.
‘Wait a minute,’ I said as the hug broke up. ‘You brought that chair over with you just to do that piece of drama.’
Darla nodded and smiled in a proud to be mischievous way. Meanwhile Anya and Will were just happy to have witnessed the moment, even if it wasn’t somebody they knew.
‘This is fantastic! It’s like witnessing a biblical miracle. How long have you been walking? How does it feel? What else can you do?’
‘I’m not getting too excited yet, it hurts to walk and I’m not near running let alone squatting or twisting and turning. But I am walking and that’s definitely a good start.’ We all made our way into the living area and picked out a comfy chair each.
‘Absolutely, you can’t run before you can walk,’ Sunny showed her positive side that suited her so much, but a side that her life had suppressed. ‘This is huge, I know we’ve both been worried about you never walking again, so you must have been.’
‘Oh only a little bit, I think I went five seconds without thinking about it at one stage.’
‘Did it still feel natural?’
‘The actual movements felt natural it was just that the muscles weakness made it a lot more difficult than before. They said walking on the beach will be a good place for me to start my rehabilitation, as well as some swimming. So I thought moving to California was a good idea.’
‘Moving to California is never a bad idea,’ Anya added.
‘Absolutely. I can have beach parties and people staying over. If you two are staying in California for a while I’d love you to stay here, this place is too big to live alone in,’ Darla said to Sunny and I.
‘As luxurious as the motor home is, I suppose we could handle living here for a few weeks. Just to keep you company of course,’ Sunny was clearly very happy with the idea.
‘It will be great having you guys over.’
‘You can come and stay at our place one day.’
‘That’ll be cosy.’
‘Only way to take away the possibility of true despair, is to take away your dream.’
Some people give off the impression of never being sad or feeling down. I don’t believe that, some of us are just better at hiding it than others. I don’t know why I hide my emotions so often, I’m sure there’ll be some sub-conscious reason. Maybe I just feel that people don’t really want to know if I’m feeling down. Why would they? If they like me then it will upset them that I’m feeling down and if they don’t like me they won’t care anyway. Generally speaking I’m from the “problem shared is a problem doubled” school of thought. Sunny and I did decide to stay with Darla for a while. Should have been able to really enjoy that time, like being on holiday, fantastic house, gorgeous beach, living with two good friends and two more still close by. Yet my injury was getting me down, the Doctors had told me that I wouldn’t be able to play until around the start of April. That was three long months without playing golf that also meant three months with no income. Whilst I was playing frequently, money wasn’t an issue, as I was always averaging enough prize money each week for Sunny and I to live off with some to spare. Yet as soon as I was out of action for a while it became clear just how delicate a financial existence I was living. Fortunately staying a Darla’s and no travelling meant that there were few outgoings but I didn’t want to live off a friend’s generosity forever. Feeling like I was destined to never play higher than mini-tour golf, visioning myself stopping playing in my mid-forties then having to get a “proper” job to earn a living was a revolting image in my head. Destiny seemed to be trying to tell me that I wasn’t meant for the big time. Interesting that I only think of destiny when things are going badly, when things go well it’s because I am that damn good. Here I was in a house with a young lady that had worked unbelievably hard to get to the top of her sport, played great tennis on the big occasion, only for injury to cruelly deny her dream and another young lady who had been raped by two men when she was fourteen, and I was feeling sorry for myself because I had a few cracked bones in my wrist. Logic and rationale is no match for depression at its peak.
My gloom was so deep that it began to show. Anyone who knew me, knew that if I was down it was something serious, knowing nothing trivial would bother me. Soon enough a combination of interest from Darla, Sunny, Will and Anya, cajoled my feelings into verbal form. I told them of my fear that the inter galactic controllers of destiny were all against me and that no matter what I do I wouldn’t get to play top class golf, listing the events of the last year or so to evidence my point. Looking back on this time it is surprising that none of them laid into me and told me to stop feeling sorry for myself. I must have cut a really forlorn figure on the edge of clinical depression.
Anya seemed really worried about me, as if she was not worried about my golf anymore, but my psychological well being. She took me down to her workplace a few times, I think she hoped the kids enthusiasm and joy for playing sport would rub off on me. She even offered me a job coaching there, knowing I could certainly coach Golf and Football and help out with a few others. I even thanked her and told her I’d consider it.
As low as I have ever felt. There was no sharp despair, that’s why it was so bad. Considering doing something else other than play Golf was hideous. Flame of passion was barely flickering and being hit by some sturdy gusts. Was it all worthwhile any more? Had all my defiant speeches to people over the years, been hot air in an attempt to justify my existence? Was I somebody who would dream of and strive for something great, or was I merely somebody who didn’t fit in with the crowd and didn’t know why, so made up this fear of mediocrity theory as a reason to remain out of the loop? Am I just another regular human that had just reached the point when “I realised I wasn’t good enough”? Good enough, tough enough? Did I have the dream but not the drive? Did I even have the dream? Was it all a refusal to grow up and search of escapism from a dreary life? On the brink of pulling out of my pursuit of greatness and joining the rat race.
Darla, Sunny, Will, Anya and I gathered at Darla’s house for an evening meal and a chat. Still in my extreme state of melancholy I wasn’t in my usual role of main conversation instigator.
‘The way I see it there are people like me and people like you,’ Will had that air about him that he had when he was trying to make one of his serious points.
‘You talking to me?’ I managed to refrain from the complete “Taxi Driver” speech.
‘Please feel free to explain fully.’
‘Most people are like me. Chances are at some point I’ll meet a woman I love, marry her, get a reasonable house which will take me thirty years to pay for, have some kids that will become my life and take away what little personal ambition I’ve got, I’ll whinge about the bloody weather most days and look forward to those seven or fourteen days each year when I pay a lot of money to sit on a beach in a foreign country. One day I’ll probably become a grandparent and be able to see my full part in the cycle of life. I’ll have plenty of laughs along the way but nothing that would make an interesting autobiography. But still when my time comes I’ll probably look back on it all with a good deal of satisfaction, I’ll have found a wife to share my life with, brought kids into the world and sent them off on life’s adventure and I’ll have enjoyed myself over the years. The fact that nobody who hadn’t met me would have heard of me, or that nobody will have found my life particularly interesting or impressive, won’t bother me. I really do want an easy life, with creature comforts to keep me happy. You on the other hand are in the much rarer group. There’s a passion inside you that I can’t comprehend, not even sure I want to be able to comprehend. A need to achieve lies within you, maybe not even achieve, maybe striving is enough. But it has to be true striving. If when your time comes you realise you haven’t strived the way you wanted to then you’ll already be dead. You’ll have killed yourself the moment you stopped striving. Don’t think you can be like me and just be happy to get by with an easy life; that would be soul suicide.’
Will spoke with a composure, sincerity and wisdom that he had never matched before or since, all four of us in the room listened intently to every word.
‘What if I am like you though? In fact I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few days and I think it’s time for me to become one of the easy life brigade. So if you don’t mind give me one of those cans of beer and I’ll make it official.’
My words saddened the four other people in the room. Will picked up a can of beer and said, ‘Don’t do this Jack.’
I grabbed the can forcefully out of his hand, pulled the ring pull and put the can to my mouth. Four friends in that room looked at me as if it was a loaded gun I’d just put to my mouth, my dreams had given them all hope to one extent or another during the time I’d known them and now it seemed I’d packed in, put the cue on the rack, let them down and turned on them like a rabid dog.
I pulled the can away from my mouth and slammed it down onto the table. ‘I knew you would come in useful some day, I just knew it,’ pointing at Will that turned into a high five, jumped up out of my seat. ‘And you young lady, if you ever, ever offer me a job again you’ll regret it big time!’ High five Anya. ‘Wow that was horribly close to quitting, sickening. That was the last time I’m ever getting down on myself, from now on I am an irresistible force heading straight for greatness. No problems or setbacks anymore, only challenges and hurdles to overcome. Destiny I don’t care what you’ve got planned for me, I’ll kick your ass too if I need to. If I’m still breathing then I’m still striving.’
Sometimes one person’s mood can affect the mood of the people around them. During my down period I was fully aware that I was putting a dampener on what could’ve and should’ve been a most enjoyable New Year period spent in California. Will’s speech and my subsequent vast mood change, lead to an excellent party atmosphere that night. Darla’s impressive CD collection provided the soundtrack for the five of us to have an exclusive, yet lively party. Four of them got drunk, I was high on life. One of those moments of clarity that doesn’t last forever, but help to recharge your own batteries. They’ll probably need charging again at sometime, but I felt sure they would never go completely flat.
Will went home soon after his role as an impact player on my life. Anya was back to work and enjoying every day of it. One day Darla was seeing her specialist, leaving only Sunny and I sitting on the patio.
‘You do know you are allowed to feel angry, upset and down on yourself without feeling guilty. Just because I got raped doesn’t mean there should be nothing capable of upsetting you.’
‘Oh I know. I’m sure I will feel all those things many times over the next few years. It’s just that your situation does make me feel a little ashamed when I’m feeling sorry for myself.’
‘That’s good. There’s no use in feeling sorry for yourself, believe me I’ve been doing it for years.’
‘Hey you know what we haven’t done for a while?’
‘One of our quick fire getting to know you sessions.’
‘Go on then, I know how much you love them.’
‘Here goes; in the history of films which one character would you want to play?’
‘Ooh, let’s see, maybe Holly Golightly.’
‘Classy, I’ll go with Batman. Favourite place you’ve been to?’
‘St Andrews. Famous sight that you haven’t seen that you would most like to see.’
‘Great Wall of China.’
‘Pyramids. Ideal holiday or vacation destination.’
‘Bermuda. Favourite speech from a movie.’
‘Orson Wells in ‘The Third Man’, Cuckoo clock and all.’
‘That’s a classic, I like Al Pacino’s ultimate pep talk in “Any Given Sunday”. A place and time in history that you would most like to live.’
‘1950’s in LA, all those diners and discos.’
‘I just love the rich scene in New York and London in the 1920’s.’
‘Absolutely. What’s your favourite animal?’
‘I love humming birds.’
‘Yeah, did you know that scientifically their wings aren’t strong enough to support there bodies and fly. But they don’t know that so they just keep flapping, until eventually they do actually fly a little bit at a time. What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?’
‘Has to be the one about the moon landing being fake.’
‘I’ve got to agree with you there.’
‘You agree? Is that the end of the game? Do I win?’
As it happened this was the moment Darla returned home so we ended the game.
Darla came back from the specialist with a face like thunder and sinister glare as she walked up the stairs to the patio and into the house, without making any eye contact with Sunny or me. Knowing she was in the sort of mood that meant any comment could be met with a scathing response, Sunny and I were unsure what to do.
‘Another case of no new information about the knee?’ I asked tentatively after Sunny and I had followed Darla into the house, I could virtually hear the egg shells crunching beneath my feet.
‘Oh there was news, bad news. Very, very bad news. In fact if you’ve got a moment; it was just about the worst news I could imagine getting, the sort of news that the thought of used to send a shiver down my spine and keep me awake at nights. Today I heard the sort of words that every sports performer never wants to hear.’
‘What exactly did he say?’ Sunny asked, the virtual crunching resounding around the room.
‘Have you really not figured it out yet?! He told me it’s virtually certain I will never play top level tennis again. Tennis at all apparently is highly unlikely.’
‘Oh wow Darla, I’m sorry I really don’t have a clue what to say,’ my words were candid at least but none too comforting.
‘The guy who told me was so matter of fact about the whole thing, seemingly completely unaware that his words had destroyed my soul. What an insensitive prick.’
‘I think there are a lot of medical people that don’t understand sport at all, they may understand the injury but can’t come near to comprehending the affect it has,’ ganging up on a common enemy was the best thing I could think of doing at the time.
‘Yeah well this guy didn’t endear himself to me at all.’
‘What are you going to do now?’ Sunny was in the same situation as me, not knowing what to say but feeling she had to say something.
‘Well Sunny, I’m going to drink alcohol until I’m very drunk, then just after I realise I’m very drunk I’m going to drink some more until I throw up, then just after I throw up I’m going to drink some more.’
Sunny and I stayed with Darla through her severe drinking binge that night. On a few occasions we suggested it was time to stop but she was in no mood to be reasonable. Her whole life had been taken away from her, now she was feeling that all she had left was pure hedonism. In the end Darla passing out stopped that particular binge.
For the next few days Sunny and I couldn’t think of the right thing to say to cheer Darla up, so we ended up saying nothing at all. Inside the house the atmosphere was one of an especially tragic person. We did feel like someone had died, indeed it seemed that someone had, Darla the tennis player was no longer with us. The three of us would just sit around staring into space trying to take in the enormity of Darla’s news. Ever since that sickening snap in Paris, there was always a good chance that Darla’s playing days were behind her. Yet none of us ever fully believed that would be the case, those thoughts of “it will never happen to me or someone I know” can be as convincing as a Perry Mason closing argument. Darla continued to drown her sorrows and Sunny and I began to worry seriously about her.
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