Sunday Stories: the latecomer league
Nick and Lana wore their capital letters like a noose around their necks. As kids they saw everybody around them growing up in the way of weeds. Lana pictured herself as a flower lacking sunlight, air and zest. Genetically predisposed to be a boy it was out of physical necessity that Nick masturbated when his classmates not only wanted some but some also already got it. And boasted about it, whether or not. They were lively, pleasant children to their adult family members but knew that if this was all there was they were going to grow bitter, bitterness being the slowest form of suicide. Lana and Nick wanted more as everybody else seemed to just want more of the same.
Unlike most they managed to cling on to their hopes floating about in the wreckage of those having settled for less. There was no mentioning of their hopes to anybody because, as it happens, Nick did not know Lana and Lana did not know Nick, and they were well past the age beyond which if you are not a writer, composer or entertainer you are condemned, at pain of ridicule, to resign yourself to be a reader, listener and watcher. As in Stefan Zweig’s chess novel they were trapped together with their hopes inside their own heads. Their options were: to grow bitter or to go nuts.
Shorter all that: they were all alone. They were all alone until they met.
When Lana met Nick, Nick met Lana. It’s a freak coincidence to meet someone and be met right back but it happened. The both of them were out of town eating in a bar watching a huge flat screen that was mounted right above the whiskey. A game was on. There was a lot of pou-ha about a fifteen year old kid that made it to a first big game. Talent shows early, everybody agreed on screen. ‘Yeah, right.’ mumbled Lana in herself. Nick chuckled. This was exactly when Nick met Lana and Lana met Nick. She was not used to people understanding right away what she said, let alone what she mumbled. “At that age, I didn’t even have my period.” “And I didn’t even know that girls had something like a period.”
They mutually shut up for a while not so much because she/he thought the other one was trying to pick him/her up. They were afraid the other one was thinking that he/she was trying to her/him up. “Don’t worry, as far as ladies are concerned, I’m strictly a two-dimensional kind of guy.”, Nick said. Lana chuckled. He wasn’t used to people being able to decode such comments which were typical for him. “Don’t you worry,” she said, “me too I prefer ladies. I don’t mind a third dimension though. It is the fourth that mostly gets on my nerves.” She paused. “By the way, I am married to one.”
Once this was out of the way they got to talking. About how he would have been a great sprinter and how she could have been a great pianist. And so on. The attention dropped towards the whiskey and they forgot – it was the first time in a long time they actually forgot something – that they had to get up in the morning to do something somebody else thought was necessary for them to do. They agreed that there was too much love in people like them who experienced late puberty as they agreed that there was too little determination in same. Nick was a tall guy but in his mind he could not but picture as the youngest, skinniest and shortest of the lot. Lana was as the early birds would call it: a big busted gal but in her mind to herself she would always be the flat big-eared kid from outer space.
Somebody on screen shouted: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” As was unavoidable after the game a split screen with believers and non-believers in the fifteen year old prodigy had been put up for commentary purposes, i.e. to drive home towards the masses the two main morals to be memorized from this event. One: when you fail, failure is entirely yours. Two: when you succeed, success is entirely thanks to you shutting up and sticking with the program. The slogan shut both Lana and Nick up. “We just have no talent for hard work.”, Nick sighed. To which Lana retorted: “Seems like we were born to fail.”
Only they weren’t. They kept on discussing. They created the latecomer league (no capitals!) first as an idea then as a real league for those who turn twenty-two without break-through. First in sports because that’s what everybody understands, then in arts and finally in politics. The rest is history. A history which I leave you to make up.
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