I clutched the handlebars, the left– my goalie hand –twitching a little bit. Best to always keep the men moving.
We were losing 2 to 8 and my partner had cracked. I should have expected as much from Mike, a junior who had been trying to date me for months but couldn’t pronounce my name. Across the table, John and Greg smirked. I knew these looks, though it had been two years since I had seen them across a foosball table.
“We let you win because you’re girls.”
This was their line any time Ginny and I beat them our sophomore year. The foosball table had been a gift from the university to our small dorm. A present for not being last year’s residents who threw a party that almost burned down the building. We were a motley crew of born-again Christians, hard-core athletes, and straight-edge punks. Since none of us drank, we had only foosball.
There were house rules: knock twice before dropping the ball in the chute; no scoring on the first touch; and no spinning. Ginny and I were a good team, but John and Greg were the best. John had a trademark shot: when your goalie blocked his shot, he would be waiting and slam the ball into the goal. It hit the back of the table with a sound more solid than almost any other. The John.
THWACK. Two years later, he was still using it. 2-9. This was the tiebreaker game in our school’s foosball tournament, $100 on the line for the winning team. Mike and I won the first game, which should have ended it, but John and Greg insisted it should be best two out of three. Mike hesitated and like that, they railroaded the tournament. Just like so many other things.
“Here’s your porn, Mark.”
John dropped an enormous box in front of my then-boyfriend in the dorm lobby. I tried not to look horrified and Mark tried not to look humiliated. The box, I learned later, belonged to the whole dorm. Mark was only the keeper, having an extra dresser, but had moved it to John’s room when his sister came to visit.
I felt sick at the sight of so much skin underneath the fluorescent lights, out in the open in front of ten other people. And at Mark’s face, stripped more naked than any of the women in the pictures. Without speaking, he threw the box in the dumpster outside and then locked himself in his room.
By morning, it was gone. I imagined the boys slinking to and from the dumpster like alley cats in the darkness.
THWACK. The perfect goalie shot alone could match the sound of The John. This was MY shot, my perfect shot. I lined up 8 more in a row to win the tournament while Mike, John, and Greg moved their men helplessly.
I could have saved the $50 check as a trophy to my win, but I bought new shoes instead.