The train wheels scrape, screeching in discord on the tracks. My left leg jiggles. There’s a clenched feeling in my guts. A man started over as if to sit next to me but saw me biting the scrap of skin next to my fingernail and moved further down the carriage. The lady opposite keeps flicking her eyes at me from the pages of her book. She’s wearing about eight layers of clothing and it’s not that cold. I don’t look as half as crazy as you do lady, I think to myself.
But maybe I do.
I’ve got my hood up, blocking the light and the snooping looks. I’m slumped in the seat. I can still smell beer and ciggie smoke on my clothes from the other night. It’s late, but I’m wearing my shades to hide my eyes, red from lack of sleep. My clothes are far from clean and I haven’t shaved. I had a quick stop at home – in and out. Packed a bag. Grabbed some cash. Avoided the squeaky board and held my breath as I went past mum and dad, sleeping in their room. Patted the dog on the way out and headed for the station. Tried not to think too much. Tried not to think at all.
My muscles still ache from Saturday’s game. My gut clenches again, thinking back to Saturday, and I curse involuntarily – the lady opposite me really wants to move away, I know it. I hope she does move. Everyone should stay away from me. I wish I could get away from me. I just need to get far, far away, in time and space, from Saturday night.
Everything about me is ordinary, but when I play football, I’m almost someone. It’s given me a group of mates that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Funny, some of those ‘mates’ are probably tipping me in the shit right now. Not that I don’t deserve it. But I wasn’t alone.
I’ve ripped off that bit of skin next to my fingernail and now it’s bleeding. I can taste it on my tongue as I suck on it to try and make it stop. The lady in the layers looks grossed out. There’s plenty of seats love, you can always move.
I can’t help my mind going back. It’s like the bit of skin on my finger – I can’t leave it alone. If I could just go back in time, and change one thing.
We had a massive win. It was Gordo’s 50th game, and we won by a country mile. A win like that calls for a reasonable celebration, and after a few beers at the clubrooms we headed to the pub for a few more.
The opposition team wound up at the same pub. One dickhead picked a fight with Gordo, and at the club it’s one in, all in. Gordo must have thrown forty or fifty punches. I threw one. One punch. One single hit. One hit and a bloke went down and never got up.
My bag is packed. I’m gone.