In case someone was interested in an alternate view of the day’s events, and, my own neurotic way of saying thanks for great dinner conversation:
I had considered calling in work sick that day. I was home from university working two summer jobs, a crappy one and an awesome one. Today I would be at the crappy one (Canadian Tire, the awesome one was Music World) and even before leaving in the morning I was already on edge.
June 26—Cologne, Germany: Switzerland – Ukraine.
Canadian Tire is a shitty place to work. It’s a shitter place to work if you’re a girl who’s stuck outside in the garden centre, all alone, in a heat wave, without knowing a thing about plants. It’s an even shitter place to work, when your bosses don’t understand soccer and shoo you out of the television aisle on your 15 minute break while you try not to die (of heat exhaustion and heartbreak).
However, it is a fantastic place to work if you have two soccer crazy friends who work beside you (even if one is a Dane).
Anyway, missing the World Cup—and especially missing Switzerland—along with the heat, the “you can’t roll up your sleeves” policy and the lady who just threw a plant at me because I couldn’t tell her how it died (my money would be on abuse) had become too much for me to bare and with one of the above mentioned friends, I set off to a restaurant in the same plaza on lunch to watch what I thought would be the ending of the game. Switzerland had just finished first in their group, beating out France (who would then go on to the final). The team wasn’t great, but they weren’t bad either. They had won their last two games by 2 points and I had an every increasing cocky confidence in them.
Boy, was I about to be in for it.
You know how when people go through a traumatic experience their bodies and their brains automatically shut down to spare them the pain? Something similar would happened to me that day. Pieces of the game have been erased from my mind, despite the fact I had stared at the screen not blinking, and later on, spoke into the phone not breathing. I do remember that I didn’t order beer; I am a lightweight and was already dehydrated, and coming back to work at CT drunk was not something I wanted to add to my CV. I also remember having a coke. And having a burger. And having my heart broken to pieces.
Actually, that last part was a bit of a lie. I had to go back before extra time was over. I had stretched out my hour lunch to about an hour and 15 minutes, and while I wasn’t of sound mind and did not care about anything but the men on screen, my lunch partner didn’t want to be fired over the Swiss (something I still don’t quite understand). Eventually, I left being my Swiss, trudged back to hell (actually, Hell may have been cooler than the Garden Centre at this point) and stood in silence praying no one would speak to me.
Then, my phone rang.
It was my second CT friend and soccer fan sms’ing me to let me know it was going into penalties. I couldn’t breathe. My whole body was shaking. Shaking from the excitement of my little team progressing, from the anger that no one (save two) around me understood—or cared— how important this was, from the nerves that it had gone to penalties, from the joy that they may make it through on penalties, and from the fear that they may not make it through on penalties.
My next step was the only logical one: I ignored everyone and called my dad up demanding a play-by-play (the assholes outside can take care of their own begonias!) At first he teased me, like usual, lecturing what a piece of shit Switzerland is and how they will never do anything and how they shouldn’t even be there (I’m Swiss on my mum’s side by the way). I try to ignore him and listen to the television in the background.
My heart drops, I have no idea what’s happening and my dad is going on about how “Frei’s such a loser. What a loser.” But, I know my dad and I realize that’s probably not in context of what’s going on on the screen in front of him.
I finally loose it and tell him to shut up and tell me what’s going on. Despite the fact he’s 15 minutes away, I can still see the evil smile on his face as he hangs up the phone without replying. Just to torture me.
I slam the phone down (I has used the landline) and I sit behind the outdoor cash hidden away in agony. The Garden Centre is completely empty (because everyone is elsewhere watching the game no doubt…) and my shaking gets worse. I can’t breathe. I think I am going blind.
For anyone who doesn’t watch soccer, that seems like an exaggeration. For anyone who does watch the Beautiful Game, they know that exactly feeling. But usually it’s shorter. It’s that feeling you get when your team is tied in the 87th and the ref reaches into his pocket to produce a card; a colour you can’t see for certain yet. It’s that feeling you get when there’s a corner, a header, a shakey net, and a bad camera angle; is it in the back of the net, or just outside? It’s the feeling your team draws against Barcelona in Champions League; in the second round. Everyone knows that feeling. But it usually only lasts a few seconds because the outcome is quickly produce: a yellow or a red and a new strategy to play, a goal or a non-goal and possibly another corner, oh well—there’s always the league title. But still, those previous 3 seconds before are gut wrenching.
Now imagine them for a full five minutes, stretched out to seem like five hours.
I have no idea if the game is over, or if the Fifa Gods (aka Seppy) had declared Switzerland the winner by default (note: wait, for as corrupt and conniving as he is, you’d think Switzerland would be a bit better on the world stage). I am holding my face so hard that I feel my cheekbones getting bruised. I am omitting a quiet, but steady, whine from my throat that I have no control over. I am about to explode in pure agony, but my body can’t move. For a minute, I try going to my “happy place,” until I realize my “happy place” is at the World Cup watching Switzerland win.
2 more hours past (aka 20 seconds) and I make up my mind to go back to the restaurant. Fuck it. I don’t want to work for people who would not be able to understand why I need to be in front of a television right now anyway. I steady myself to get up from my crouching position, unsure if my legs are even able to work, and then my phone beeps.
“Swiss out. Bad penalties. Sorry.”
I’m immediately relieved. They must be in! No one would send me an sms so crass about the Swiss being out. Surely it’s a joke! I breathe again. I laugh. I’m happy! I go back to the landline to call my father to gloat. But my mum picks up.
My heart drops again. My mother only picks up the phone during a soccer game if something bad happens.
“Let me talk to him.”
“You may not want to right now.”
“LET ME TALK TO HIM.”
“Fine. Hold on. *phone drops* KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID, PHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE. Sonja. No, Sonja. SONJA. YOUR DAUGHTER. *phone re-shuffles* hold on, he’s coming.”
“What do you mean, ‘what happened?’”
“WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE PENALTIES?”
“You obviously already know.”
“NO I DON’T! JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED!”
“They lost. The Swiss are out. They’re the only team that gets out without being score on during regular play! You should be glad you didn’t see it.”
*pause—I am trying to figure out if he’s right, if I AM glad I missed it.*
“Yeah. You can cheer for Italy now. Like you should have since the start.”
“Can I take your stupid flag down?”
*phone goes dead.*
I stand there for a minute, not really sure what to do next. Then, I feel burning in my eyes and before I know it, I’m crying. Not balling, but the same type of cry you get when you’re hit in the nose: the more you try to hold back the tears, the more they burn to come out and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I run inside the store, run through the warehouse to avoid anyone on the floor, run up to the bathroom and sit in the locked stall. I’m not crying, but I am not moving either. For the life of me, I can’t remember when I left or when I went back to work. The two soccer fans downstairs had the good sense not to speak to me for the rest of the day and eventually I left my little Garden Hell.
When I had returned home after work, the Swiss flag had already been removed from the veranda, neatly folded and stored in the back of my closet.