I feel as if I have his stare on me the whole time we do warm ups. I feel like I can’t really stretch in peace, as I wonder if he had even met another queer guy before. Because it really felt alone growing up and not really knowing what the hell was going on with me and what kind of demon should I really be exorcising. So maybe he hadn’t really met anyone queer yet. What if he was from some part where people are still heavily closeted and then boom, you get a queer. Well, if he will be one to actually ask me more questions I could ask him over pizza, if he decides to talk to me again that is. I hoped that he wouldn’t avoid me like the plague because after all it’s rather hard to have a striker which won’t talk to me. We don’t really have to be synchronized but should be a bit beyond hello and goodbye to properly work as a team. I already don’t really count to be close to someone who keeps staring at me as if I’m a living dodo bird anyway.
“Today we’re playing five a side.” The coach announces which is pretty much obvious to everyone since we don’t really have any other team to practice with or play or embarrass ourselves against since our defence is frankly shit. “Johnny, have the honors and choose your team. Andy, you too.”
When I just started playing I would usually get annoyed when I wouldn’t be the one choosing the team but eventually it faded with age, but Andy choosing would always mean that he would take Paul right away. He’d stay away from the other Robbie for no good reason and choose Matt as his last one. Everything was very see-through, but then Johnny would be choosing us blindly based on looks and now knowing that I’m gay. I just sighed and rolled my eyes at Jack choosing Matt because of his build most likely and I guess tall, sort of well built guys stay together. Then even more at Andy choosing Paul, as I would just stand there. It’s Johnny’s turn and he looks at me. I would say he’d decide that he needs a midfielder, but he doesn’t know my position yet.
“Robbie.” He says eventually after looking at our wide choice of boys. I even feel like pointing at myself, but I hold. I just join his side as the choosing continues and I wait, eager to actually start playing instead of doing nothing and having Johnny stare at everyone and choose what the hell could they even do.
On really bad days I actually start asking myself if I even like football, which is a ridiculous question because I do enjoy it more than anything else, but the thing is that I frankly feel that life all around is terribly lukewarm, no matter what you do, it feels like there’s still this top layer which keeps it from being too enjoyable and even medication for depression doesn’t really lift that layer off, it just keeps me being low key depressed.
I do cheer up once Johnny asks all of us confused which positions do we tend to play in, because it means that we will get to play soon and then all my thoughts will be about kicking, running and maybe tackling if someone is far too annoying with a ball.
“What? No one really told me their positions or anything.” Johnny grumbles as Matt rolls his eyes at him. No one seems to be patient today, as if we were wrestling or kick boxing and were about to vent our damn anger out. Everyone announces their positions and that’s when it hits Johnny on what he’s done, but everyone is too much of an asshole to point out earlier. “So… we’ve got three strikers, one midfielder and one defender?”
“Yup.” I say looking at everyone and wondering what the hell would I even do in Johnny’s case. Probably choose a different team. I look at our strikers. I’m guessing Jack is one. He wouldn’t give up that position for sure.
“Alright, can anyone be a midfielder or defence? A fucking goal keeper?” He asks concerned about Andy getting two goal keepers. The coach is probably having a good laugh about it. I didn’t really see it that way that he was trying to be cheeky, but then he was probably trying to be nice in the end of it all.
“I can be a goal keeper.” Matt suggests after a very awkward silence and the fact that we can hear Andy’s team chattering about positions and some diabolical plan to actually manage to win over us, well Andy knows his team and they know what they can do and what they can’t do really. While we’re lost like kinder gardeners who just got handed a ball for the first time.
“Yeah, because you were banging your girlfriend all night, that’s why you want a time out. You’ll be praying that the ball doesn’t go towards you.” The other Robbie complains.
“It’s not my fault she’s your ex-girlfriend, Robbie.” Matt scoffs at the other Robbie. Well, that was a turn of events I had forgotten about or some straight gossip I wasn’t really paying attention to. Johnny smirks at that, crossing his arms on his chest. It’s like a really bad your mom joke gone wrong, where the guy is actually banging the other guy’s mom.
The coach overhears us and sighs looking again at the poor choice of players which Jack had done.
“So, you’re left without a goal keeper.” He sighs, fixing his long black hair back. He turns to face Andy. “Andy, you dickhead, give one of the goalkeepers and you’ll get Matt. Switch now and we can start training now, boys.”
Matt waves at us and sends a kiss to the other Robbie, who just turns around as we get TJ, who I have no fucking idea how he can see without his glasses and he just looks plain weird, considering that we had gone to the same school and he attends my mom’s book club. But it really feels like the whole town is here attending football because there is nothing else to do and to kill time.
Johnny and Andy go to the middle to play rock, paper scissors to decide who gets the ball and in the meantime as I’m waiting and the other Robbie just pushes me, telling me to keep my eyes on the damn ball instead of spacing out.
“Fuck off.” I mutter under my breath and the game starts. Frankly both teams play like absolute shit and what I like about playing football is that all passes in a great blur of sweat and gasping for air and praying that someone will break their legs, both of them, and that I will get a water break. I get the ball very often, simply because Johnny isn’t the best striker and loses the ball more than half the time. Andy and Paul yell more obscenities at each other than play. We end up winning 5-0 somehow, literally because Andy and Paul couldn’t be bothered today. Coach Julian asks for them both to stay behind, so I just take my time waiting for them since we usually go to eat out after practice usually because life is all about killing time even with people who spread rumours about you.
Johnny looks at me sitting on the grass, as I wait.
“What are you waiting for?” He asks me and sits besides me. I just look at him, a bit bewildered that he’s still talking to me, probably decided that there is nothing wrong with talking to the queer. It’s only the cooties you should be worried about and as far as I know he’s not planning to kiss me anytime soon. I decide to change shoes.
“For Andy and Paul. We’re going to grab a pizza, really. We tend to do that after practice.”
“A pizza? Aren’t any of you guys on a diet or anything?” Says the gym bunny, I assume, smirking at his sudden question. Probably Matt would be the only one who I see following some strict gym bunny diet, but even then he eats a shit ton of pizza when we invite him to hang out or when he tags along.
“No.” I shrug. “Why? Who the fuck am I planning to bang that would be counting my abs?”
I say that and realize that a reminder of my sexuality probably wouldn’t be too much of a good thing now. But it’s been said as I scratch my back. I shove my football shoes back into my backpack.
“Well, it’s not just about banging girls…” He pauses and looks at me, as I raise an eyebrow, realizing that my sexuality will always be some sort of token about me and will be high up on my description since frankly I don’t really have that much to tell about myself anyway. So maybe if sexualities make someone interesting, let mine make me interesting then. “Or boys.”
He said that so cautiously.
“Or boys.” I mock how quiet and shy his voice ended up being. Jack looks at me a bit taken back and red. But I decided to leave the newbie alone. “Then what is it about?”
“Looking good for yourself.” He claims.
“Do you honestly believe that?” I ask Johnny curiously.
“Of course I do it to look attractive, but I’m just saying that it’s not just the only reason, you know.” He says, shrugging and I just give him a look, as if he’s lying and I don’t bother to sugar coat it at all. He thinks about his next phrase for a bit and I give him the space, since we’re waiting for Andy and Paul anyway. He’s probably clinging to me because I met him first and he’s terribly iffy on my sexuality. “Is it okay if I join you, Paul and Andy or is it some sort of… triad?”
“God no.” I smirk and then proceed to laugh at his comment. “I would never bang any of those. Ew. God, no. You can join and spice it up, we can be some sort of sleazy swingers then. If you’re into that and you manage to turn those two into men.”
“So you’re… the only one?” Johnny asks me carefully, as if he’s trying to determine who to stay away from and I’m guessing I happen to be in that quarantine zone he would be avoiding later on, as he will manage to meet the rest of the guys.
“Gay?” I ask and Johnny nods. I scratch the back of my head. “Well, there’s this guy I used to date, but he was bi and we don’t really talk much more, naturally.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” He says. I just wave my hand, showing that it doesn’t matter anymore even if I’m frankly shattered and I keep refreshing Grindr and wondering how long will it take me to actually hook up with a 30 year-old from the neighbouring town which keeps writing to me, I am 18 after all, every 30 year-old’s dream. I don’t think I’m that desperate yet. Neither am I writing to the older gay men in our town. Johnny then looks at his fingers. “I had a break up recently. Well, not that recent. She didn’t want to have a long distance relationship, so she ended it with me.”
“Oh.” I say, he’s probably waiting for me to announce the reason I had split up with Steven, but instead I just remain quiet and soon enough Paul and Andy wave at us, so the attention slides back to the two culprits and I wonder how in the hell do you manage to already talk about sexuality and break ups to a stranger? But then people hook up on hello, if they ever speak at all.
I look at Johnny, as he doesn’t really notice or pretends not to notice me staring at him, his curls in the wind. He’s pretty good looking but surely straight, just like most football players even if frankly you can take and make any sport gay because it’s a bunch of sweaty men running around and tackling each other every once in a while. It could well be gay, but it’s pretty hidden from us homosexuals, even if there’s plenty of talk of that guy being gay and the other and a third boning the first.
I have no idea how the fuck will having Johnny on our team will even improve anything, since he’s not that good but he could as well have been deadly terrified or nervous on his first day or he could have possibly not expected us to be this trashy? I glance at him again. Surely straight, so there goes all that belief that somehow this year will be different and there will be a new hot guy to fuck around with, because all the good looking guys are straight here, because there is simply not enough guys in this small town.
It’s been quite a journey for me to explore the dynamics of gay football players so far. I really can’t get enough of them and it’s a lighter story than what I usually write with far more conversations than inner monologues. With so little gay fiction around, and a lack of openly gay football (or soccer if you’re so inclined) players, combining these two has been exciting since I’m all for both of these things and I wish there was more of it.