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The thing that I think most people forget is that the worst kinds of hurt are the kinds you never see.

 

Itís easy enough to see blood and bruises, but the kind of pain that creeps into the corners of your mind, that stretches out or sloshes, or the throbbing between your eyes is harder to see. Thereís the ache in your chest, and the emptiness, and wanting of what you canít have--these are things you canít see, but you can feel them, so you know theyíre there. They hurt, but nobody else ever really notices them.

 

LAís been in a slump ever since Deader and Allison went down. It was the beginning of it all, and everyone seemed to go down after them. Ended up with a team of minor leaguers. And Sean Avery. Though he mostly counts as a minor leaguer, too. But thatís unimportant, no matter how much noise Sean likes to make to the contrary. LAís coach, Andy Murray, was convinced that Jason was faking it. The guy had been out for almost a year and still could barely skate without throwing up.

 

Thereíd been a lot of pressure on Andy so maybe it was only a matter of time before he called Jason out to the media. But itís also maybe interesting to note that Andyíd been in a car accident too, earlier that year. Suffered from post-concussion syndrome as well. Couldnít even watch video feed, got dizzy if he did anything other than lie in bed and stare at the wall. Knew what it felt like to have absolutely no control, to be reduced to an infant, knew the desire, the desperation to be like he used to be, and yet.

 

Yet, he still thought Jason was faking it.

 

Did you know that Mikeís convinced heís never been with a woman whoís faked it? Thinks heís a regular Casanova. I told him that it was statistically impossible for him to have never been with a girl whoís never faked it. Heís convinced though. Iíd know, Brett. Iíd be able to feel it. Sense it. Iíd just know.

 

The crazy things you lie to yourself about.

 

Mike had two bedrooms in that old house of his, you know. Well, he had multiple rooms, but there were only two that he slept in. One was all clichť. Smooth gray, maybe silk or satin sheets, all dark and sleek. The metropolitan, cosmopolitan bachelorís room. Emilio Estevez with the slicked back hair in D2.

 

The other with its family portrait (Scout and Bella, his two girls) hanging over the fireplace and end table complete with copy of Phil McGrawís Relationship Rescue. A haphazard sock littering the floor here and there.

 

Guess which one he brought the ladies home to.

 

But then, maybe itís easier to come when you know itís all a performance. Perfect fuck-me setting, and maybe itís easier to throw yourself into that roleóakind of method acting. Try so hard until you believe, until you actually feel. The power of mind over body.

 

I still doubt the sincerity of that statement though. Mikeís all honesty and truth, but even if itís a one-night stand, those strangers are often more cordial and lie more sweetly than a regular bedmate. Of course, I came. Youíre the best Iíve ever had. Itís so big.

 

Wives hardly ever have a problem rolling their eyes and giving you a look of contempt. Thatís it? And you forgot to take out the garbage.

 

I tried to avoid the whole husband thing. I knew Iíd be no good, and of course, I didnít disappoint. It wasnít too long before I ruined it. It was more than cheating: an affair here or there, a girlfriend on the road probably wouldnít have bothered her that much. I just wasnít cut out for the whole marriage thing. Anxious, really, a constant twitch, a skittish animal and I knew pretty soon that Iíd made a mistake. So I fucked it up good because I couldnít dare imagine things actually working out. I did it on my terms, though, which at the time seemed like a brilliant plan.

 

A slow kind of suicide, where the only thing I cared about was the way I felt. All bodily sensation, faces blurred, skin melting into skin, and it was my total disregard for everything that eventually broke her. Iíd forgotten her, forgotten the reason I had gotten married, so divorce was the only right thing to do.

 

God, I was a fucked up coward. She confronted me, and itís only fitting that my best friendís a bit of a coward too. Kerri was always so much stronger, so much more level headed than Mike. She was a good friend and loved him for so very long, and he loved her, so it was difficult watching the media tear her to pieces.

 

The media is the worst ex youíll ever have. Vindictive, cruel bitch. It doesnít matter what you did for her in the past, all the good you did. The moment you slip up, sheís there to watch you stumble and record every moment of it for posterity. So that everyone will always know what you did, always know your mistakes. The first few times itís easy enough to pawn off responsibility: I have no idea what happenedÖ you know, thatís not the real me. But then, sheís always there, always whispering in everyoneís ears, so itís only a matter of time before most people believe her and then they look at you differently. And your actions, past, present, and future, are all reevaluated until all thatís left is this new constituted self (one she herself created). Itís not just that people learn something new about you, itís that your old self is wiped out completely and what is now is what, after all, you were all along. Which is hardly ever the case, butÖ

 

Fucking media.

 

Always hated them, but I learned early on how to work them. I created Brett Hull and sometimes his performances on screen are closer to me than Iíd ever meant to share, and sometimes theyíre so Brett Hull that I have to laugh when everyone starts squawking over them.

 

Mikeís always been careful about his image. But not just to the media. Always ever aware of where he is and what heís doing and whoís watching. He is who he is, but he wants to put his best self forward; heís conscientious like that. An eye for detail (he is a label queen, you know) so itís hard to see him unravel, to see his performance unravel because of one tiny thing he said. Accidentally. Not on purpose. Not a faux paus, not a misunderstanding. JustÖ tired, and a momentary slip up of something honest that nobody wants to hear.

 

Even if the game is shit, and you agree, no fan wants to hear a player say it. Even if your team made a poor managerial decision, no fan really wants to hear a player call the GM out. Lie to me, lie to me, tell me everythingís going to be okay, everythingís going to work out. And Mikeís mostly always been aware of that. He speaks his mind, but itís always tempered by wanting to say the right thing. Heís smart, heís considerate like that.

 

But not always. Heís not the superhero I build him up to be, and when it gets to be too much, when heís overwhelmed and tired and hurt and I know that he wants to go back to that place, he lets a little something slip. And that something always seems to have greater consequences simply because he is who he is: a hockey player.

 

I know Mike was hurting, and that Bobís dealings were just the straw that broke the camelís back. The last in line of a long series of betrayals that in Mikeís mind traveled back even farther than managementís decision not to resign me. And I know that it was hard to smile, to accept that C when his friend had just signed with a rival team.

 

I know all this, so itís easier for me to forgive the things he said. Not so easy for the fans or the media who only see him, never know him, to understand why he cares if he loses a couple of million here or why he canít just pump out goals like clockwork. Cutting him up like they did Petr Sykora, and calling him a whiny sissy primadonna.

 

I know all this, I know Mike, so I canít be objective at all. I wouldnít want to be, anyway, but I am aware of this. This bias. This love.

 

So I know that maybe Iím just making up excuses for him.

 

 

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