No Time to Say Goodbye

 

I bite my lower lip, trying for the hundredth time in eighteen hours not to release the crying fit inside of me, as I look out a small oval window at skies of blue, as Joe speaks pleasantly at the stewardess serving us drinks. Joe can be pleasant, even when the world is falling apart around him. That's one of the things I like about him. And why I'm glad to be his roommate.

And still teammate.

But I left my heart behind in Dallas. The heart that rests in the hands of big #2.

The tears in the dressing room flowed freely that afternoon. But all of us were together. There was no time for him and me to be alone, no time to say the words we needed to say.

I love you, Derian. Be strong, Jamie.

"Jamie?"

I turn my head. Joe smiles as he hands me a carton of whole milk and a straw. I really can't stand anything stronger right now. I'd really be a wreck then.

"Thanks, Joe." I pop open the cartonand stick the straw in. I take a long sip of the cold milk, and suddenly feel like a kid again. When cold milk and a mother's love could fix any of life's boo-boos.

The only thing that can fix this boo-boo is league disapproval of this trade, I think, a flame of anger popping up inside of me. After a tough 2000-2001, I was playing my best hockey in years this season. I had wanted to contribute to the Stars' playoff fight. I looked forward to being side-by-side with my men in green. What I had done was play myself into being more tasty trade bait.

Fuck those bastards! Fuck them! FUCK them!!!

"Did you know that today is the first day of spring, Jamie?"

"No..." It sure didn't feel like it. How could I celebrate spring when I had just been ripped away from my team...from my Derian...

I saw him once again in my mind's eye, the last time I had seen him, his strong face looking down at mine, the glistening in his eyes the only sign of his pain. He shook my hand, said, "See you around, my man," then gave a hug no stronger than any of the other hugs that day. I know that's the way it had to be in front of the other guys. But I won't see him again until June. Or unless the Stars meet the Devils in the Finals...

No, no, I can't face that, I can't even think about Derian and me on opposing teams! We were always supposed to fight together. Thinking of us in different colors makes me sick.

"Spring is a time for new beginnings," continues Joe. "This is a new beginning for us."

"It feels more like an ending," I say with more surliness than I intended.

"The Devils are potential Cup champions."

"So were the Stars."

"Who were hanging by the skin of their teeth to the eighth playoff spot last time I checked."

"Their teeth?" That did it. "So the Stars have become `they' that quickly, huh? Well, I have more loyalty than that!"

"Jamie, calm down."

"Look, you've been traded before, so this is old news to you. But I've always been a Star, Joe. I don't know how not to be one. This trade hurts. It hurts! And I don't want to go to Chicago to play for New Jersey! I want to go home!"

My voice rises so much that people on the plane turn their heads. That immediately chastens me. Unusual behavior on a plane was an instant-attention grabber. And a possible arrest.

Joe squeezes my hand. "Shhhh, Jamie..." He speaks to me as if I were his baby daughter. "I know it hurts. I know how much your heart is breaking, because I feel the same way."

I would never had thought it from his calm manner. But of course his heart is breaking, too. He's also leaving behind his teammates. And a pregnant wife and baby girl. God, what a selfish bastard I am.

"I'm sorry, Joe. I should have known."

"But just because you get on a plane, doesn't mean that the bond between you and Derian is broken."

Wait. Did he just say, "you and Derian"? How could he possibly know?

"Don't you think I knew when you left the hotel room in the middle of the night? It was always on nights Matty reported a roommate missing, too. Don't you think I see the way you two look at each other, like starving men gazing through a bakery window? Don't you think I know you love him?"

"Was it that obvious, Joe?"

"You may have each been wearing sandwich boards, it was so clear."

"Do...do you think anyone else knows?"

"Maybe. But I didn't ask...just in case they were dense."

"Thanks for not spreading that around, Joe." Among other things.

"That's what roommates -- and teammates -- are for."

Strangely, at that moment I felt a little better about my life at the moment. I still had Joe by my side, a man who knew what to say, when to say it...and when not to. And who always carried a laptop computer with him, so I could write a long love letter to Derian after tonight's game.

Tonight, after the game, I'll cry. But Joe will be there to support me. And I will always feel Derian's love, no matter where I go.

 

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