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Yearly Archives: 2012
Hazard, Oscar, Marin to Chelsea
RVP, Kagawa to ManU
Sahin, Borini, Joe Allen to Liverpool
Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud to Arsenal
Maicon, Rodwell, Sinclair, Javi Garcia to Man City
Modric, Essien to Madrid
Dempsey, Lloris, Dembele, Adebayor, Vertonghen, Sigurdsson to Spurs
QPR buying/renting a whole new team – Cesar, Granero, Mbia, Bosingwa, Park, Fabio
“How can you possibly stay in a place that’s sunny all the time? I need an ambience of temperamental-ity.”
He’d asked for it. Over the last two weeks, there had been hail, sunshine, rain and bursts of cloudy haze. He hadn’t been enjoying himself though. He slept for far longer than he usually did, ate far less and didn’t even speak out very often.
“What’s wrong Nuff?”
“Stop bothering me and get back to work. That course isn’t paying for itself.”
“Don’t snap at me man. I can tell that there’s something bothering you. What happened?”
“I’m bored. Let’s go out for a walk.”
We only made it to the bus stop before he decided to plonk down on a bench.
“Come on Nuff, that’s hardly a walk. Let’s keep going.”
“No let’s catch the bus. I need some interference.”
By interference, he meant the rattling of the bus. Some external “flux” usually helped him channel his thoughts. Four minutes later we were on the bus.
“Damned hybrids – with good roads and great suspension, how’s a fellow going to get enough interference to think?”
Just last week, he was telling me about the growing number of miscarriages because of the worsening condition of urban Indian roads.
I wanted to stop Nuff from thinking too much. So I thought I’d get him to start talking about something he’d always enjoyed – telling me what I could be doing.
“Nuff – what do you think is important for a guy our age? Someone who…”
“…isn’t balding, and who’s idea of a Friday evening isn’t a puzzle game?”
“Well, yeah… more or less. Wait, was that a dig at me?”
“No. I wouldn’t let you sink to that. Anyway, first of all – you need to realize something. Most people are over-reachers. Ambition and a generous sense of self might drive that forward, but that’s also a beachhead for burnout. The dancing flames of the ego are stoked, crackling about like the tongue of an adolescent rattlesnake on a cream popsicle.”
“Nothing. Man, that girl was pretty.”
“The one who got off. I mixed my metaphors up.”
“So underneath those eyes that shine like uncut diamonds lies a need for self-assurance. It’s what keeps them up at night – making sure they’ve covered a problem set properly, making sure the day’s build reaches the other office on time, making sure their girlfriend is happy.”
“I was still looking at her.”
“She’s dating that other girl.”
“Oh. How did you…”
“Right. Attention to detail. That’s what I’m getting at. In the midst of all the distractions and all the work, remember that details matter.”
“But how did you…”
“..and then, of course, there’s knowing what to think about. Some things need to be dropped the moment they come up. They don’t go anywhere, and they are nothing short of emotional time sinks.”
“Did you know her before…”
“So don’t get caught up with stuff that doesn’t matter. When every action is an exercise in discrete discernment, when every thought is an abstracted chain of reasoning – life is easy. It takes care of itself.”
“…it doesn’t matter… right. But then if you’re always thinking three steps ahead…”
“Then you’re always off-step on the current bar. So then things get challenging. People become difficult to manage. There are misinterpretations, misunderstandings. Humour is convoluted. Reasoning goes the way of Jaeger on Friday.”
He burst out laughing as well.
“But then you get to my age. Well, then things change.”
“Wait, how? You’re just three…”
“If you’re always planning things out, then nothing surprises you anymore. There’s nothing to look forward to.”
“Is that why you’re here?”
“I’m here to free-load-off you, and the weather’s nice.”
“Where would you be without me? I get you on to more roofs that you’ve ever been on.”
“And you wouldn’t know what to do with your time if I weren’t around.”
“One note off the bar, Nuff…”
“Get it? Free-load-off…?”
“Let’s get off here.”
We were back at the coffee shop. We always ended up here.
“So what, those girls were wearing each other’s socks or something?”
“No, I was just yanking your chain. If you’re asking me what people should do, I will treat that with the seriousness it deserves.”
“And how serious would that be?”
“Like teaching sign language to a monkey so that it can ask for permission to scratch itself.”
Nuff said – “You know you’re life is wrong if its background score is a chirping cricket.”
“We’re going out Nuff, come on. It’s a good day for a walk.”
“Need another excuse to distract yourself? It’s the middle of the week. Back to work with you.”
“Nuff – I don’t want to come back to find you in some self-induced stupor. Let’s go.”
“Whatever – your house, your rules…”
He didn’t really mean that, but we were on our way soon enough. It really was a nice day for a walk. He seemed to think so too. But something about the mood he was in made him think about our history, and what we’d faced together.
“You remember that time I decided to steal some money from that drawer in my house?”
“Of course man, that was over fourteen years ago though. It was the one time I saw your mother that livid with you. Why did you try that anyway?”
“I’d lost the tennis ball we were playing cricket with the evening before, and I had to pay Abdul back – he was pretty insistent, the clod. Come on, we were in middle school. I’m allowed a few silly mistakes if I’m in middle school.”
“Fair enough. All I remember was her staring really horridly at you when she caught you with your hand in her purse.”
“She wasn’t staring at me – she was staring right into me… it was unbelievably unsettling.”
“She told me to leave right then, didn’t she? What happened after that? I’ve never asked.”
“She made me sit in the kitchen with her all evening. She didn’t say a word – she just made me sit and watch her cook. She didn’t look at me, not once. I’ve never felt that afraid around anyone… I could feel this contained rage in her, but waiting to see what would happen felt worse than facing the full brunt of that anger.”
“She just made you sit? That couldn’t have been that bad….”
“You’re kidding right? Being made to contemplate the magnitude of the mistake you’ve just made – no reparation, no retribution, just pure introspection. It was earth-shatteringly frightening. I was imagining all sorts of punishment, but I didn’t realize that this WAS the punishment.”
“So what happened then?”
“My father came home. She spoke to him in the other room. Then they both called me in to sit down in front of them in the other room…
He’d spoken to me at length about right and wrong. They weren’t really religious, but I still remember him telling me about this concept of natural justice. They were both just staring at me. She was angry, but his eyes – his eyes held such unfathomable disappointment. I don’t know what happened, but I just started crying.”
“You cried? I’ve never seen you cry, not even when… Really?”
“Yeah. He told me to stop. I apologized. And then, as if all of that wasn’t enough – he said something that’s stuck with me forever.
He said – ‘Son, when you fall down to this level, I wish just this one thing for you – that you, for all times from now, know exactly what this behavior makes of you; and that you know just how little that means…'”
“You’re not serious. He said that?”
“Yeah. I can’t forget his exact words now, can I?”
“Yeah, but you weren’t even past middle school…”
“Didn’t matter. They knew right from wrong, those two.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“I miss them man.”
“I know Nuff.”
So much of who he is today is shaped by events like this. However intelligent, accomplished or self-taught one might be, some lessons persist inside you forever. Even in Nuff.
“This isn’t a great day for a walk, but better out than in, huh?”
Nuff was smiling again. The day was long from done, but I’d be here for him.
“Better out than in… yeah.”
Nuff said: “It is a comfort in wretchedness to have companions in woe.”
Waits there for a day
She’ll forgive a frown
There’s nothing you can say
Nothing will turn her away
She isn’t leaving town
A morphed sun-lit mask
She’s smiling underneath
A haunting gravity
She’ll never let you sleep
It’ll tug inside, hold deep
There’s nothing in there for me
I wasn’t in the mood for this.
“Stop playing that song Nuff”.
This week just didn’t seem to end. Stop-motion madness. I think Nuff could tell – although he’d been slipping in and out of the room, making shady phone calls. On my phone, even. I didn’t stop him.
“Leave unto Nuff what Nuff would have you leave behind.”
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you behind all that self-hating…”
“That was uncalled for, man. You know that…”
“That you’re really busy? That your weeks are bordering on the absurd? Yeah, who brought all that down on you?”
“Yeah shut up Nuff. I’ve had enough of…”
“No. I’ve had enough. Put that laptop away. We’ve made plans”.
“Fantastic, you always do. But I’m not…”
Six minutes later, we were on the roof of a mid-rise residential building.
“What are we doing here man? Why is that door even unlocked in the first place?”
“Fire regulations. That flight of stairs is the only way in. Therefore, it’s the only fire escape; fire escapes can’t be locked. They wouldn’t be very good at being fire escapes then.”
Made sense. People like Nuff are always on rooftops anyway.
“We wouldn’t want to lose people like you to silly fires, would we?”
“What would you do without me here? Risk frost-bite on your knuckles while you’re cycling a mile back home at 1 am after spending seven hours in the library doing…”
“Just… you know what, man? That’s about enough.”
“I know, I know. Here.”
“I’m not in the mood. Really, it’s been a horrible week, I’m tired and this is difficult enough to handle without…”
Three minutes later, I was half a sports-bottle down through a pale-green liquid that Nuff had brought with him.
“And the taste – man, it tastes like…”
He was smiling to himself again.
“Remember that Iranian guy I played football with? He’s married, and his wife makes this at home”.
“That’s absurd. If this has what I think it does in it, it isn’t even safe to…”
“She’s a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, with a lot of time on her hands. And the cactus grows in the desert. You put all of that together, and you get…”
“You get messed up, that’s what you get!”
We were laughing really loudly, and on a roof. This wasn’t even funny, but that didn’t stop us. Not when Nuff was around.
I don’t remember much after that, except I remember my phone ringing. Nuff picked it up – he’d seen where I was and decided to intervene.
“Hello? You want whom? He’s gone away, I think. Let me check…
Yeah, he’s not here.”
“Where is he now? I couldn’t tell for certain, really. No, he’s definitely not here though.”
“A message? No man, I don’t think I can get to him right now.”
“Who am I?”
He smiled again. I hadn’t seem him smile like that for a long time.
“Just a friend, maybe. Most of the time, at least.”
“Sorry I couldn’t help… Bye.”
“Thanks, Nuff. I owe you one.”
“Sure. Now, listen to this. This music is what dreams would sound like if they orgasmed…”
Nuff said: “Show me a happy man, and I’ll give you something to laugh at.”
“Why are there so many fountains around here?”
“Why on earth do you have closing times on this gigantic library? It’s cruel to make students come all the way here to refer to archaic material they can’t check out and can’t finish using in one sitting, only to haul themselves back home every morning at 1 am.”
“There were more fruit trees around the last time I was here. They probably want you to buy your fruits now. No free lunches, eh?”
“Center of Silicon Valley, and insufficient street lighting… I guess no one wants to mug all these rich kids? Give me one week in this place…”
“Is that a skunk on the children’s playground? Talk about animal cruelty…”
His mind works in mysterious ways.
Well anyway, Nuff is a coffee nut. So he’s always looking out for that next great brew. I showed him the places that sold coffee around, and in a couple of days he’d been to all of them already.
“The cafes around the campus all sell coffee at ridiculously high prices. Come to think of it, they must all have joint ownership, or be part of the same parent holding. They’ve jacked the rates up in tandem.”
That was true.
“The bookstore, however, sells coffee at 50 cents a cup.”
I already knew that, but I asked him how they managed that.
“Well, its probably run by the University. So they aren’t particular about the quality of the coffee, or anything else there, for that matter”.
I asked him what he thought about the coffee.
“The bookstore coffee was terrible. So terrible, that I think you’re paying 50 cents just for the take-away cup. If you took your own cup there, they’d probably pay you to drink in it”.
So much for that. I asked him which place had the best coffee.
“I’m going to stick to the bookstore cafe.”
I didn’t quite ask why, but I found out soon enough.
We went up to the bookstore cafe one morning, and it was during classes so there weren’t many people about. The girl at the counter seemed rather bored, but she stood up as soon as we stepped in. She was rather pretty.
“I got this”.
Boy, did he.
“Hey, what would you like?”
“I want your best coffee. What can you get me?”
He gave her a wide smile. I didn’t really see him do that very often, and I still can’t place what happened next.
“You were here yesterday as well, weren’t you? I still wouldn’t recommend anything here, honey.”
“If I brought you here, what would you have?”
I was a bit taken aback. That seemed rather blunt, and before I could step in and say anything…
“Oh, you would’t be bringing me here for the best coffee now, would you?”
“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”
“You’d be taking me someplace far nicer.”
“I would, wouldn’t I? This wouldn’t do you any justice.”
“Yea, you would.”
This was absurd. She was blushing, and he’d done nothing at all.
“Why don’t I take you to a place where there’s really good coffee?”
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“I know you are.”
Now this was just ridiculous. Nuff was grinning like a nutter elf.
“I still want coffee now.”
“I’m off in an hour.”
“Hmm, sounds reasonable. That better be good coffee, if I’m going to have to wait for it.”
“I brew it myself, in my dorm room.”
“I’ll see you in an hour then.”
“Meet me outside. I’m Erica.”
“To good times and great coffee, Erica.”
He gave her another smile, and simply strolled out.
I was left standing there, holding 50 cents in my hand for the coffee.
“Erm, I’ll take a medium coffee, please…”
Nuff didn’t come back till late that evening. I asked him if the coffee kept him awake.
“Spicy coffee does that to me, yeah.”
Nuff makes new friends really well. He was settling in.
Nuff said – “I’m bringing the ‘cool’ back to ‘masculine’.”
What a nutter…