Ay yi yi

Alright. Alright, fine.

Javier could be a Thing.

Wednesday night, there was a fundraiser happy hour at a neighborhoodish bar. I couldn’t go at the prescribed fundraising time because of my previously prescribed class, but Javi had asked me if I was going to be there. As promised, I arrived 30 minutes after the end of my class, which was an hour and a half after Javi had sent me a picture of his glass of wine and urged me to ditch school early. The handful of folks still mingling was all dressed pretty officiously, having come straight from our grown-up jobs (or gone straight to class from the job). I was even wearing heels. Usually when I’m in my officle or walking across campus, I’m in flats, for the sake of my back, but I’d had a couple of major meetings that day.

Alright, fine. I swapped shoes in the car so I’d be wearing the heels for the neighborhood thing.

There are a lot of shoes in my car. The passenger side floor of my Honda is not unlike a second closet.

After an hour or so, everyone had left, but I was eating, so  Javi and I were finally able to catch up on our own. Totally innocently, but with a little more depth than is usually possible with nosy neighbors lingering nearby. At the perfectly reasonable hour of 10:30, we decided to head to another place to rejoin some neighbors. On our way out, we ran into Gaybor Steve downstairs and invited him and his date to come along.

Alright, fine. Javi kept putting his hand on the small of my back as we walked. And I kind of love that.

Now: back in May, Javi had finished up grad school at the institution where I work, but hadn’t really celebrated. A few weeks ago, he’d told me how much he loved the mug he got when he finished his B.S., with the school’s logo and his name on it. So I thought it might be nice to grab a few things from the merchandise we marketing types have heaped in closets, and fill a gift bag for him. Among the merch was a stainless steel mug with the school’s logo on it, which I’d had engraved with his name, degree and post-grad year.

Alright, fine. I went to the bookstore and paid for the travel mug. And for a couple of other things. Because I think his parents deserve to have keychains that say “This School Mom” and “This School Dad” on them. I don’t know if they have anything from the institution where their oldest and most adventurous son got his degrees.

“I have good news and bad news,” I told him as I popped the trunk of my car open with my key fob. “The bad news is: we don’t make the mug you got in 2002 anymore. But the good news is…” I reached for the bag.

“Oh my God, are you seeriahs?” Javi exclaimed, grinning and throwing his head back. “Oh my God!”

“…Congratulations on getting your master’s degree four months ago!” I finished, holding the bag up.

He riffled through it for a minute, pulling out this and that. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Dis is so great!” he exclaimed genuinely. “I’m so essited about dis!”

Awww. Now that’s just sweet.

By the time we each found parking spots and walked the block or two in opposing directions to meet at the second bar, the joint had shut down and all that were left were the bar-back and two neighbors, arguing with polite heat about the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism. (Yeah… these are my friends and neighbors.) They decided against the third venue Javi suggested, so he and I walked there alone.

Closed.

“Tavern?” he asked, referring to the neighborhood version of Cheers we all tend to frequent. The Tavern is a short walk from our respective houses, so we decided to each put our cars to bed first. He walked me back to my car and then got in the passenger side.

“Oh,” I laughed. “Am I giving you a ride to your car?”

Javi had to kick aside about four and a half pairs of shoes at his feet. “What is ahp with all dese shoooz?” he wanted to know.

Parked at our houses, he watched from the end of my alley as I walked from my parking spot toward him. Then we walked the three blocks to Tavern.

Closed.

Oh come ON, neighborhood business owners! I know it’s Wednesday, but it’s not even 11:30! Can we be adults?

“Okay, fine,” Javi said. “We are going to your house.”

…Oh. Well, I do always have wine…

We walked to my house.

Still in the damned heels, by the way.

“What would you like to drink?” I asked him from the kitchen, where I had headed directly after kicking off my shoes at the front door. “I have wine and vodka.”

“Well… what are you having?” Javi wanted to know while eyeing an unmatched Franco Sarto plaid heel that was lying, inexplicably, on my loveseat.

“Probably wine.”

“Okay, then I’ll have wine.”

“It’s red…” I warned. Javi tends to prefer white.

“Das fine,” he said measuredly. “I just ushally like it when iss cold.”

“Do you want an ice cube in it?” I teased him. I have to tease him, even though I know he’s referring to outdoor temperature. He has been known to violate my principles of wine drinking with an ice cube before.

“No,” he laughed. “I mean when de weather iss cold!”

With our goblets of medoc, we settled on my couch and started talking about our friends, the neighborhood zeitgeist and local politics—our usual fallbacks that are guaranteed to create conversation. But then things started skewing to topics like our families, how we grew up, what we believe in (Javi is atheist but was raised Catholic; he told me about when he told his mother he doesn’t believe in God).

It was somewhere in the middle of a sentence about God that Javier suddenly leaned forward and tried to kiss me.

I think I uttered something eloquent like, “Oh! Um…” as I held a hand up to his chest and turned my head. I half-wish there had been a camera on this. I’m a little concerned that my evasion looked like I was trying to dodge an insect. His kiss landed firmly in the center of my right cheek.

It all gets blurry here, but I know that after a few seconds of somewhat awkward smiles and sounds that didn’t really qualify as words, I gently explained that I can’t let anything happen as long as he has a girlfriend. And he leaned back to his original position with a sheepish smile and downcast eyes, and said they broke up a month ago, but have been talking recently, so he guesses he still technically does have a girlfriend.

“But…” he said quietly, “…I like you.”

Deep breath. “Well, I like you too,” I admitted, concentrating on the end of a nail where the polish had chipped. “And I’ve wondered if there was something here more than the friendly-neighbor thing. But I’ve been trying to be really careful—”

“I know you have,” he laughed, and I smiled, glancing at him. He doesn’t know all the reasons I’ve been careful. This was a test for me. Could I stick to my guns, to the lessons I’ve learned lately?

“I just…” I looked for the right way to do this. “As long as you’re seeing someone, it won’t work for me. And it’s not fair to her.”

“I know,” he said openly. “You’re right.”

He rubbed his face with his hands, eyelids drooping at the hour. “I know you don’t need to hear more than this,” he said without defensiveness, holding his open hand out to ask me to just hear this one thing. “But… something has been missing from that relationship for a long time. And I have been struggling with that for a long time.”

Hmm. They broke up for a reason, and the reason wasn’t lily pad hopping.

I don’t remember whether there were words that ended the conversation. But it wasn’t uncomfortable, really. Just… here is the situation. No now what? or demand for an action plan. Just… here it is. And I was okay with leaving it there.

He apologized for being so sleepy. We hugged goodnight and he left, pointing to the shoe on the loveseat.

“I dink I kicked de other wan in your car,” he smiled.

A short time later my phone dinged with a text message.  “I wish it was Friday or Saturday.”

Alright, fine. I’ve spent days trying not to reply.

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Sunday (Observed), Bloody Sunday (Observed)

Sooo, today I had a lot of laundry that needed to be done. Kind of all of it, actually. Including underwear. So, okay, no biggie, I go without for a day.
 
 
I had both the 4pm and 5:30pm Masses to cantor, and I have to wear a dress to cantor because the music director hath ordered it so. Fine. I wore a black high-low hemmed shift dress.
 
 
After the first Mass, I go downstairs to use the bathroom, and suddenly realize — guess what has shown up! Early!
 
 
I go back upstairs, figuring I’ll just grab my purse and use one of the supplies I have in it. But when I open the door from the stairs to the sacristy, there’s Monsignor Armington, who’s supposed to be saying the 5:30 Mass, and he’s sitting on a bench with Father Jago (Filipino. And awesome.) standing over him going, “Oh my God. Oh my God. You are bleeding!”
 
 
I don’t know a whole lot about Msgr. Armington. He’s not a resident priest — he says Masses for us once in a while, but definitely not every week. Sometimes he’s a little unsteady. In fact, we had railings installed on the steps from the altar to the lower envelope because he’s come so close to falling so many times, and our pastor is getting up there in years, too. And now the monsignor is sitting on this bench looking a little… off.
 
 
I’m always taken aback a little when I hear a priest use the Lord’s name in vain the way Father Jago just did. But once I get past that, I realize the monsignor has fallen outside and whacked the back of his head on the concrete. The other things I know about Msgr. Armington are that he has heart disease and that he had a minor stroke a few months ago, so now I figure he’s on blood thinners. And he fell and hit his head. I happen to have my cell phone in my hand (because yeah, I was checking it while I was in the bathroom downstairs), so when someone confirms that the monsignor has fallen, I call 911.
 
 
Something like 17 questions later, I finally get to tell the dispatcher what happened (can I just tell you that third? First the address, then that I need an ambulance, and then “Hey, this old priest with a history of problematic health just fell down and smacked his head on the ground.” Because that would be faster, and the battery on my phone is pretty low.) I get off the phone and tell everyone that the ambulance is on its way, and then I start talking to Msgr. Armington again because Father Jago is being exactly no help.
 
 
Memo to the parish: Father Jago is not the go-to guy in an emergency. He freaks out.
 
 
So I ask Msgr. Armington whether he’s feeling dizzy, is he nauseous, what medications he’s on, etc. He pulls a teensy weensy vial out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and tells me he has “this,” but he can’t think of the name of it right now, and somehow I remember that nitroglycerin is tiny, so I say that word, and he says, “Yes. For my heart.” And he says he’s on Plavix, which, of course, is the blood thinner.
 
 
He says he’s not going to the hospital.
 
 
“Oh, you have to!” says Father Jago. “You have to! You hit your head! You are bleeding! You could have a bleed inside your head and in 30 minutes—” he whacks at the air with a hand — “you go down!”
 
 
Monsignor looks kind of terrified.
 
Awesome job, Father Jago.
 
 
“Well, that probably won’t happen,” I try to say without directly contradicting Father Jago, “But you do have to go. Given your history and the medication you’re on, they’re going to want to check you out.”
 
 
The monsignor nods, wide-eyed thanks to Father Jago. We talk a little about exactly how he fell (he lost his balance coming up the three steps to the door, grabbed for the railing and couldn’t get it in time), and I go outside to meet the paramedics.
 
 
It’s raining, by the way. Big fat drops plopping on my head and penetrating my dress.
 
 
So I give the medics the low-down on the way back into the sacristy, you know, age, heart disease, stroke, he’s on this medication and that medication, this is what happened, this is how he’s acting now, etc., etc. And we get back into the sacristy and like four people (including Father Jago) are asking me whether I’m a nurse while the medics are assessing the monsignor and getting him onto the gurney (he’s pretty shaky when they get him off the bench).
 
 
“No, I’m not a nurse,” I kind of laugh. I feel blessed once again in my life that I’m pretty good in emergencies.
 
 
“What are you?” Father Jago wants to know.
 
 
What AM I? I wonder to myself, because I still haven’t figured out how to answer that in my new job.
 
 
“I’m a writer,” I say.
 
 
“A writer!” he says.
 
 
“Well, I do marketing and PR.”
 
 
“Can you write me a song?” Father Jago wants to know. Father Jago likes to sing.
 
 
I officially no longer understand what’s happening.
 
 
“I can’t write music,” I tell him. “But I can write you lyrics.”
 
 
“Write me lyrics!” he says. “I’ll figure out the rest.”
 
 
Yep. No idea what’s going on.
 
 
The medics have to take the monsignor out through the sanctuary because they can’t maneuver the railing the way they came in while they have him on the gurney, and I’m thinking about what I’m going to say at the introduction of the Mass to tell everyone not to completely freak out about seeing Msgr. Armington getting wheeled through the sanctuary whilst bleeding on the sheet.
 
 
You would think that the bleeding would have been some sort of signal to me. But no. They get the monsignor out, It’s 5:20, I go back into the church and down into the organ pit to talk to the accompanist because she’s filling in and has never been here before and needs to back waaaayyyy off the organ volume for this Mass as compared to the 4pm, and then we’re about 15 minutes into the 5:30 Mass when I suddenly realize: Shit. I never grabbed my purse. 
 
 
And I am still not wearing underwear.
 
 
Ssssshhhhhhhiiiiiiit.
 
 
At the presentation of the gifts, while the substitute accompanist is playing a hymn more quietly on the organ, I slip back into the sacristy and back down to the bathroom for a quick clean-up. So far, so good. But I can’t exactly clench tissue without undies standing in front of literally God and everybody, so I just have to hope (pray?) this Mass gets done before I get hit with a sudden and uncontrollable uptick in the situation.
 
 
Five minutes later: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it,” Father Jago is singing at the altar (I’ve never known another priest to sing this part). “This is the cup of my blood…”
 
 
I’m kneeling on the envelope with my dress tucked around me. Ummmmm, don’t say “blood.”
 
 
I stand up to do the memorial acclamation, the Amen, the Lamb of God… and the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist I’m thinking, There is no time between now and the end of the Mass during which I can get away. 
 
 
Also, I cannot subtly stuff my black dress into a potentially helpful position because this infernal dress-like trunk-junk-holding sheath I’m wearing under my actual dress is in the way.
 
 
And because that would be super-obvious, since you can’t just stick your hand between your thighs while standing in front of the congregation.
 
 
Oh God, our help in ages past…
 
 
“The Mass has ended. Go in peace.”
 
 
THANKS BE TO GOD.
 
 
After trying to graciously and unhurriedly thank the substitute accompanist (who is a professor of piano performance at the college where I work, though I hadn’t met her before), I’m heading out the door when Father Jago stops me. “I have a question!”
 
 
Holy Mary, Mother of God…
 
 
“Do you have an allergy to gnats?”
 
 
Wait…what?
 
 
“Gnats?”
 
 
“Yes.”
 
 
“The bugs?” I ask, pinching my fingers together in the universal sign for tiny bug. “No. I am not allergic to gnats.” Is anybody allergic to gnats? Why is he asking me this?
 
 
“No no— N-U-T-S. Nats.”
 
 
Ohhhhhhh.
 
 
“Ohhhhhhh. No. I’m not allergic to nuts,” I say, thinking that this is exactly how Javier says “nuts” and wondering why I couldn’t understand it from Father Jago, even though they don’t speak the same language.
 
 
“Okay. Give me—” Father Jago looks around at the altar servers, the sacristan, the guy putting the collection money in the safe. “Give me wan minute.”
 
 
“Sure.” I sit on the bench where Monsignor Armington had been and intuitively monitor my vag. Which isn’t awkward at all in a church while waiting for a priest to return from the rectory he’s just rushed out to.
 
 
A couple of minutes later, he comes back and hands me a gift bag, folded closed. “From da Philippines,” he tells me. “Check it out.”
 
 
Nuts.
 
 
Also mango tarts.
 
 
Delicious!
 
 
And, by the time I get to address the situation, no stains on my dress.
 
 
Thanks be to God.

South Americans, College and a Little Bit of Cancer

So a lot of things happened since the last time I wrote, not least of which, obviously, is that Jack got married to a woman literally young enough to be his daughter (which means, inversely, that her parents are like five minutes older than Jack, which I personally think should inspire some concern and/or make her father want to kick Jack’s ass, but what do I know except I have a father) – but that’s not the point. My only point in bringing that up right now was to let you all know I didn’t jump off a building when Jack got married. In case you were wondering.

Also, I didn’t show up and do anything psycho. I had a dinner party instead. It was great.

The next day a former co-worker (former to me; current to Jack and Gwyneth) posted some pictures of the wedding on stupid Facebook, and when I caught a sudden glimpse, I actually covered the screen with my hand until I could scroll safely past them. 

Social media suck. Moving on…

Javier is now a fair to middling threat to what’s left of my stability. I’m pretty sure that, in the immortal words of Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality, “He liiiiikes me, he wants to daaate me, he wants to kiiiiss me…” And he’s fairly, albeit subtly, consistent. So subtle that I didn’t realize until I looked back through my text messages that I’ve gotten one from him pretty much once a week since June. More lately. Usually inviting me to meet up for a drink, but lately more pedestrian and conversational. A few days ago, while my friends Matt and Jeannie were in town visiting from Indiana, he asked me when I’m free for dinner.

Free for dinner…? Do men ask women that if it’s not a date? 

I told him I thought I might be free Tuesday. But I didn’t hear from him about it after that about it. Other things, but not that. So I figured there was no plan. Until he called me, somewhat out of breath, Tuesday night at 7:30 or so, all apologetic about just leaving work and not having had time to cook anything…

Wait. COOK? Was Javier going to COOK FOR ME?

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, here, buddy. That definitely sounds like a date. That sounds like a fifth date, minimum.

Oh, hey. Are we dating? No, right? We’ve just been… what?… socializing and chewing food and swallowing wine in each other’s presence. Right?

Why is this so confusing?

When I told him (in a series of answers to questions – not all at once as it appears here) that I hadn’t thought we had any plans because there had been no further discussion, and I had already eaten dinner and was halfway through a drink, and I had a lot of reading to do for my class that needed to be finished by the next day, so no, I couldn’t join him for a drink or some food at the neighborhood place… he seemed kind of dejected and embarrassed.

I might have liked that.

He said he’s busy on some day or days I don’t remember, but he would call later in the week and maybe we could make plans.

But look. There is still the matter of the girlfriend – no idea the exact nature or agreed-upon construct of that relationship –  and still the matter of my really so not wanting to get in any kind of mess again. Suuu (as he would say with his Colombian accent), if/when he follows up, there’s going to be a gentle but clear advisement: I don’t date men who are dating other women. No judgment – maybe that’s cool between them and that’s fine – but it doesn’t work for me. Not to mention I’m not really into dating anybody right now, though apparently I’ll make an exception if he ditches the other chick.

So I’m not currently convinced I stand for what I say I stand for, you know? “Oh, I’m not dating anyone for now. Except if he likes me and is available.” WTF, me.

Also, I successfully fought the urge to apologize and make sure I hadn’t embarrassed him. Because that’s my usual please-love-me way of doing things, and remember how I’m done with that? Because I am. And you have to make plans if you want to have plans. That is not an unreasonable thing to believe. I’m not mad or anything, but I’m also not hyper-available.

I will tell him all of that after the free dinner. Obviously.

Speaking of the homework I mentioned a paragraph and some sentences ago, it turns out I’m a sucky graduate student. You guys, it is so hard to remember which classroom I’m going to, let alone remembering to actually bring my books or print out the materials I need. I’m lucky I remember I have class. I do my homework – I haven’t forgotten that – but maybe because I work at the institution I’m attending, everything all runs together and suddenly I’m a complete idiot when it comes to details like room numbers. And bringing books. It’s like… when I was an undergrad, that was pretty much my whole purpose. I’m in college. This is what I do. I have a job-job, but this thing is central to my life. This is my bookbag. My books are in it. The ones I need. I pick up this bag and I walk to the class in that building, in that room. I do this for several classes per term. I always remember. 

Now, it’s more like… Wait… what time does class start? Where are my keys? And then I forget to even ask myself about anything else until I show up and it’s Dammit, I forgot to print the syllabus AGAIN. And bring my books. But I have my business cards…

There have also been new developments with Miss Ella, the neighborhood soft-in-the-head old lady, but I’m tired and need to sleep now, so I’ll save that til later. Here’s a hint: I haven’t heard or seen her in days.

Oh, and also my dad has prostate cancer. I found that out Sunday night. But only a little bit of cancer. They caught it super early because he’s been diligent since his father died – no mass, no enlargement, just one sample out of 12 with a malignancy after a long watch of PSA levels that spiked to a number indicating cancer. He’s having the surgery. He’s informed of the side effects. He and my mother are fine about it.

Life is so totally weird.

Why Did I Do That? No, Really – Why?

The internet is an asshole and my fingers are ungrateful little twerps.

And because of their cruel, cruel partnership, I now know what time Jack and Gwyneth will stand before God and some other beings to swear their lives to each other tomorrow.

Also I know what day he gave her her ring and how.

Stupid internet and its finding of things.

By the way, I just now realized how bad it was to pair up my fingers and the asshole reference in the first sentence. I trust you know that’s not what I meant. But now you’re thinking about it.

For the last few days I’ve been strangely calm about the impending occasion. It’s other-worldly – something I know exists but doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’ve been all, “Jack gets married in three days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married in two days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married tomorrow. Huh.”

Admittedly, the last two days, these thoughts were accompanied by the fleeting idea that maybe she’d said potato and he’d said potahto and they’d called the whole thing off. But really, how would that help? Other than making me feel better at the reassurance that he still doesn’t think he can hack a substantive long-term relationship, and the sick and completely misplaced schadenfreude of him jilting her (I should want her to jilt him), what difference would it have made? Wouldn’t it have just prolonged some strange sort of agony?  Yes, right? I can’t help but think that my odd disconnection to the reality of impending vows is related in some way to the sense that 

Shit. I completely forgot what that thought was going to be.

But I do kind of feel like it’s a point of no return. Like once tomorrow draws to a close, he will be married, and that will somehow delete from my being all care or concern I might have about him. Like somehow after all the anguish of the last year and particularly the last few months, and somehow after all the feelings of the decade before that, it will all cease to matter in any relevant way and will float away from my smushed soul as though it never actually weighed anything at all.

Which won’t happen. Would be nice, though.

I tried not to go looking for trouble. I haven’t trolled for information since a few days after I found out about their engagement. As soon as i knew the date of the wedding, I got busy figuring out how to stay busy that day. I’ve generally stayed busy all year because of him, since long before they got engaged. (It started with putting an offer in on my house.) I debated going away for this weekend, but wasn’t confident. I wound up inviting a dozen people to my house for dinner tomorrow instead, which means I will be busy all day cleaning and cooking. But I’d been doing relatively well and avoiding all temptation to seek out anything more than I knew. Tonight, though, it was nagging at me. Tonight I messaged Angie on Facebook:

Stop me from doing something psychologically destructive. The internet is on. Jack gets married tomorrow. I have homework. Which requires the internet. Also Jandsome Javi exists. I HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS AND I NEED SERIOUS PEOPLE TO SOLVE THEM.

Unless, of course, your children and/or husband require your attention. Or you’re not interested in my first world dramas of pain and the world-wide web.

That lasted 90 seconds. No, wait – 30. Then Google happened – one single search of just his name – and now I know, after the briefest, fleetingest of looks, where they’re getting married and what time. And I glimpsed really quickly the reception venue which, in the 0.5 second vision I had of it, appeared to be the most tackily opulant place I could imagine and so. not. his. thing. In much the same way that marriage is not his thing.

I think he’s been anally probed by aliens and had his entire inner self replaced. It’s kind of fascinating.

And then I had to say this to Angie:

Too slow. Now I know more stuff. And have chest pains. Oh, why, internet, why? Why, fingers of betrayal?

And now I’m fantasizing about showing up and kind of ruining it silently, but only to him – somehow standing in a doorway at the reception and catching his eye, freaking him out a little bit, raising one eyebrow, shaking my head, turning around and leaving. And making him think about it for the rest of his life.

I would never even drive by the place, actually. But if I could just strike in his heart some dissonant chord that mixed fear with something that felt like missing me…

Oh hey, I just figured out how psychosis starts!

It has also just occurred to me that I need to find something to keep me busy Sunday, because the hangover from wedding day distraction could really be a bitch. Oh, I’ve failed to adequately gird my soul-loins! I’ve been so good and so careful and now this!

Not at all coincidentally, I’m sure, I’ve seen Javier twice in the last week. Not dates, you understand; I have this interesting way of mentioning his girlfriend exactly once each time I see him. Casual-like. But we were at the neighborhood gathering place for drinks last Friday night, and then he was here last night to watch football for a little while. Not just the two of us – my neighbor had knocked on my door an hour before kickoff and invited herself over to watch the game. He invited me out for a drink after she did that, so I told him I had the neighbor here but he could join if he wanted.

Still, we’re getting to know each other more. It’s a problem. He’s smart. And humble. And considerate. That accent… and then once in a great while he gets really impassioned about something and ay yi yi. And then after we do a chaste friend-hug goodbye, he texts me to thank me for my company and sometimes gets a little nervous if I don’t answer right away. I tell myself it’s not cute or charming, that he has a girlfriend and shouldn’t do this. He doesn’t deny her when I mention her. But he never talks about her, either.

And he’s coming to dinner tomorrow. I made a point of telling him his girlfriend is welcome, too. He’s not sure whether she’s coming. I’m not sure he invited her.

I’d like to think that this is a temporary salve, that I’ve let myself slip just a liiiittle bit to help me get through the specific and anticipated hard days, and then I can pull back when I don’t have that anticipation and struggle. But in the back or sometimes middle of my mind is the accusatory question: Why do you find unmarried but unavailable men interesting?

Maybe what I think is the pain is actually the salve, and I haven’t identified the pain yet.

Gah, that is going to suck.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps My Hopes Lie In A Two-Point Conversion

When it comes to fantasies and muscular, athletic men, I usually don’t involve coworkers. But today was my first foray into the world of fantasy football drafts.

How unprepared was I for this endeavor? Um… totally. I’ve done pick-em fantasy leagues for years – toss $10 in the game, pick a winner per week, survival of the winningest. This is a whole new… well… ball game.

Mind you, I love football. But the reason I don’t do fantasy drafts is because I don’t follow specific players if they’re not on the teams I support. So randomly picking a quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, a tight end, a kicker, a defense, a flex player and a bench? When there’s a very good chance that the guy I want in any given round will have been taken by someone else? Pfft.

Also evidence of a lack of preparedness: Turns out, you can’t do a fantasy draft on your smartphone. It’s high-stakes, sometimes rapid-fire picking and you need your finger to hit the right buttons at the right times, without fail, or you wind up picking the defense ranked 33rd in the league.

(There are only 32 teams in the league.)

(I do know some things.)

(I can name all 32 teams, too… but most people would do it by division, whereas I do it strictly by geographical location. Because I’m not most people. Also because if I tried to do it by division, I’d get about three divisions in and then start getting confused, and I’d be mocked for having my divisions all screwy instead of praised for knowing there are 32 teams and knowing where they are and what they’re called. So geography.)

Anyway, our design director took pity on me and my little smartphone and uprooted a Mac from another designer’s desk, lugging it into the conference room and hooking it up for me, then getting me reacclimated (I’m a PC person) and into the draft page with ten seconds to spare before the first round of action. I was then ensconced behind a huge screen like it was a side-by-side set of Trapper Keepers propped up on my desk during a fourth grade quiz, while everyone else looked fervently at their little hippie tablet screens.

Alright. Let’s do this.

I’m picking ninth.

Plblptpltlbptllpptbtpltblt.

First round… the first co-worker to choose is on auto-pick and she gets Adrian Peterson, or as I like to call him, Double-Sided Scooby Snack (watch this to find out what the hell I’m talking about – it is seriously hilarious). I pick Calvin Johnson at WR. He’s Megatron. He’s The proverbial Man at that position: back-to-back leader in fantasy points for the last two seasons. 

This, of course, very likely means he’ll be paralyzed in a late hit in game two. But for now, I’m all in with this guy and very happy to have snatched him up. Things are off to a good start.

Round two! I’m going to pick up Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, also at WR. He’s great! Oh, wait. He was great in 2011. Or was that 2010? Or 2009? Last year he kind of sucked. Ach. S’aight. He’ll pick it back up. His QB wasn’t doing him any favors last year and now he’s got Carson Palmer and a new coach.

*Squirms a little in chair*

Round three. I’m thinking it’s time to pick a QB before everybody’s taken. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are already off the table. Yep. Here we go. Cam Newton.

I skipped Payton Manning. Mostly because – unlikely though this may have seemed three seasons ago – I didn’t realize he was ranked above Newton. But that’s alright because even though he is by far the smartest football player currently in the NFL and possibly ever, I still don’t think he’s up to par since his neck surgeries, and Denver just hasn’t gelled around him the way Indy did. Plus, Newton’s good with the rush – something the top four guys don’t really do much. Possibly because their OL guys protect them better. Still, I’ll take the versatility.

There. I sold it to myself.

Meanwhile I haven’t figured out why the gap between my picks is inconsistent. I pick ninth out of twelve. Why did only six people go between my first and second picks, and then there were 16 between my second and third?

Fourth turn. Lemme get me a RB. Scooby Snack is gone, and so are Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster (autopick and unfortunate, seemingly Nazi-endorsing name when said aloud), Alfred Morris, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and Darren Sproles. I scroll… I scroll… My eyes scan the list of eighty gabillion players as my 1:30 time limit ticks down. I light on Reggie Bush.

Reggie Bush! Cool!

Wait. Isn’t he like 127 in-football-years old?

Oh but hang on, he’s with Detroit now. And this is a PPR (points per reception) league. He can catch, so that makes him a pretty decent PPR choice. I’m okay with this. I’m taking Reggie.

The 22-year-old league owner picks Kansas City WR Dwayne Bowe, the fourth-highest paid WR in the league right now. “I’m taking Dwayne Bowe so I can name my team Skittles: Taste Dwayne Bowe,” he says.

Unofficial points for clever jokes. 

Finally, I work out that there’s a potential method to the madness. I see the positions I still need to pick (at roughly the same time that I see that both my WRs are in bye weeks at the same time, so that means I need a WR either as a flex player or on the bench). I see that I can search players by position rather than scrolling through every player available. I’m feeling a little less clueless for round five.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB. Boo-yah. Except for the foot surgery.

…-ies.

Huh.

Round six: Vernon Davis at TE. 

ESPN says: “Ranking Davis as a fantasy starter requires a leap of faith, because he was a disaster in 2012, catching fewer than two passes per contest in the seven regular-season games after Colin Kaepernick became the 49ers’ QB.”

Oh.

But: “In the playoffs, Davis had two 100-yard efforts, disproving the cranky notion that he and Kaepernick can’t coexist, and he’s just too darned talented not to figure this out. No question, he’s a tough man to trust. But a bounce back to ’10 and ’11 levels feels like a given, and we’ve seen Davis’ monstrous upside before: He had 13 TDs back in ’09. He’s still only 29, and may be the fastest pass-catcher on his team.”

Combined with the defense, that isn’t bad.

Round seven: DeSean Jackson at WR. He’s an Eagle (my hometown team) but the QB situation is dicey. I’d have preferred a RB or even a kicker from that team, but you can’t hurry love.

Round eight: Time to pick a defense. San Francisco. Solid.

Round nine: kicker. Blair Walsh of Minneapolis. Only the #1 ranked kicker in the league. I congratulate myself, even though the difference between the #1 kicker in the league and the worst starting kicker in the league is probably three points. Good thing, because he’s the only kicker I’ve got.

At round ten, we’re into the bench. I need a backup QB in case something happens to Newton, and the best I can get is Jay Cutler. Meh. Bryce Brown as a backup RB. Now we’re officially into the names I can’t even be sure I recognize. Julian Edelman at WR because maybe he doesn’t start and therefore doesn’t get hurt too quickly. Throw the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones in there, too. Why not – he’s actually pretty good and would be a solid backup if everyone else falls. And finally, Justin Blackmon.

It’s after I make that pick that I learn he’s suspended for the first four games of the regular season for illegal substance violations.

I’m feeling okay. I’m feeling only slightly tighter than loose about it. Then I check the matchups. I’m a favorite over the co-worker I’m matched up against for week one, and sure, I have no idea why I’m matched up against him for week one, but I do know he was an autopick drafter. 

Go team!…?