About the time I was having problems at work, Julian decided to rediscover his masculinity. He started going to soccer games.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said to me nervously. “We don’t do anything much. It just gives me a chance to drink beer and chant some obscene slogans.”
“Knock yourself out,” I said. The Hatchets, our town’s soccer team, was a complete failure, but its fans did have some great chants.
I had to admit, it was a relief having him out of the house. But then, he gradually turned into a Hatchet Man. He dressed in the team colors of red and silver (“silver for the blade, red for the blood!”). He walked around the apartment on game days waving a foam hatchet.
“You consider yourself to be an intellectual,” I said. “Don’t you find all of this slightly ridiculous?”
“What you have to understand is that this town is way too intellectual. We’re so intellectual around here that we need to come down from the heights we’re on and experience flesh-and-bone existence, so to speak. Team sports are very good for that,” he reflected. “I just ask that you be patient and let me run with the wolves for a little while.”
“Sure. Get as much flesh-and-bone excitement as you can.”
“Would you by any chance be interested in going to a game with me?”
“Fine, but could you at least try to catch it on TV? I have a banner I’m going to wave.”
That Friday afternoon, I turned on the television. Julian had donned his blood-soaked scarf and stocking cap about an hour earlier and had taken off for the stadium.
The voice of the local sports commentary barker filled the silence. I had intended to ignore the game, but then an amazing sight drew me to the screen.
This match was a particularly big deal, because the opposing team was visiting from overseas. I watched them file onto the field, hypnotized. They were Europeans. They were strapping and healthy with their universal health care system, obviously well rested from their many vacations. The confident grins on their faces were those of people with good wages and pensions. Culture was seeping from their pores, mixed with their athletic sweat.
There was instant recognition of them deep within my DNA. They came from the ancient land where my liberal values were first born. They were casual and comfortable about being progressive in a way I could never hope to be.
I had to talk to these men and touch them. I knew that by the time I got to the stadium, the game would be in its second half, but I didn’t care. I was going to get the chance to cheer for my favorite team.
I waited outside the stadium until it was all over and the spectators began streaming out. Within seconds, I was surrounded by a wave of red and silver, drunken choruses singing about lumberjacks, busty Hatchet Women with foaming cups of beer. I elbowed my way through the crowd, searching for the otherworldly visitors.
I saw the flash of their bright orange shirts. Ah, there they were. They were walking to their bus.
I pushed forward until I could get near them. I ran up to one of them, a very tall blonde, and pulled at his hand.
“Hi…I’m BlueGirl! Welcome to America!”
“Nice to meet you, BlueGirl,” the player said sadly. “Would you like me to sign your boobs?”
“No, but could you please tell me about your retirement system?”
“Not today, Yankee.” He patted me on the head and shuffled on with the rest of the team, their faces long and suffering.
Could it be? Could the gods have lost a match? And against The Hatchets? Now I understood why the chants were even louder and more slurred than usual. I turned and watched the huge Hatchet Guys slam their bare bellies into each other.
“Disgusting savages,” I thought.
Suddenly, the festive atmosphere vanished. There was movement near the eastern entrance of the stadium. I could hear the sounds of glass smashing and angry screams.
I climbed on one of the concrete head sculptures around the stadium so that I could see better. A whirlwind of violence was cutting through the post-game party, and it was orange. The overseas team had brought European soccer fans with it. They set cars on fire, punched out old ladies , and threw beer bottles at anything in their path. The Hatchet People dropped their foam hatchets and ran.
“Stop! Why are you doing this?” I called out to the Europeans from the top of the giant head. “What’s happened to your sophistication?”
“Aw, shaddap, ya little American bitch!” one of them shouted and hurled a bottle at me. I slid off the back of the head and fell on the sidewalk on my hands and knees. I still had my supernatural falling talents, so I didn’t get seriously hurt, but I found myself in the middle of a raging riot.
As I scrambled away through the smoke and the fighting, a tattered banner floated towards me. It had a happy smiley skull on it, with the motto “Death To Our Foes” written in beautiful cursive next to it. This one had to have been made by Julian. And when I squinted at it once more, I realized that “I Love BlueGirl” was printed in smaller letters at the bottom of the banner.
Ahhhhh, I thought. But where was Julian? And was he okay? I couldn’t picture him coming out on top in a fistfight.
I finally found him, hiding behind an overturned cotton candy stand and clutching at a black eye.
I knelt down close to him, trying to shield him from the rioting. “How are you feeling, baby?”
He blinked at me. “Why are you here? I thought you didn’t like soccer.”
“Uh…” This was one of those times when I wished I could be a better liar. “I was watching the game… and then I really wanted to see you…”
“Could you cut the crap?” he croaked at me and snatched his shredded banner from my hand. “You’re here for something else. Who are you rescuing now?”
I looked in the direction of the European team’s bus, but my view was blocked by a belching soccer hooligan in an orange scarf.
“Nobody,” I replied.
The hooligan spotted the banner Julian was holding. “Check it out,” he muttered. “Death to our foes, eh?”
He picked up a shard of glass from the concrete and approached us.
It had been ages since I had used my blue energy as a weapon, but I pulled some out from inside myself and shot it at him. He continued on, unaffected.
Of course—my liberal energy wouldn’t do anything to him. He was already a liberal European. Where he came from, he was probably on the dole. Dammit.
He cackled at us, swaying from side to side.
So in this case I did not have the advantage of political superiority. But I did have something else. I was sober. As he wavered and his eyes went blank for a moment, I jumped up and gave him a hard kick to the groin.
He collapsed and blacked out on the ground, smiling in a puddle of his own drool.
“Thank you for defending me today,” Julian said quietly.
“Would you like to take me to more games sometime?”
“No… I don’t think soccer is my thing after all.” He curled up on the bed, pressing an ice pack to his eye. “I think I need my sleep. Have a good night, all right?”
“Night night.” I stood up and went into the kitchen. I noticed that the banner was crumpled up in the garbage can.
I leaned on the counter and wondered what was wrong with me. The life I had was good. Why was I wrecking it?
I pulled the scraps of Julian’s banner out of the garbage can and put them on a shelf in the dining room. From now on, I would try harder.