protect the goalie

We left the school at five in the morning, hauling hockey gear. It was hours to Pennsylvania, and we wanted to get there early. A full Greyhound bus with only eight high school boys, a tired coach and me.

I tried to read. The boys played video games and gossiped about people I didn’t know.

Coach slept.

Roads and hills, rest stops and rain. An enormous convention center, purple flowered carpet and too many chandeliers, cavernous hallways that stretched to nowhere, rooms you needed keycards to open.

We played the early ice slot at the arena, unfamiliar concrete and linoleum. We walked out to the ice without our skates on, looked up at the empty stands, felt the pulse that was not there, heard the echoes.

I changed alone, away from the boys like I always did, in the hallway, I think, or maybe the empty coaches’ room.

I know we didn’t win, and that I played defense, left. I remember that the goalie would curse me and not the others. He would not let me come close to him when they scored.

We had dinner afterwards, didn’t talk much to the other team, fries and Coca-Cola watered down with melted ice. I mostly listened.

We drove home in the rain and watched old hockey movies on the little television set above the driver’s seat. I lay out across the seats, legs across the aisle. I listened to the movie, but didn’t watch it. Somewhere between Pennsylvania and New York, just before sleep took me, the goalie walked past me, over me, both legs over me, stayed.

What are you doing.

When you play defense, you protect the goalie.

A quick shove and the rest of the bus ride awake.

I waited for the M4 bus at midnight on Madison, glossy bright windows empty, only occasional taxis and limousines stretching by in the dark. I waited until the bus came, and took me home.

© 2016 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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