The PlayerBy: Claire Contreras
“What do you base your happiness around?
Material, women and large paper?
That means you’re inferior. Not major.”
Reporter: “Your one constant has always remained that soccer is the number-one love of your life. That you’d never trade it for anything or anyone. Does that still stand?”
I inhaled a heavy breath when I heard the question. I set down my fork and knife and walked over to the television. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t. I’d promised myself I wasn’t going to look at him, listen to him, talk to him, have absolutely anything to do with him once he left. Yet there I was, like I was sure countless of other females were, waiting on bated breath for his answer. When he came into the screen, my breath left me altogether. God. I missed him. I hated him. Couldn’t stand him. But seeing him on the screen, the way he sat back on the seat with his ankle crossed over his knee, looking completely relaxed as he was being drilled with questions . . . the way his chiseled jaw moved when he gave the reporter that lopsided smile that hinted at legions of pleasure that would make any sane woman blush furiously, those arms, roped in muscle and etched in art that I’d touched, clung to during so many sleepless nights . . .
“Of course it still stands. What do you think?” he asked, tilting his head, green eyes twinkling in flirtation.
Reporter: “So the rumors about a woman you left behind in the US during the holiday—”
“I think we both know how many rumors are spread about me.” He tore his gaze away from her and looked directly into the camera. Directly at me. “If there was a woman that special, I would never leave her behind.”
Reporter: “So you would be willing to make your career number two for the right woman?”
He continued to look at the camera, his face sobering, all traces of flirtation gone. “I’d give up my career to chase moments with the right woman.”
I leaned back in my couch, fighting back the tears that threatened.
I hated him.
SOMETIMES I CLOSED MY EYES and tried to remember what it felt like to live in luxury. To have the cold silk sheets beneath my fingertips, the warm air on cool winter days, and the cold air on hot summer nights. All things I once had (albeit, for a short time) and now could just barely imagine. I was happy, though. Most of the time. And that was more than I could say for many of us. I didn’t have much other than a roof over my head. Not a big one, or one I owned, but it was one I’d called home for the past three years, until my landlord slapped me with an eviction notice that said I needed to be out by the end of the month.
“By the end of the month? How can they do that?” my sister Vanessa asked, her voice a whisper before she raised it and looked at her husband. “Can they do that? Is that legal?”
“They own the building,” Adam said from the other side of the room.
He walked over to where we were sitting in front of the marble fireplace and plucked the paper out of Vanessa’s hand. We both looked at him as his eyes scanned the page, breaths held, waiting, hoping that maybe somehow he could find a loophole in the plethora of legal terms written on the page. When his eyes stopped moving and he shot a regretful look our way, my shoulders sagged once more. I let myself have a pity party for a few more seconds before getting up from the couch.
“It’s fine. I’ll just have to start looking for a new apartment.”
“You can always stay with us,” Adam offered. “We have more than enough room.”
Unlike my studio apartment in Washington Heights, they lived in a sprawling Brooklyn brownstone, with three bedrooms and two and a half baths. They even had a small backyard with patio furniture and a grill. I could move in with them for a while, but I wouldn’t. Help wasn’t something I accepted easily, even when it came from my sister and her gracious husband. I psychoanalyzed myself regularly enough to know that the issues I had with my dad were the reason I couldn’t accept help.