The Other Me
‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part I’
It had always been Stan and me, but we’d always had different groups of friends. When we were younger, it’d been high school friends. Then it was with guys who lived in my street. Next were Roo and his friends. Then it was Tim and Jay, who we knew from high school. The crowd kept changing, although I was never sure why. We were just nomadic.
Now, it became a combination of people as Tim and I started an indoor cricket team, a decision made on a whim. Tim and I went to the Indoor Cricket Sports Centre one day, registered a team, and then had to work out who would fill the other six of the eight players required. Amongst them were Stan, Stan’s older brother Geoff, Roo, and some high school friends.
Indoor cricket was a great way of getting fit. There were seasons every couple of months, with games weekly, and sometimes twice a week. You’d think given the size of an indoor cricket court, it wouldn’t be a demanding sport. But it was – lots of short but intense activity, like squash. For the first few games, I was sore for weeks.
The funny thing was that the Centre had a bar. So we’d show up, play our game, and then have a few beers afterward. As the seasons wore on and we got to know players from other teams, as well as Centre staff, we’d hang around more and more until we became regulars.
We’d also go out with some of the guys from one of the other teams with whom we’d become good friends. Two, in particular, were Dean and Simon. Dean was mine and Stan’s age, and clicked with us. Simon was five or six years older and a divorcee and single father who ended up renting a house close to my own.
Often, we’d go to his place and drink and watch movies. Other times, Dean and Stan would come over and we’d drink and watch movies in my back room. Between the three of us, there was a lot of drinking going on. Then there was the group socialising – either at the Centre, or going out – and more drinking.
But this was the life, the evolution of being twenty-something. Stan got married, and three of the other guys from the team got into serious relationships that led to engagements. Sometimes I used to look at them and think, Why not me? I never felt that connection anywhere. My head remained too inside itself. In being like that, I felt like an observer to myself moving through the world.
Whenever I went out, I still felt uncomfortable and disconnected – even from guys who became close friends. Bars were dangerous environments, where threats lurked everywhere. The stuff that had been there when I was a teenager was still there, if not worse – like the breakdown had widened the cracks. Now I buried it under drinking and just kept on going as I’d always known, because my head didn’t know how to do it any different. It was pure stubbornness: keep moving forward.
So my life went: indoor cricket, socialising, writing, bartending.
One time following an indoor cricket match, we caught a lift with a guy we’d met there and crashed (at high speed) into a telephone pole. The whole front of the car caved into a V. I emerged from the accident with pain in my ribs, as the seatbelt snapped to restrain me. I also had trouble using that arm without pain.
I played the indoor cricket grand final that week with what I found out later were three broken ribs, bowling at a reduced pace, but got a hat-trick in the second last over to ice the game. The ump awarded me man of the match – a high point for me. It might’ve just been an indoor cricket game, but sometimes you look at little things as signs of greater possibilities, of the potential within yourself.
Instead of resting and letting the bones heal, I kept playing. Kept playing and kept drinking. It got to the point a couple of months later that I was playing for three teams at once, and would be at the Centre most nights – sometimes four or five times throughout a week. It became like a job that lost its lustre.