Loris doesn’t even hear the final whistle blow. It doesn’t matter. He hates Kiev, hates Wales and more importantly, hates himself. He wishes it would rain so his crying would be less noticeable. Not like that really matters though, he has the apple core tightness in his throat and his eyes are already a little puffy. Someone in white moves towards him and he wishes they fucking wouldn’t. He doesn’t want consolation right now, especially not from someone who was going to inherently be condescending.
In an attempt to deflect interaction, Loris sprawls onto the ground. Maybe if he thinks hard enough he’ll melt away into it. So he closes his eyes and hopes, hopes that they’ll ignore him or better yet, that the clock would shift back 24 hours so he’d have a chance at redemption. Neither are the case, and when he opens his blurry eyes he is confronted by a loud stadium, and more outstandingly, his failure.
He doesn’t even remember the next hour and a half. It doesn’t matter, just consists of apologizing and crying in various locations: in front of the fans, in the dressing room, in the shower. Maybe someone occasionally pats him on the shoulder or gives him a few words of consolation, but it does nothing. nothing. nothing. The look on his teammates’ faces, their lack of response to him tells Loris more than he needed to know. He feels like they want him to be gone, and he feels the same way too.
By the time he slinks into his room, ready to melt into his bed and never come out, Loris feels like there are nails hammered into his chest. It hurts. He wants to feel like he feels when he’s asleep but that’s not an option because sleep won’t come. can’t come. He puts on his sad music playlist but turns it off a few seconds later. Even Giles Corey is too happy for him. Loris kicks his legs about in bed for a moment; too restless and his brain too loud to really find an inner calm.
From the corner of his vision he can see Emre— relatively cool, calm and collected— tug off his sweaty post match shirt in order to change to a much more somber dark grey one. This was a usual sight, one he’d seen enough lying stomach down or with a pillow resting on top of him, but it isn’t even pleasing today. Not even Emre’s abs can marginally improve this. Emre approaches him, pitiful look on his face.
Deep breath. His throat is a little less tight. “Yeah?”
Emre’s hand rests on his shoulder blade, but it isn’t reassuring like Loris hoped it would be. “Are you alright?” A moment passes. “I mean, will you be okay?”
Loris turns to look at him with glassy eyes. “Sure.”
It’s not convincing enough to make Emre leave. Emre scoots to sit next to him, tries to console via little circles rubbed into his back. There’s nothing he could say that would make Loris feel better. Why does he even try? He was a lost cause lost cause. Shook like a failure. Felt like one too. Emre doesn’t say much, or maybe he says a lot. It doesn’t matter, and Loris can’t hear anything over the self hating racket rattling in his skull.
“Do you want me to stay?”
Emre doesn’t leave. He’s not the reassuring attractive presence that Loris thought he would’ve been. Wasn’t it strange that after thinking what it would be like to have him this close that the real thing was so disappointing? Loris thought he would’ve felt his skin crackle, but instead all he is is painfully aware of how miserable he is. Leave, he wants to say, but the words catch in his throat.
Eventually Emre gets it and shifts away, looking at Loris with one last gaze of supreme sympathy. Loris wants him to leave, wants to feel better, wants to not exist. Something in his eyes must tell Emre to leave, because he does.
The loneliness isn’t much better than a forced sense of comradery. Being left to drown in his thoughts was perhaps not the best strategy, but currently Loris lacks the energy to remedy the situation. He resists the urge to check Instagram and instead opts for a nice session of lying face down on his bed, face pressed into a pillow and almost hoping that it would choke him out. Unfortunately still breathing, he can hear the freak of the door opening.
Jordan’s voice floats from the hallway. “Aye, if you’re feelin’ up to it, we’re gonna watch Rocky. Come down if you want.”
Loris doesn’t respond. From outside he can hear Adam and who he thinks is James chatter with Jordan. He groans a little at the idea of more required interaction. Adam says something about leaving him alone and thankfully they do.
Again. Alone in the room. Now face up so he can stare at he ceiling fan and replay the feeling of the ball bounce back off his fingers with every pass of the fan’s blades. He feels like he’s choking or drowning. Either would be preferable to the current situation. How would his teammates ever look at him in the eyes again? Would he even still be at Liverpool come next season? Surely he didn’t deserve to. They probably all hated him.
It feels like he’s trapped in a loop; Loris isn’t sure if he’s been lying about for five minutes or an hour. Time didn’t matter anyways. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt this sad or angry, albeit all his fury was turned inwards. That changes when he hears the door open to his room yet again. He should’ve locked it.
This time the person doesn’t bother greeting him, just pads over to his bedside and sits down, waiting for Loris to look up. Eventually he caves in and peers over to see James. James doesn’t look angry at him or sad, like the other lads. Come to think of it, he hadn’t cried like everyone else in the locker room. He just looks a little disappointed in Loris.
“Please go,” Loris says.
James doesn’t leave. “Get up,” he looks at him adamantly. “Come on, let’s go.”
Walking down the street ten minutes later in his sweats, Loris wonders how he was roped into this. He’s scared that someone will recognize them, or him more specifically, but James moves forward with an eerie confidence. He doesn’t even talk much, unless to give Loris direction as to where they were going.
Thin Ukrainian streets give way to a shady park, empty of people and sparely dotted with street lights. Everything is lit golden and green. The golden light reminds him of what he lost, and for a moment he thinks about how unexcited the Madrid players seemed about winning. Out of the corner of his eye he can see James look at him.
“Quit thinking about it.”
Loris plays dumb. “About what?”
A roll of the eyes. “Mate, one bad night doesn’t make you a bad keeper.”
“Don’t say that shit.” Loris feels anger burn behind his temples. “You don’t know what it’s like.”
They walk for a minute, Loris only seething and James seemingly unperturbed. For a moment Loris breaks out of his self hatred to wonder how the older man dealt with things so cooly. Eventually they come to a fountain, coins glimmering at the bottom. The shorter of the two men stares at the fountain briefly before flicking a coin in. The streetlights hit his features right, turn his superhero-esque features into something more statue like.
“It’s what you do after you fuck up that matters. How you come back. That’s what makes you good or bad.” James says with some finality.
For a moment Loris wants to fight that statement too, but he’s tired and the way James speaks has him a little convinced. It felt relieving to not absolutely hate himself for a split second. The breeze is cool on his skin and maybe he feels okay for now.
“Do they hate me?”
He keeps his eyes trained on James, waits for the answer. The shorter man is silent and pensive for almost too long. It gives Loris time to study his face in hopes for a clue. Unfortunately James is unreadable. “They won’t.”
Loris nods, putting his hands back into his pockets. Briefly he thinks of Emre, of the affection he feels for the man. Did he feel the same way for him? Did he hate him? He wonders if James is lying, like when he convinced Adam that Kloppo was planning on selling him, or if he was telling the truth. He had a damn good poker face.
So Loris looks back out at the dense trees in the park and the glowing streetlights and wonders how he’ll feel tomorrow. He wonders how everyone else will feel tomorrow too. Will they look him in the eyes? He hopes Emre will, but he hopes for a lot more than that in that realm. His thoughts drift further towards his fellow German. Emre was always there for him.
James puts his arm around Loris, having stood up on a rock to match his height. If he were a little less sad he’d’ve laughed at the sight, but instead he just leans on James. The skyline of Kiev floats a little past the trees. Hopefully things would be a little more okay tomorrow.