Danny Breslin

How it is…

Lasting Impressions

This is a sort of sequel to my last post First Impressions, it’s the same story told from the opposite perspective. So, if you haven’t already, please read First Impressions before reading this. Enjoy!

Standing on the platform, eyes bright and ever watchful, belying the ease of his pose. Surrounded by his mates, a womb-like comfort that he was addicted to and could never leave. Voices raised, laughter; the afterglow of a big win shining on the faces of them all. Chatting to Spinky, the ex-keeper, retired but enshrined in their hearts as a hero of the former European glory.

Not a thing was missed by them, dozens of eyes feeding information to the central brain that they shared when together. Watching for signs of a challenge. Would the other lot still have a firm out? They filed out in disappointment at the final whistle, while his lot danced, hugged and punched the air in jubilation. You never knew though – spotters at the top of the steps, forming a perimeter.

The train eased itself into the station and they moved to the edge of the platform waiting for the doors to open. The space appeared and they surged through like the Forlorn Hope at a breached fortress wall. First in got a seat, the rest stood in the aisle. His nearest and dearest grabbed some seats by the doors. One taken by a woman, he sat next to her.

As he approached she lifted her head and glanced at him. He was taken aback but showed no reaction, although one watching him closely might have seen a slight widening of his eyes but no more than that. In that briefest of moments he took in her raven hair. The delicate bone structure and porcelain skin like a statue of a goddess carved by a master. He saw her deep dark eyes. Yet that wasn’t what he reacted to. He also saw the look of contempt she wore, it was gone in the blink of an eye but he saw it.

He took his place next to her, unwelcome warmth felt creeping up his neck. It was a look he’d seen so many times in so many faces. Teachers, bosses, old bill. Telling him he’s nothing, worth nothing, will never be anything. It shouldn’t have bothered him, what do any of them know? His greatest fear was they might be right. Maybe that’s why he’d never really tried.

Here though, amongst the lads it didn’t matter. They were one. If they were something special then so was he because he was part of the whole. Here he didn’t have to be anyone because he was part of something. Here was real.

All that mattered was the lads, the weekend and the football. Casual violence with any takers, casual sex with any girl that crossed his path; he was a casualty of the love of a casual life. If he never amounted to anything then who cares because tomorrow never fucking comes.

Talking about the game with his lads, looking forward to getting back and getting rat-arsed. He wanted to ignore the snotty bitch next to him, what did her opinion matter? She saw a thug when she looked at him, a Neanderthal. Maybe that was what he wanted the world to see. If they wrote him off then he wouldn’t have to try to be someone, saves time. So why did it bother him so much what she thought?

He felt an itch that he needed to scratch; he’d speak to her and see where it took him. Let’s find a button to push. If she wanted to see a caveman then why disappoint her? They were getting off in a couple of stops anyway. He looked to see what she was reading, and realised it was in French. That just made it worse: how could she, a foreigner, have the temerity to look down her nose at him?

“What are you reading?” he asked, just to make her feel uncomfortable. He didn’t expect her to answer, or even acknowledge him. Fair play to her though she did acknowledge him by showing off the cover. He didn’t even read the title, he just said “I haven’t read that.” He clocked the sneer that curled the corner of her lip. Bitch.

The other lads around him stopped talking, watching him work, waiting for him to fail. They’d all spotted her as they piled into the carriage and there wasn’t one of them who didn’t fancy her, but fancying someone and actually having the balls to drop a line on her was something different when you’re sober. The joyful buzz of the pre-match beers had long worn off.

“What’s your name?” he continued. No way was she going to answer that.

“Ophelia.” She’s a game ‘un alright they silently agreed with shared glances. There was majesty about her that the others thought would leave their mate out of his depth.

“Hamlet’s girlfriend?”

“You’ve read Hamlet?”

The over-emphasis on you’ve didn’t escape him, it also didn’t surprise him. The first goal was scored though – get them talking. “Sure,” he replied, “he lost the plot and she topped herself.” It didn’t matter that he’d never read Hamlet, he’d just paraphrased a line out of the film Trading Places but she wasn’t to know that.

She seemed impressed though and her body language began to betray her as she turned to face him. He flashed her the winning smile that he knew the women loved, all cute like a little boy; igniting the little mothering flame that burns in their hearts. A little hint of pink in her cheek and he knew he was 2-0 up.

“So what is your name?” she asked touching her hair, the winner was being set up for him to put away and win the match.

“Hamlet.” She laughed. And right then and there he knew there was no coming back for her, game over. “He made her laugh: 3-0. The crowd goes wild,” the commentator is screeching into his microphone “…and the ref is looking at his watch, preparing to raise his whistle to his lips…”

The train pulled into the station, the lads were piling up at the door waiting to spill onto the platform. Change trains for home. He got up and headed out after them, feeling good about himself – he’d shown her! As a final insult he turned at the door, flashed the winning smile again and mouthed au revoir to her and stepped out.

The doors closed and with that the spell was broken and reality slapped him down hard. He wanted so much to be the man of the moment but all he’d done was show himself to be an arrogant prick. He wanted the doors to re-open, wanted a second chance to explain himself. Yet without an audience how could he perform? A clown needs someone to laugh doesn’t he?

The distance between himself and the lads was growing as they headed up the platform, as was the distance between him and the train as it was swallowed by the hungry black throat of the tunnel. He had never in his life felt so alone.

 

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October 17, 2013 - Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , , , ,

20 Comments »

  1. You really are a very good writer Danny. This perfect sequel just shows that.

    Comment by Christopher Meade | October 17, 2013 | Reply

    • No finer compliment than that when it’s given by someone who writes as well as you do Mr Meade.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 17, 2013 | Reply

  2. The other side of the story! This is really touching, and this “hooligan” is a lot more vulnerable than one would have thought! I don’t know why, but I didn’t really expect that. Excellent idea to show both impressions, gives such an insight into how mistaken and presumptious they can be. This was really enjoyable to read. 🙂

    Comment by gina4star | October 17, 2013 | Reply

    • I’m so pleased you like it. “Vulnerable”, now there’s a hook this hooligan might have used. Just despicable!

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 17, 2013 | Reply

  3. Brilliant! 🙂 [I knew there was more to it!!]

    Comment by marina kanavaki | October 17, 2013 | Reply

  4. Danny, I’m glad I read the first comment! It immediately sent me scuttling off to find what came before that I’d somehow missed. Brilliant – both pieces. Excellent observation. I agree with Christopher – you really are a very good writer.

    Comment by Alison | October 17, 2013 | Reply

    • What a lovely thing to say. I didn’t really intend to do the sequel after writing First Impressions, I was inspired by people urging me to carry it on. In fact I wasn’t going to write that either, I was just going to relate something that happened many years ago when coming home from a match. Then I decided to look at it first from the other person’s point of view, then, and more painfully embarrassing, the point of view of someone trying so hard to be something he was not. It left me sort of drained you know? :-/

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 18, 2013 | Reply

      • As Richard says – we’ve all been there. That trying to be someone you’re not, and the inner cringing that creates. Oh yeah. We’ve all been there.

        Comment by Alison | October 18, 2013

      • It comes as quite a shock when the wall you’ve hidden behind crumbles and you suddenly meet yourself.

        Comment by Danny Breslin | October 18, 2013

  5. Dear Lord, we’ve all been there!

    Comment by richardmax22 | October 17, 2013 | Reply

  6. I love this sequel. Totally lovable Hamlet, this one! Very well scripted, Danny.

    Comment by mj | October 18, 2013 | Reply

    • He seems to be on the verge of changing. It won’t be easy for him.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 18, 2013 | Reply

  7. Good job, Danny! The whole idea of perspectives can make for some interesting fun. You handled it brilliantly!

    Comment by Jack Flacco | October 18, 2013 | Reply

    • Cheers Jack, that means a lot to me.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 18, 2013 | Reply

  8. Oh my God Danny!!!!
    That was a blast! If I were an acquisition editor at a publishing house, I would pick this one. It had depth, character. I was able to read through the girl and the hooligan, what’s more, it was pregnant with meaning. I love writing in the third person, first person is always so restrictive! Congratulations old friend!!
    Hope this is coming out as a book? 🙂

    Comment by Seyi sandra | October 21, 2013 | Reply

    • Don’t know if it will be expanded upon, maybe. I’m just glad you liked it, sometimes we all need that little bit of reassurance and your word is gold to me.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | October 22, 2013 | Reply

  9. […] drop some more short stories like The Match, First Impressions and Lasting Impressions on you in the coming months but you’ve got to ask […]

    Pingback by Bogged down « Danny Breslin | November 15, 2013 | Reply


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