07. 23. 2007. 08:43

Football and literature 5.

László Garaczi: How my greatest desire was fulfilled

"I married and divorced, but all the thoughts running through my head were: goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I managed to trade off my small council apartment for a larger one through a fictitious contract, but all the while I was occupied with the thought of goal-kicking and Maria Schneider."

The greatest desire of my life appeared on the horizon of my mind when I was seven years old, in the following form: I’m running on the field in the People’s Stadium, it’s the World Cup final against the Brazilian team, the last minute of the second half, and I kick the winning goal. Later I let up some on the strict details, but the compound idea of “goal-kicking-regulation-size-field-official-match” burned deep into me along with the second greatest desire of my life, Maria Schneider. Maria Schneider, the actress who played in Last Tango in Paris, became the second greatest desire of my life when I was sixteen. These two things, and the lack of these two things, was at first a raw, direct and explicit demand, later working its effect in time-release, under my skin, concealed, disguised and changing form as it lurked at the far reaches of my mind. I graduated from high school and was drafted, but all the while I thought about goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I married and divorced, but all the thoughts running through my head were: goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I managed to trade off my small council apartment for a larger one through a fictitious contract, but all the while I was occupied with the thought of goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. The substance of everything that happened to me was defined by this dual desire. I had a book published? Goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I measured the length of a tube of toothpaste squeezed out on the Persian rug? Goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I drank a square meter of wine spritzers at the Stone Rose Tavern? Goal-kicking and Maria Schneider. I also attributed the following sentence to my helpless frustration: The bespectacled daddy nudges anise-flavored limp-wax onto the carrot.
No one suspected that I was living in a silent inner domain. My repression was a rusty lock with an infinite number of keys creaking inside. Could it be that these two were really one? That goal-kicking and Maria Schneider were the same? But I never managed to find out what that same one thing was. The decades, centuries, millennia passed, and I turned forty. On gloomy autumn afternoons I heard the whisper of a thought that said my chances might possibly be diminishing. After all, I had not seen Maria Schneider in twenty years, not on screen or in person. I didn’t know anything about her. By this time I would have settled for playing a game of football with Maria Schneider. Or watching a Honvéd-Vasas match with her. My patience, by now, was merely a form of ridicule. At the end of Last Tango in Paris Marlon Brando fanatically pursues Maria Schneider, who keeps repeating: it’s over, it’s over, fini. Well, that’s kind of what I felt. Fini.
During the summer of ’96 in Berlin I was introduced to a Hungarian guy who invited me to join the practice of Utopia SC, a Freizeit or recreational soccer league. Suddenly I found myself in the surreal situation of being a member of a genuine, not to mention German team, playing on a regulation-size field, taking part in real championship matches, the results of which were printed in the local sports paper. I neglected my writing work, quit smoking, only drank beer and Ferne Branca, adhering to a set daily amount, and I even dreamed of practicing offside strategies. “Lazlo, raus!” my teammates often yelled, at the top of their lungs, “Lazlo, raus!” and I scurried out from behind the 16-meter line.
And one day the miracle came to pass: I got sent out on the field. And an even greater miracle: we countered our opponents in the last ten minutes. My teammate Jens – who is a stonemason, but is rumored to have been a porn star – works the left side, the ball is coming at me at optimal speed, I kick it, and then in slow-mo the goalie flies out and touches it with his glove. I’m surprised at this. After all, I’m shooting a goal here and this jerk better not save, but no, he just brushes it. I do a double-take. Yup, it’s a goal alright. No doubt about it. I kicked it in, end of story. I am hollow emptiness; I’m motionless, indifferent, frozen and larval, jelly-like, leaden and vacant. I am present and distant, and a feeling of terror begins to overtake me. I turn around. Distorted faces fly towards me, my teammates, their expressions crushing: “Tor!” they yell in German. “Goal! Tor! Tor!” they yell with the same inflection they usually yell, Lazlo, raus! My Hungarian friend is ecstatic too, running like crazy towards me, “Tor!” he screams, “Tor! Tor!” and the veins bulge in his neck. I lift my arm, not in celebration, but to shield myself. They’re confused. The ecstasy fades from their faces. They slap me on the back, punch me in the arm, then quickly and quietly start back towards our half of the field, almost embarrassed. The pleasure of the goal is zero. Freeze-dried orgasm. 

I started drinking and smoking again, returning to reality. Enough of hazy daydreams: utopia raus. One of my greatest desires was fulfilled. One of the two. Better than nothing. Me vs. Life: 1-1. I also realized why I couldn’t feel happy about the goal, why I was not able to feel happiness: it was because I had gutted it a long time ago, I had wasted it, exploited and depleted it, had squandered the wages of my goal in advance, I was its parasite, sucking its blood my whole life. 

I developed a new habit. Each week I bought the Zitty, Berlin’s entertainment magazine which also contained reports on film stars. The answer to the question of whether Maria Schneider came to Berlin on a shoot, if I met her, and what happened at this meeting is another story I won’t go into now. Or maybe I will. She didn’t come, we didn’t meet, nothing happened. But a Greek friend of mine did tell me that his teenage fantasy was Maria Schneider too, until Maria arrived at the Athens premiere of Last Tango in Paris with her girlfriend. He, Alexis, actually saw the lovers strolling beneath the Acropolis. Thirty years have passed since then. The inventory is complete: an elderly lesbian lady and a joyless goal. So why am I still so happy? Why do I still feel a kind of trembling in the air, something thrilling and promising, like ozone before a storm?

Translated by Ildikó Naomi Nagy
Previously on HLO

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