Soms moet je je verjaardag vieren. Begin december was het de vijfendertigste keer dat ik een feestje mocht organiseren. Toen ik het kartcentrum aan de lijn had, vroeg de vrouw hoeveel kinderen er zouden komen. Ik wilde uitleggen dat het om elf volwassenen ging, maar bedacht me toen ik mijn vrienden voor me zag. Hun leeftijden liepen uiteen van 33 t/m 49, maar kinderlijk waren ze nog altijd. Tien kinderen, zei ik, en één meisje.
We verzamelden aan de bar boven de racebaan. Zenuwachtig keken we door het glas naar onze voorgangers. Schreeuwende motoren, verbrand rubber, zwart-witgeblokte vlaggen. Jezus, wat ging dat hard. Onze heat begon zo. Of we bier mochten drinken voor de race? Natuurlijk, zei de barman, en hij schonk elf fluitjes in. Tja, op deze baan wachtte ons geen fuik met alcoholcontrole, maar hoe verstandig het was, zagen we direct in bocht één: een genadeloze haarspeldbocht die je door het oprijden van een helling nooit zag aankomen.
We were bellowed at. And they were always right. We traveled to all corners of the earth and were followed by a group of elderly men with grey hair and thick glasses. They had devastating authority over us. But they kept us on the right path in life. They often reminded us to not argue, stay on court, and not open the door. Asked us politely to not question their decisions, never drop the racquet, and to not think for ourselves.
In locker rooms we amiably talked about referees as the fathers we never had. Only these fathers had power. Real power.
My girlfriend and I carried the boxes up the stairs. Finally, she was moving in! On her last run from the car to my apartment I heard numerous footsteps click-clacking in the hallway. Whether her dogs could stay too? Not a problem. I was going to spend most of my time at work anyway. And they looked cute enough.
The girl rolled her eyes when she saw me hesitate. Overwhelmed by all the options in front of me - Smurf blue, deep purple, poison green - I needed some time to make a choice. She was visibly annoyed when I asked her about some flavor I had never seen before, and looked at her watch in objection. Sure, there was a line, but ice cream girl seemed livid that her customer took longer than she thought necessary. I apologized, walked out, and reluctantly consumed the so-manieth chocolate ice cream I had in my life.
I was having breakfast in some hotel somewhere in the world -I can’t remember where; after so many years every tournament felt the same- while the 4-times world champion joined me at the table. The guy was ecstatic. ‘I’ve done it, LJ! Twice! In one week!’ he cried out. ‘Can you believe it!?’
I walked up to the buffet and wondered what Amr Shabana could possibly be so happy about. Had he won two World Series events in one week? Impossible, time-wise. Had he earned two business class upgrades in the last 7 days? The man probably flew business anyway. Had he gotten two good draws recently? Irrelevant. Any draw was ‘good’ to him.