This originally ran on the ProstAmerika website April 8, 2013. It’s been mentioned a couple times recently, so here you go:
He sits down next to me at the bar. I don’t notice him at first. It’s late, the game’s
been over for hours and the place has almost cleared out. An unexpected win. My
club has become giant killers.
I’m not really paying attention; I’ve got too many words in my head and no idea how
to put them together in an order that will make sense to anyone but me. Giant.
“Aye,” he says. “That Ryan Johnson. He’s a handful.”
That voice. I look over at him. He swirls the amber liquid in his glass before taking a
sip. He closes his eyes.
Then it clicks. “Tastes like home, does it?” I ask.
I turn back to my own drink. There are a dozen or more things I want to say to him
and I can’t say any of them. I want to ask him what really happened. I want him to
help me understand when it was that things got so far out of his control. I want to
know if he ever really had the control I’d thought he had.
More than anything, I want to thank him. I learned more from him about strategy
and rivalry and, let’s be honest, straight-up shit-talking than I ever would have with
someone else standing where he’d stood.
And I want to tell him how sorry I am for the way things ended.
“It wasn’t supposed to go the way it did,” his voice is soft, barely above a whisper
and I wonder for a second if he’s talking to me or to the whisky in his glass.
But then he looks up at me. And my heart breaks a little more. I know it’s him. The
timbre of his voice is unmistakable, but if I hadn’t first heard him speak, I would
never have recognized him.
Maybe it’s the weird bar lighting but he looks pale to me, almost grey. And he looks
tired. Tired, but content. Like he’s finally reached the end of a very, very long
He repeats himself, as though he thinks I didn’t hear him the first time and he’s
expecting a response. “It wasn’t supposed to go the way it did.”
“No. I know.“
“This city is phenomenal. This club is a dream club.”
I weigh these words carefully. A dream club.
“These boys, they don’t all understand what they’ve got here. I understood it.”
I nod. “I know you did.”
He sighs. “It was fun, that first season, wasn’t it?” He’s smiling softly at me and I
return the smile.
He drains the whisky from his glass and pulls his cap on. “It should have been more
fun the second season,” he chuckles. “Fookin’ Wynalda.” He winks at me. “This new
guy, he’ll be alright. He’s smart.”
I nod again, not trusting my voice.
“He’s got fight in him,” he tells me. “May as well be a Scot.”
He’s at the door before emotion gets the best of me. “John,” I call to him. “Thank you.
Sincerely. For all of it.”
His hand on the doorknob, he smiles and nods. “Aye.”
And then he slowly fades away. Like he’d never been there at all.