Inferior by Alley

Why don’t they just make Banks captain and be done with it?

The thought made me feel dizzy, a physical pain, a contraction in my chest that seemed to squeeze all the air out of my lungs. But I couldn’t help but think it sometimes.

If Banks was the star, the team savior, why not just make him captain? If Banks knows better then why not just make him captain?

Hell everyone had something going for them it seemed. Adam was the proclaimed star, Guy had a scoring statistic second only to Banks’, Fulton and Portman were the enforcers, Russ had his knucklepuck, Luis his speed, Ken the figure skating moves, Dwaine his puck handling abilities, Julie and Greg were goalies, and as for Connie, hell, he’d like to see the girl who could play with the guys like Connie does. There’s Averman of course. But Averman has told us already that he’d much rather do something else than hockey. And for now he keeps us laughing. Basically everyone has something going for them.

What do I have?

The C.

Some might think that it was stupid for me to care about some letter. How would they understand… It may just be a letter to anyone else but to me it has become my identity. That’s all I’m holding on to now. Because if I don’t have my C… who am I then? At least where the team is concerned.

I’ll give you and myself an honest answer to that. Nobody. Nobody… just a god damn kid who loves hockey and was naïve enough to think that he could make it for way to long. I’m not that naïve anymore. If Adam obsesses over scouts and scholarships then I’ve honestly stopped caring.

Some might say, “Way to go, Conway. Just give up.” But what do they know?

I’m not Banks. As much as I wish I was I’m not. I’m not a rich boy with a neat haircut, a big house, two parents, straight As, and a hockey talent. I’m a downtown kid with messy curls, a small apartment, a single mother, straight Bs, and a childhood dream of playing hockey that I’ve clung to pathetically.

It’s not that I’m trying to feel sorry for myself. I’m just frustrated. Frustrated because I’m not anywhere close to where I would like to be. Of course no one knows that. I smile and go out on the ice with a “positive attitude” that befits the captain. And I chatter aimlessly with Banks so that most who didn’t know us would think that we’re best friends.

What a joke.

I think I must have known this all along anyways. Somewhere deep inside I understood. That’s why I lived for the C and for the team. The team always comes first. It has been a rule and hell sometimes I think it pays off. At least then something good comes of my being there. At least then I do something really worthwhile.

I might not be able to score five goals per game like Banks. But at least I’m always there to be the one to put the team first. To step aside or step up when it’s needed.

I’ve heard the rumors. That they’re gonna make Banks captain. I’ve fought for this C. I’ve worked for it. And God knows I’ve fought to keep it.

Now that the moment is here and they’re giving Adam the C, now that it resides on his jersey and not mine, part of me wants to ask “why?” Part of me wants to protest. But the rule is still there.

Put the team first.

So I take off my gear quickly and quietly not to attract attention and then after getting dressed in the same manner I stand and walk over to Adam.

“Good luck, Captain,” I say with a genuine smile and head for the door.

Charlie where are you going? They don’t say it but it’s in their eyes. I turn to look at them one final time. I have outlived my purpose for this team. I’m not sure where I’m headed but hopefully it’s somewhere where I can be of use to someone. They don’t say anything but I know they understand. In their own ways but they understand.

I walk out of the locker room and start down the long hall. Behind me the locker room door closes with a final, resounding bang.

Before You Go

Started: 4 Sep 2007

Updated: 13 Oct 2007

Before You Go by Alley

I don’t like the rain much. It’s too gloomy and I hate being cooped up inside for too long. How appropriate that it was gloomy that day as rain clouds gathered above the bus station.

We stood in silence, nether of us quite sure of what to say. Adam was avoiding looking at me and I didn’t feel like instigating a conversation. Ever since Adam got into Uni. on full hockey scholarship I suddenly found that I had very little to say to him. What was I supposed to say? Congratulations? Well I said that.

I don’t even know where I’m going for Uni. or if I’ll be able afford it. And I’m sure as hell not certain about college hockey. Adam’s future was secure from day one. He’d be going to Uni. anyways. No matter if he played hockey or not. It’s like that for “rich kids.” Call it me being jealous. But don’t I have a right to be at least a little bit jealous? After all just because I know that life’s not fair it doesn’t make things easier for a kid like me.

“The bus should be here soon,” I said out of nowhere.

“Yea…” Adam answered distractedly.

“I thought you’d be more excited,” I admitted.

“Should I be?”

“Adam you’re going to one of the best Universities in the US and on full hockey scholarship! I’d be jumping up and down if I were you.” I shunned the bitterness I felt out of my voice and threw a smile his way.

Adam laughed. But it was cheerless, cold, and he still wouldn’t look at me. “There’s not much waiting for me at University, Charlie.”

Of all things this was not what I had expected. “What are you talking about, Adam? This is your dream come true.”

He finally looked up at me and locked his gaze with mine. For a moment I thought I saw tears in his eyes but then he blinked and they were gone. Must have been a trick of the light. But this was still starting to confuse me. “Adam?”

“I bet you could get on the team, Charlie! As a walk on… you know? Or have you tried sending them an application! They’ll take you on grades alone!” His tone sounded strangely hopeful. But the plea stung. He knew very well why I couldn’t do that.

“You know I can’t afford it so please don’t rub it in! Things aren’t as easy for me, Banks!” I really didn’t mean to sound so harsh but the pressure to make some sort of life for myself was driving me to the breaking point these days.

He looked away. “I’m sorry… it’s just… I thought… oh it’s all stupid anyways. Forget it.”

Since when was Banksie lost for words? This rarely happened with him. And why wasn’t he getting pissed at me?

“It’s just I’m going to this new place and I’m gonna be all alone with this while leaving everything most important to me behind.”

“Adam, you know the team is going to fall apart once everyone goes to different—”

“No, Charlie, forget the team! There’s this thing—person—that I can’t leave behind but now I have to and it’s making me fall apart,” he admitted, averting his eyes.

“Someone special?”

A nod.

“You in love, Banksie?”

He shrugged. “I guess. Never felt this way before so I really don’t know what to call it.”

“You wanna tell me who she is?”

“It’s not a she.”

“Oh.” That was really all I could say. Nothing else seemed to fit. Besides, I’m not the kind of person who’s going to judge a friend like that. “You still wanna tell me?”

“I can’t.”

“I won’t tell. Have you tried to ever tell this guy?”

“No. I can’t.”

“Oh come on, man. You never know he might like you back.”

“He doesn’t.”

I gave him a look. “How can you be sure?”

The bus pulled up at that moment. “Because,” Adam started softly as he began to back away toward the awaiting bus. “Because you have Linda.”

I watched him walk away.