It takes me a while to compose the text, but in the end I think I get it right: â€˜Lost for words for once â€“ desperately wanted to say something to make you smile. No good at jokes, bit better at hugs, guaranteed to clumsily shatter a silence. But I want you to know that if you need a friend to lean on, Iâ€™m here. It just seemed like intruding to say it.â€™
The evening started off well enough, too. An informal Twenty20 on the practice ground; our youth academy against a group of veterans. Good quality veterans mind you â€“ some have played Test cricket, and another we are about to sign for the club. His presence, and a grim desperation for decent match programme content, are the reasons I am here.
I stroll across to the little wooden pavilion. The veterans are batting, so there is a knot of players gathered on the grass in front. I approach them, looking for their captain. They seem a friendly bunch and point me in his direction. I introduce myself, arrange my interview for after the game, then head off in search of the academy director.
But first, I come across Hector, holding court in the cafÃ© next to the changing rooms. He beams at me broadly and shakes my hand.
â€œHow are you?â€ I ask him
â€œGreat â€“ Iâ€™m watching Twenty20!â€ Unlike many county chairmen, he loves the shorter form of the game. And also unlike them, he bothers to turn out to watch the youngsters. I have to say, we are a pretty select band; Hector, myself, the coaching staff, a handful of first team players, the odd proud parent and a couple of girls walking their dog.
I take my leave of Hector and settle down at the far end of the balcony. I promised Owen Iâ€™d call and let him know when I was here â€“ there are still a few interviews we need to fix up. He answers quickly.
â€œWell, hello.â€ Thereâ€™s a slow sexiness in his voice that rather takes me aback.
I sense him watching me for a few moments before I look up.
â€œYouâ€™ve got yourself a good position hereâ€ he says, and flops down onto the chair next to me. We chat for a few moments, but something is not right. I know, from his boss, heâ€™d had to take the previous day off for family reasons.
He lapses into silence.
â€œSo, how are you?â€ I ask.
He looks away â€“ quite definitely away. â€œIâ€™m shattered actually. I was off yesterday â€“ family stuff.â€ He doesnâ€™t elucidate, but after a short pause goes on to tell me (in some detail) about how good his weekend had been before that.
Animation â€“ conversation â€“ silence â€“ looking away. Increasingly, silence and looking away. There is a sense of absolute desolation about him. Iâ€™m glad we have a game of cricket to watch.
In the end I say, â€œYouâ€™re not with it, are you?â€
He turns, towards me this time. â€œSorry, Iâ€™m not very good company.â€
â€œThatâ€™s OK. You donâ€™t have to be.â€
He reaches in his pocket for his phone and flicks it open. â€œSorry, Iâ€™ve got to take this â€“ itâ€™s my brother.â€
I expect him to walk away, but he doesnâ€™t, so I gaze out over the practice ground and try hard not to listen. OK, I pretend not to listen. â€œNoâ€¦ actually noâ€¦ Iâ€™m not in the officeâ€¦ weâ€™ve got an Academy match onâ€¦ watching it with Willowâ€¦ oh, no, I havenâ€™tâ€¦ Iâ€™ll do it when I go back to pick up my suitcaseâ€¦ left the office in a bit of a hurry actuallyâ€¦â€
He finishes the call. â€œIâ€™d better go. I want to see my sister before she goes back.â€ But still he seems reluctant to leave, and we sit in silence some more before he stands up. And I just know my hug isnâ€™t enough.
I also know, in the cold light of day, that he will have found my text faintly embarrassing, but I have not one single regret in sending it. I donâ€™t expect a reply, but every word in it was true. And I felt so empty seeing him like that, empty and completely helpless. I have so little to offer him, you see. And we both know it.
texting is the bane of all relationships these days…it is so hard to just send off a message into the great voiding hoping sometimes waiting…to see if it will touch a string or two..message in a bottle i think
What he wants you cannot offer, what you offer he does not want..sigh
and it goes on…and on
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