What am I doing here? It can’t be that I like the smell of cigarettes and stale beer-stained discussion. How do I get pulled in, floating on the current every weekend, and trapped in this eddy with the rest of the dregs? The married, the prepared, the beautiful: they all stay at home paying for the SkyTV to come in like a lobotomy, through the eye sockets, and take a small piece of their happiness away. Downstream, down the road, downwind, flow the dregs. Here the TV is on too, the score always in the top left, the sponsor’s name always on the screen. See the sponsor, buy the sponsor, drink the sponsor, and swallow the sponsor. We’ll watch, of course, here or at home. We’ll watch at every awkward angle, even watch the ads. Otherwise we might catch each other’s eye, have to communicate. Save it for the toilet. Resting my forehead against the cold yellow tile above the urinal, steeling myself for the conversation some guy will come in and start.
“Jeez, you’re tall,”
“Must be over six foot three or four or something…”
“Comin’ up six feet,”
“Must just about have to duck… in the doors, in the doorways.”
A sparring contest. Full contact vernacular gymnastics. I don’t even know the rules. One day I’m going to get caught out, become another beaten-up men’s room statistic. On the way out I catch sight of a real looker, bit blurry, in the cracked mirror over the sink. Wonder he doesn’t pull more, I reckon.
I get in the last shot, “It’s these springs that’re hangin’ down I have to watch”
The smell of smoke and beer closes on the reply (if there even is one). Find my beer, find my seat, and resume paying attention to the sponsor. The little clock under the score marks off the moments of my life flowing by. Time surgically removed under self-administered anaesthetic. The tally etched into my cell wall as I serve my self-imposed sentence.
Where else would I be? Where would any of us go? We’re akin to the strugglers on the screen: the ones with the lowest score at any rate. Not enough go-forward, that’s our problem. We need to get our heads together and work this out. I look around, catching nobody’s eye. Where should I start? Drink more beer, miss the only person I’ve spoken to tonight leaving the toilet, don’t know where he’s sitting, didn’t even get his name.
Suddenly the clock stops. The time has run out and the score is all wrong. All around me grown men are crying into their beer: the athletes whose lives they subsist vicariously through, it turns out, are just the dregs too.
Time to break out of here while the sentry clock is switched off. I’ll wash up on my own shores tonight. Chop it, walk out. Wake up tomorrow with the same question in my throbbing head.
What am I doing here?