Tonight, I am here. Tonight, everything is right. I love moments like these, when I feel like I belong in this world, like I'm here for a reason. Sometimes I feel this way when I score a goal in hockey. I know I felt this way when we beat Iceland at the Jr. Goodwill Games, but since then hockey has been making me feel this way less and less. That's part of growing up, I guess. Hockey doesn't mean everything anymore. It's nights like this, skating on the old pond under the stars, that give me a peaceful feeling. I come here when I need to think and lately I've been coming here a lot. It's not a short walk either, since mom and I moved in with him. He's all right, I guess, Mom's husband. He comes to the games sometimes, and cheers. When people ask me if he's my dad I say yes. I have a real dad, though. This year he came back into my life. He just showed up one day. Mom told me he was a jerk, but said she'd let me make up my own mind about him. I talked to him for about two hours before I realized she was right. He still phones me on Fridays. I don't have much to say, but neither does he. I circle wide around the pond and concentrate on skating. It pushes the unpleasant thoughts out of my head, just like it always did.
I'll graduate this spring. That's a scary thought. No matter how much I don't want things to change, I know they will, they must. Change can be good, I remind myself. But it's hard to believe any good can come from the Ducks being split apart. I wonder if I'll get a hockey scholarship. I still want to be a hockey player. I remember, as kids, everyone used to want to be a hockey player. Now it's only me and Banks. No, that's not true - Portman, Julie, Luis, maybe even Dwayne will keep playing, but it's not the same. I hear the others talking about things, things like college majors and careers. Yesterday I know I heard the word "marriage" in the locker room. I want to shake everyone, tell them we're only kids, we should be thinking about having fun, and hockey, not car payments and majors. Man.
Inside I know I'll never make it to the NHL. I'm not a hotshot player, like Adam. I'm spaz- way. I laugh. Yeah, that's what they used to call me, back in the days of District 5. It's easy to forget that there's really only five of us left who walked out onto the ice in homemade jerseys. I go over them in my head: me, Connie, Guy, Goldburg, and Averman, none of them are going to keep playing hockey. It's odd, I know Guy could go all the way. Once I asked him about it and he said he has "different priorities." Whatever.
I found that little red sweater in the back of my closet today. I'd stuffed it back there when I'd gotten my ducks jersey. That's why I came out here tonight. I needed to think about how I got here. I remember the night Mom handstitched my name across the back of it. She was so proud of me. She still is, but in a different way, for different reasons. Today I hung that sweater up alongside my jerseys. To remember the way winning felt when it was new. For a loser, winning is the most amazing feeling in the world. To a winner, winning is just an everyday experience, something you do so you don't have to feel like a loser. Was being a loser really so bad? I'm trying to remember. We laughed a lot, I remember that. We never worried about winning, just about looking stupid, and after a while, we didn't even worry about that. People aren't meant to lose all the time - but they're not meant to win all the time either. Maybe it's about time for us to lose again. It always comes sooner or later.
I'm tired of skating. I'm tired of thinking. The more I think about life, the less sense it makes to me. A lay in a snowbank and count the stars. Tonight, in this moment, everything is right.