Aaron turned around, expecting a fan or autograph-seeker. His smiled faded immediately, replaced with a grim stare. The muscles in his jaw flexed. Around them an awed hush grew as patrons, some wide-eyed with shock, others steely-eyed in enmity, took in the scene.
“Why are you
“Well, we’ll be playing you on Saturday, so…”
“No. I mean, here. Delilah’s.”
“Hm? No reason in particular. Just needed somewhere to, you know, kick back and relax.”
Ryan looked away as if searching the walls for what to say next. “Why’d you have to go and do it?”
Aaron, who was peering innocently at the ceiling, shot Ryan a look that could bore through steel. “Do what, exactly?”
“The finger. The shushing our fans when you scored. Back in September.”
“Oh, that. I thought you meant—but, no, you’d never refer to, well, you know. Having the bad manners to get hurt on your precious pitch?”
“No, no. Aaron, I meant the celebration. Couldn’t you just let it go? It’s been four years. Four years, almost to the day, of agony and misery. Don’t you know how much I’ve suffered since that day?”
“You? Suffered? Do you even know what you sound—oh, excuse me, I’m getting a text. You know how vitally important texts are, don’t you, Ryan? Only the most important messages come via text. Let’s see—ah, yes. My point exactly. See this, Ryan? Here’s a text that says “sry m8. BFFNMW?”
Ryan looked confused, then vexed. “Aaron, that’s my—I was trying to apologize.”
“With a text message? A text, Ryan? You broke my leg. In two places! Where were you when you texted me? Takin’ the piss or just havin’ one?”
“Aaron, they wouldn’t let me see you? I tried and I tried and—”
“Not hard enough, ‘mate.’ You up and switched countries rather than face me. How’s that working out for you? How many caps do you have? One? Two? Must be grand ridin’ the bench behind Terry and Cahill and all the others.”
“Aaron, I didn’t decided to represent England because of all this…it’s more than that. I wasn’t avoiding you. It’s…that’s beside the point. I wanted to come and apologize, but it’s hard to find the words.”
“Wait, Aaron. Listen.”
“To what?” Aaron checked his watch.
“I want to explain.”
“Not much to explain, Ryan. You broke my leg in two places. Your fans booed me as I was stretchered off. They still boo me. Why? Is it my fault my bones aren’t made of steel? My fault that you broke my god-damned leg? Ryan, have you seen the angle that my ankle was hanging at? Have you watched the video?”
Ryan, staring at the floor, muttered to himself.
Aaron’s eyes popped out and the spit flew from his lips. “What? WHAT??? What did you just say?”
Ryan looked up. I said, “every day.”
“What do you mean, ‘every day’? What’s that mean?”
“Aaron, I watch the clip every day.”
“What? Why would you…” Aaron recoiled as the disgust overwhelmed him. “That’s vile, Ryan. What, do you get off on that? Is it like porn for you or something?”
“Then why the f—”
“Because, Aaron. Because I don’t want to ever forget what I did. I was young. I was stupid. Coach was always going on about Arsenal being sissies and all, and if we just knocked you guys around, we’d win. He was always saying to get rough, you know? Get inside your heads. I was just—”
“Rough’s one thing, Ryan. Breaking bones is something else entirely.”
“I never meant to hurt you, Rambo, I—”
“Don’t call me Rambo.”
“Okay. Sorry. What I mean is—”
“Oh, so you do know how to say it.”
“Aaron, slow down. C’mon. I’m trying to say it. Coach always wanted us to be tough. My da, he never let me be weak. ‘Never let ’em see you soft, boy’ he’d say. I—I was just doin’ what they wanted.”
“So I wasn’t bein’ dirty. Honest. Just rough. When I went in for the ball—”
“You weren’t going for the ball.”
“I was, I swear. Aaron, you gotta believe me. It was an accident and I can never forgive myself even if you did forgive me.”
Aaron glared. “I don’t know if I can forgive someone who’s never apologized to my face.”
Ryan froze, the words he was prepared to say no longer quite fitting the moment. He blinked. Somewhere, of course, because it just has to at times like this, a forked clattered to the ground.
Aaron waited. Ryan swallowed. With difficulty.
“I…I’m sorry, Aaron.”
I offer that little bit in hopes of finding some kind of piece with the horror that was Shawcross’s tackle, if only for myself. As to Shawcross and Ramsey, I don’t know when this issue will be resolved. It’s up to the two men to settle this. I doubt we’ll see any kind of resolution before Saturday’s trip to Brittania. Even if the two were to schedule a press-conference and rent out billboards all around the stadium to announce that Shawcross had apologized and Ramsey had accepted, each club’s fanbase has sections or elements that may never be mollified. From where I stand, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Shawcross meant to injure Ramsey, something I mentioned here, and I certainly believe that he didn’t intend on breaking bones. However, playing rough dramatically increases the chances that injuries will occur, and it also fuels the perception that the injuries that do occur are intentional. I’d love to see or hear that the two men have resolved this. It’s all become a little too macabre for me, with fans on each side wishing harm on each other.
One of the whole points of sports is to allow societies and cultures to settle their differences without actually hurting or killing each other, after all. It’s ironic then to see football revert back to primeval states in which we’re back to injuring each other in the name of sports.