by Eric Scot Tryon
I wanted to go home. Standing in the heart of De Wallen, a glowing, thumping street in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, I wanted to go home. Not home like back to the team’s hostel, with its thin cots and thinner walls. I wanted to go home-home.
Derek gave me a shove. ‘You’re up next, man, you ready? You reaaady?’ His space cake had kicked in. His eyes were red lakes of glass and a grin floated up his face.
I forced a laugh and absorbed into the vibrating mass of my teammates, willing myself to disappear. We moved as one entity. Obnoxious loud American teens bulldozing our way down the cobblestone. They all looked invincible. Breath dancing out of their mouths, ghost-puffs of air tinted red by the lights, they laughed and yelled as if they owned the whole goddamned world. But I couldn’t even look up. Couldn’t risk making eye contact with the women behind glass. They scared me the way Uma Thurman did in Kill Bill. Mystique from X-Men. Medusa.
‘Hey guys,’ I said, trying my hardest. ‘Let’s head back. Let’s party at the hostel.’ I didn’t want to party at the hostel. I wanted to go home.
‘Nah, man, we gotta wait for Bennie.’ ‘Yeah, and you’re next, rook!’ Hands on my back, pushing. ‘Check out the chick on the right.’ ‘No, no, how ‘bout that blonde.’ Fingers prodding me forward, voices swirling around my head. ‘Yeah, nail her bro!’ ‘Wait, wait, that one there is looking at him.’
‘I want to go home,’ I mumbled, but none of my teammates heard. They cackled, pointed, pushed, all through a numb haze after an evening at the hash bar. I was the virgin. The lone sixteen year old on the San Diego 18U team. On the field, I was an equal. More than an equal, running circles around most of them. But here. Here I was a slick doughy baby, and they loved it.
Derek grabbed my chin and forced it up. ‘Pick one, bro!’ He held my face hard with both hands. ‘Which one you wanna bang?’ And that’s when it happened. Eye contact. The tall redhead, behind glass like an action figure still in the box. Heels like skyscrapers, thigh-high stockings riddled with holes, and a black bra with one broken strap. She looked down at me from the window as her hips swayed side to side on autopilot. Our eyes met through the thick neoned air, and she smiled a dull half-smile. And in that brief moment, with our eyes locked like magnets, something happened. We saw each other. We shared something. We shared a longing. A longing to each be somewhere other than right where we were. Where did she want to be? At home, under blankets watching a movie with her daughter? At a café, sipping coffee and laughing with friends from Uni? She was the first to let go. But my teammates saw our exchange and erupted with laughter. Heads back, mouths open, arms slack, grips loosened, and that’s when I busted out.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could down the uneven road, the cold air turning my lungs to stone. I dipped and dodged people on the street like the breakaway midfielder I’d been trained to be. This part was natural. Muscle memory. I had no idea where I was going or what would happen when I got there, but I ran and I ran until the lights behind me were no longer red.
Eric Scot Tryon’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Willow Springs, XRAY Literary Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Berkeley Fiction Review, Bending Genres, LEON Literary Review, Wisconsin Review, (mac)ro(mic), and others. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. He lives in Pleasant Hill, CA with his wife and daughter.
You can find more info at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.