my great-uncle stood just inches away from the old wooden radio console, his head craned toward its one remaining functional speaker as the game crackled over the AM airwaves. his beloved louisville cardinals, trailing heavily favored ohio state by only seven points, had steadily and systematically driven from deep within their own territory to within two yards of the goal line; the remaining time had ticked down to less than a minute.
my restless brain noted the eerie mirroring of his grizzled face — brought ever closer to the speaker with an almost menacing glare, as if to intimidate the announcer’s excited staccato into bringing good news — by the fresher, smoother face of the dog staring respectfully into the horn on the radio’s lovingly restored brand plate, eternally awaiting its master’s voice.
i opened my mouth, intent on breaking the tense vibe by pointing out this parallelism. as i began to deliver the quip, i fixed my gaze on his face, both wizened and wisened by a life of hard labor.
i never delivered the quip. my words were just gone, as if they had been ripped directly from the myelin express lanes leading from my brain to my mouth.
at that moment i felt the sheer magnitude of what i had always taken for granted — the passion in the hearts of men.
the passion that, when provoked, emerges from its slumber with the sound, fury, and heat of a welder’s torch, its emotional acetylene creating bonds that last a lifetime.
the passion that makes tragedy and loss saturate every molecule of a man’s body, but at the same time infuses objectively frivolous pursuits with the elixir of life to overcome such tragedies.
“all right boys.”
louisville had broken into the endzone with half a minute remaining, bringing the score to within one point. still, he managed these words of encouragement only sotto voce, as if trying not to lull his team into complacency.
two and a half years earlier, he had taken his beloved wife to the dealership to take delivery of the new pickup that was her birthday present. though normally the type to insist on driving when they were together, he had handed her the keys for the ceremonial first drive.
she never made it home.
a commercial break ensued.
despite the touchdown, which had capped an impressive scoring drive, my great-uncle marched toward the bathroom with no hint of joy or hope piercing his characteristic impassive scowl. he strode past the old, slightly cockeyed screen door, which had gradually drifted wide open on its freshly oiled hinges, and slammed it shut with unusually vigorous derision.
he was a man of few words.
he had slammed the door so hard that it vibrated lazily on the hinges, preventing its lip from securely entering the strike plate. the two danced momentarily, the door attempting a clumsy seduction, but they just didn’t click.
they had been broadsided by a drunk driver’s four-ton lifted truck, whose front grille had gone directly through the driver’s door, taking his wife’s life in a mercifully short instant. whether out of love, sadism, or both, though, the gods had saved my uncle from so much as a scrape.
he had stormed out of the new truck’s completely unscathed passenger door, the blinding white flame of his passion burning away all of his moral checks and balances. within seconds, my great-uncle had smashed through the drunk driver’s door, yanked the lock open, dragged the stuporous driver from the seat onto the hard, unforgiving pavement, and beaten him to within an inch of his life.
the driver needed only a few hours in the emergency room to go one more inch.
the jury acquitted my great-uncle of all charges after less than twenty minutes of deliberation.
“no… fuck, no.”
louisville had decided to be gutsy and try the two-point conversion, going for the big upset rather than settling for the tie. ohio state’s defense had correctly anticipated a pass play and had sent a heavy rush, forcing the louisville quarterback to float a desperation toss that glided tantalizingly out of reach above the intended receiver’s head.
ohio state 20, louisville 19.
the door, which was in plain view, had begun to drift back open into the still, humid air of west louisville.
silently, inexorably, at a steady angular velocity too slow to be perceptible, the door drifted back open, releasing some of my uncle’s pent-up passion into the dank, darkly aromatic, eerily silent night. a cloud of moths, clustered around the flickering yellow light outside, took this as an invitation.
my great-uncle’s otherwise unbearably monotone, gritty, tragedy-wracked life was animated by only three things: his faith, his family, and the louisville cardinals.
the saying that ardent fans live and die with their teams is usually meant metaphorically, but it became a literal truth in the year my great-uncle lost his wife.
his family was slowly dwindling, taken by accidents, cancer, violence, and disease.
his God had answered his faith by sparing him from the accident, but, with all the other things He had to attend to, had callously forgotten to do the same for his wife.
that year the oft-maligned cardinals posted their best season in school history, destroyed alabama on new year’s day, and very possibly saved my great-uncle’s life.
the following year, once my great-uncle had learned to handle the grief to the point where he no longer needed them, the cardinals reverted to their usual form, again losing more games than they won.
he stared at the old radio with visible shock.
louisville had successfully converted an onside kick and had run the ball all the way to the red zone — but the play was nullified, since the ball had traveled just shy of the requisite ten yards before being touched by a louisville player.
by this point, the door had drifted fully perpendicular to the frame, allowing the moths the run of the house.
final score, ohio state 20, louisville 19.
my great-uncle collapsed back onto the couch, despondent. “we shouldn’t have gone for the win. too greedy, you get nothing.”
one-and-a-half sentences. i was impressed with his verbosity.
“i forgot to shut the door.”
i sat there, sharing his burden as i best could.
in years past his wife would have sat next to him, wordless, putting her arms around him until it was time for him to go to the bathroom yet again.
but now it was just him.
and family like me, who would make the trip to visit when we could.
and the louisville cardinals.
the questions i haven’t been able to answer:
is it better to love deeply, never knowing when that love might be ripped away, or not to love at all?
is it a gift, or a tragedy, that i’ve come to see women as so alike that i will probably never feel that sort of love, no matter how i might want to?
if i learn exactly how to bond a woman to me, how to bond myself to her, and how to continually strengthen that bond — and i do so, consciously — can that still be called love?
the other thing i figured out that night:
the door opened so silently, slowly, and smoothly that its opening had become imperceptible.
so imperceptible, in fact, that my great-uncle had entirely forgotten the initial state — his having shut the door, even with such sound and fury — and had transferred the responsibility onto himself.
the key to successfully transforming your woman is to be like the brand-new oil in those door hinges.
be the lubricant that allows her to change, and the gravity that forces her to change, in the ways that will keep her enthralled.
if you transform her slowly, smoothly, implicitly, and skilfully enough, she’ll wake up one day and realize that she is your slut, yours to do anything you want with, for as long as you want — or at least for as long as you keep pushing.
and she won’t know how she got there.
she won’t even realize that it was your conscious (wo)manipulation.
it just happened. … because you made it happen.
we know how women love when things just happen.
we grew closer. … because you’ve created everything she has become.
i respect him. … because you own her.
i trust him. … because you know her better than she knows herself.
he makes me feel like a woman.
i can be myself around him.
i forgot to shut the door.
the most powerful forces are those that we don’t see, don’t feel, and don’t notice, until they have transformed us.