Fan Fiction - Krasobruslení - Povídky
He’s sitting on the bed, his toes barely touching the carpet. He’s staring blankly out of the window, doesn’t even notice me entering the room. I stand at the doorstep for a few moments, then cross the room and sit down next to him.
“I didn’t ask for this,” he says.
“I know. Your mother did.”
“She doesn’t know anything about this,” he argues.
“She knows what you need.”
“And what is it that I need?”
“You need help.”
“No. I don’t want help.”
“What do you want, then?”
“I want to die.” The dry tone, the ease and clarity with which he says it scares me. He sounds as if he really means it. As if he didn’t have anything worth staying alive for.
It’s what all of us dread the most. Not pain, not losing. It’s quitting.
“You could still coach, you know,” I say, sitting in an armchair in his room as he lies on the bed, motionless, staring apathetically at the ceiling. It’s dark in the room, despite the bright blaze of sunlight outside. He’s drawn the curtains, creating an artificial night for himself.
“Fuck you,” is his only answer.
He would have won that day. I know he would have and so does he. It only makes it sadder. Having the gold within your reach, only to lose it – lose everything – in the last minute of your program… I can’t blame him for being bitter and angry.
But I am selfish. I want him to stop this self-pity act. I want him to get a grip. I want him back.
“Why don’t you just leave me alone?” he asks, annoyed. His voice is raspy – he hasn’t been using it much lately.
I don’t reply, waiting, hoping… I don’t know what for. An angry outburst, maybe, a proof of life, a sign that the flame inside him that I love so much hasn’t died completely.
“Shouldn’t you be at the rink, anyway? Practicing?” he inquires gruffly after a minute, not bothering to turn his head. “Shouldn’t you be in California with your coach?”
When I still don’t react, he finally – finally – flashes me a look.
“But I suppose it doesn’t matter,” he says and I can hear the deliberate, carefully constructed malice in his voice. “It’s not like you have a shot at the podium in Vancouver, anyway.”
It would have hurt if I didn’t see right through him. I know what he’s trying to do.
“It’s not going to work, Johnny,” I inform him, reaching out to touch his arm. He jerks it away as if he’d been burnt.
“You look like shit,” I tell him after dropping down on the corner of his bed. His hair is a tangled mess, there’s a three-day stubble on his face that indicates he hasn’t shaved in at least a week, his eyes are circled with dark rings.
“Then don’t look at me.” He shrugs, as if he really couldn’t care less.
I have been patient, I truly have. But he’s so fucking difficult. A part of me wants to yell at him, yank him out of bed and shake some sense into him. A part of me is terrified that if I did, I’d lose him completely.
The silence stretches out between us. Silence. The very essence of our lives since his injury.
“Brian called me yesterday,” I say nonchalantly, switching tactics. “He’s training in the States again. He wants to see me.” It’s a lie, well, half a lie, for Brian really is in the US. But I haven’t spoken to him. In fact, the last time I spoke to Brian was to break up with him, two years ago, after I realized it was somebody else I wanted.
“Do you think I should meet up with him?” I ask as if I was asking about something trivial, unimportant.
There is a flicker in his eyes, a brief glimpse of something living, but it disappears so quickly that I wonder if I had imagined it.
“I don’t care,” he replies and closes his eyes, ignoring me completely, wandering off into his own world and slamming its door in my face.
I stay for a few more minutes, watching him, his even breathing, the motionless mask of a face. Then I get up, this time not bothering to attempt to touch him, or drop a kiss onto his forehead. I simply leave, feeling something twist in my chest.
“How is Brian doing?” He startles me by speaking first, after several moments of silence.
“He’s fine,” I lie.
A few more minutes pass and I feel a heaviness settle inside me.
“Did you sleep with him?”
His question is barely a whisper and comes so unexpected that I don’t grasp its meaning at first.
“Did you sleep with him?!”
He almost shouts this time, but still doesn’t look me in the face, staring adamantly at the opposite wall. It used to be covered with pictures, notes from friends, and letters, little encouraging tokens from his fans – but he’s taken them all down, leaving the wall bare.
I don’t answer, counting seconds in my head, willing myself to stay calm, to stick to the plan.
I reach 98 before he slowly turns around, looking me straight in the eye for the first time in weeks.
We stare at each other for long moments, his eyes searching, questioning. He looks so tired. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to last much longer, not when he’s looking at me like that. Keeping a cool façade for the press is one thing, keeping it up when you’re looking at the person you love and see that they’re hurting, that you’re making them hurt – that’s so much harder. I lower my gaze and stand up, walking out of the room without a word.
I close the door behind me, but remain standing on the other side. Soon enough, there is an outraged scream, followed by a loud bang. I imagine Johnny, all upset and betrayed, grabbing the nearest book or some other object, throwing it in helpless anger.
“I’m sorry,” I breathe against the closed door.
My cell phone starts ringing wildly at 7am three days after the incident. I reach for it blindly, still half asleep.
“What?” I ask dumbly when she starts rambling into my ear.
“Johnny!” she cries out. “He’s... he’s gone.”
The words cut through my sleepy haze like a blade. I bolt up, sitting on the bed.
“He’s gone. His car is gone, there is no note, nothing. I tried to call him on his cell, but he won’t pick up. I don’t know what – what if he...” Patti sobs at the other end of the line.
The fear hits me with a force that’s almost physical, like a well-aimed kick in the stomach, but I force myself to stay calm for Patti’s sake.
“Okay. Okay,” I repeat, trying to wrap my mind around the situation. “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” With that, I hang up, not waiting for her to respond.
I slip on a pair of jeans, pull on the first shirt I find, splash cold water into my face in the bathroom. Three minutes and I’m in the car and on my way to Johnny’s place. Another twelve and I’m in the Weirs’ kitchen, listening to Patti as she repeats the story once again.
“I just woke up, made coffee, when I noticed his car missing. He hasn’t driven for weeks, what if – oh god.” She breaks down, sobbing into her husband’s chest.
When the landline phone starts ringing in that moment, I leap for it and pick it up, not caring that it’s probably rude.
“Hello?” I say and feel the relief flood me as I hear the voice at the other end.
“It’s Priscilla. He’s at the Pond,” I tell Johnny’s parents as soon as I hang up.
We’re standing by the boards, me and Johnny’s mother, watching in silence.
He’s unsteady on his feet, only a shadow of his former grace and strength left. And yet, to me, he’s never been more beautiful.
Determined, he skates a few laps, slow at first, but picking up speed despite the pain I know he must be feeling. Carefully, he lifts one foot off the ice, testing if he can trust the ice, the blade, himself.
I don’t know if he’s aware of our presence – if he is, he doesn’t acknowledge it, his face tight with focus.
Patti shuffles from foot to foot nervously, growing more and more agitated by the second.
Then Johnny turns, wobbles a little, but manages to keep his balance, moving backwards, crossing one leg over the other. His face twists in pain as he moves, stroke after stroke, circling the rink, his arms stretched out to his sides. Then, suddenly, he reaches back and jabs a toe pick into the ice, but doesn’t go into a revolution, as if he was unable to make his body listen to him. Like a child skipping a rope, he hops up and lands on both feet. He shakes his head and picks up speed again, readying himself for another try.
“Stop,” Patti pleads next to me. Her cry echoes through the arena and Johnny looks up, seeing us for the first time. But he doesn’t slow down.
Patti turns to me, as if looking for some support.
I ignore her for the moment, watching Johnny as he tries to jump again, leaping into the air and barely completing one revolution before he lands on the ice with a crash. He lies there for a moment, but before Patti can rush out to him, he pushes himself up, gasping with pain.
But he’s going to do it again, I can tell, and soon enough he’s lying on the ice again.
“Do something!” Patti exclaims loudly, angrily, looking at me with desperate fear in her eyes, and Johnny turns in our direction, meeting my gaze. I hold his look for a few moments before he nods a little in understanding – I’m not going to do anything; he knows that and knows why. It hurts to watch him and my palms are all raw and red from where I’ve been digging my fingernails into them, hands clenched into fists by my sides. It hurts, but I don’t stop him, because I know he needs this.
When, much later, he drops down onto the ice after a row of failed jumps, exhausted, I finally move forward and step onto the ice, awkward without blades to carry me. I kneel beside him and, after a moment of hesitation, pull him into my arms. He doesn’t push me away again like I feared he might. Instead, he drops his forehead against my chest, his arms hanging limply and his legs curled up beneath him. I lean down to kiss the top of his head and that’s when he breaks down, the tears that he’s been holding back for weeks finally bursting free.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he whimpers.
“I know,” I reply, stroking his back and hoping that, even though I can’t give him back his greatest love, mine will be enough to help his wounds to heal.
“It really is astonishing, isn’t it? Usually, not only in this sport, but in all other sports, too, Olympic champions dedicate their medals to their families or their loved ones. To have an Olympic champion dedicate his gold to the man who’s been his rival for years is unheard of.
I think it is a great gesture, though, and a righteous homage to Johnny Weir’s skating, because if he’d been there, Kurt, if he’d been able to compete, I believe America might have not one, but two Olympic medals.”
Thanks, Reet, for beta-reading./Děkuji Reet za beta-read.