Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta practice. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta practice. Mostrar todas las entradas

viernes, 20 de abril de 2018

Lessons in the ice

   I would always spend my winters in my friend Robert’s cabin, in the woods just north of the Northern Lake. His family never used it on such windy and cold months but I needed that time to be alone and be able to think for once, about my life, decisions and so on. My family lived far away and I didn’t have any money to go and visit them, so I would pack my laptop and portable Wi-Fi and just cold them from the cabin on Christmas day to wish them all a happy day and talk to them for a while.

 The reason I liked the cabin, or at least the main one, was that the lake was just a few minutes away by walking. Part of it would freeze but the other half would stay liquid because of a strong current coming from a river that traverse the body of water. The part of the lake nearest to the cabin was the one that was always frozen, and I would practice my jumps and twists right there. I would do it for hours, never fearing that the ice would break beneath my feet or that I could be attacked by a feral animal.

 I had grown to know the lake deeply, so I knew very well that the ice was at its thickest when I visited, almost a meter thick at times. That was more than enough for me to spend hours and hours practicing. My skating was getting sloppy and I couldn’t do the things that I was famous for several years before, when I first entered the ice skating circuit. I had been labeled a “star” and “the next best thing to come out of ice skating”. There were gifts and praise and flowers and all kinds of beautiful moments.

 But that had happened then and this was now. Me gliding on the ice, jumping and trying to make a good figure, just to be stopped in the middle of the air by my weight or my stupid feet. I seemed to have lost my form in a matter of a few years and coming back now was going to be the most difficult thing ever. I had made the decision to try my best to make a comeback, a last attempt at glory before I entered well into my thirties. That’s the magical number that you cannot go over, not in this world.

 I had checked out every single competitor I was going to have and they were all much younger than me. The prodigy of the group was a kid that was more than ten years younger, with a small stature and slender body, he was sure to make a big impression in any contest. I needed to work a lot to get to that level, to even get near what the others were doing. No one cared that I had won so many awards years ago. They didn’t care if they had been gold, silver or bronze. I wasn’t in their landscape at all. I was just a memory of a past that wasn’t that old.

 I worked out every single day in the cabin, just after having a small breakfast. I would jog around the woods and do sit-ups and pull-ups and every single kind of exercise to make my body what it had used to be. It hurt a lot and it there were many moments in which I wanted to drop it all and just go back to what I had been doing for the past year and a half. Working at the supermarket and as a cashier in the local skating rink was not bad at all. It helped pay the bills at least. But I needed more.

 Telling anyone about my plans was out of the question. Even after sending my papers to inscribe my name for the upcoming events, no one had notice that I was there, trying to make a comeback. They would only notice me once I stepped in the ice once again to reclaim my throne or at least make a decent attempt at it. I hadn’t told my family or anyone else. No one needed to know about what I wanted to do with the next few years of my life. They wouldn’t understand why I just need to do it.

 Maybe if I had a friend, I would tell them what was going on in my head the moment I decided to go back to such a difficult sports life. But I don’t have any because everyone left me after I stopped being famous and a success. And those who didn’t leave me were alienated by the person I became after I hung up my skates to pursue a more “normal” life. They were disappointed in me and got fed up of my negative attitude towards life. I have always said that I would never hold that against them.

 Sometimes, at night, I wonder about what those people think now that I’m planning to come back to the competitions. Are they going to be still mad at me for leaving everything in the first place or are they going to silently cheer me on? Well, I’m never going to know that but it’s not important. I need to do this whatever the results may be and no matter how difficult it can get. And it’s already pretty hard so I guess things are going to be pretty messy. But that’s the challenge I accepted.

 When winter is over, I will go back to the city and start practicing on a proper ice rink and then the trials and competitions will begin. Everyone will know I’m trying to get back to the top and then everything will become even harder. But I trust I can push through and just get to a point were I get to enjoy skating again. I want to feel what I felt all those years ago, because it was the best feeling ever. It was like walking on clouds and being able to fly over everyone else, doing something most people would only dream about. It felt so special and magical, a one of a kind sensation.

 But before that, I need to get back in shape, I need to be able to be that person I once was or at least someone very similar. I have to learn from the mistakes I made back then and also make new ones, because no one is perfect and there’s no way I’m going to step on those competitions thinking I’m better than others just because I have been there before. No, I need to know that I’m starting over, from the bottom. I need to make the trip to the top with all the dangers and difficulties, because that’s the only way I can do this right.

 Sometimes, I can already feel the rush through my body, going up from the skates to my hair, rushing with my blood which is warmed by the simple power that you feel when you’re doing something that makes you feel unique and present in this world. That one of a kind feeling.

 But then I fell, flat on my ass, hitting myself once and again and again, against the hard and cold ice. I see my body covered in cuts and bruises and I realize I’m just beginning. There’s still a long way to go for me but I do not mind at all. I want to get to the finish line. I need to get there.

jueves, 17 de noviembre de 2016

Match point

   The machine was launching balls every few minutes and Agatha attempted to hit them with her racket in the best way she could. She had never been very good at sports but, this time, she really needed to learn how to play something. One of her clients, a man who was very rich and famous, was very much into the world of tennis and had proposed her to have a match just before they sat down to negotiate a deal that would mean millions of dollars for everyone. At first, she didn’t want to accept but she ultimately did.

 She decided to join a huge gym near the office in order to practice every single day until the date of their meeting. Thanks to her boss, the man agreed on having the game a month later, giving her a good amount of time to learn the basics. Her boss insisted that, if she did well during the game, they would benefit greatly from the client’s good sense of humor, It was not uncommon in that company to try and make every client feel like they all understood their hobbies and passions. Rich people could get very weird and even dangerous.

 There was Mrs. Stevenson, for example, who had a large collection of snakes in her house. As a potential client, they had to make her feel accepted and nice so one of Agatha’s co workers had to go to her house several times and feed the snakes. Sometimes, it could be very easy but other times it would be awfully dangerous. He was bitten a couple of times but, Thank god, the snakes had no poison in them to do anything, so he never required going to the doctor or anything like that. The point was, they won that account and locked millions of dollars.

 Agatha herself had gone out with at least five different potential clients. As any decent woman, she had her limits. So it wasn’t a surprise that some of the people they assigned to her, never really got to be proper clients. Men always wanted more than they should get and it wasn’t once but many times when she felt really weird and uncomfortable, whether it was because of a weird attitude or an inappropriate way to touch her. In most cases, she preferred women clients but they normally got assigned one of her male coworkers.

 Anyway, she went to the gym every single day for the next month. The first days were extremely difficult because the automated machine that helped her practice had beat her up with several balls at high speed. The person at the gym said the machine had personality, which wasn’t really the best excuse or argument to be made for it. But she kept trying and by the end of the first week, she was able to properly hit the ball, even if the angles were all a little bit strange. In any case, that was the first hurdle she had gone over, so she was very happy.

The bad side of all of it was the sore elbows and shoulders every day after practice. She walked like a zombie at work and had a new tendency to fall asleep really early. It wasn’t that strange as the gym hours she could use were very late so Agatha got home around one in the morning. And then, she had to wake up at six o’clock in order to be in the office just in time. She couldn’t wait to end all of it with this new client and go back to boring launches or just keeping her desk job, which she really didn’t mind about, especially when she was so sore.

 In the office, she actually tried to learn a little bit more about her client before meeting him. All the information she had was based out of the report that her boss had given to her. But, of course, she needed much more than just knowing what the man liked. She really needed to know him better if the idea was to lure him into their company. She began her research in the office but, weirdly enough, there were a pretty low amount of articles about him and there was no picture to be found in any website. Not from a social event or a personal thing. Nothing.

 Agatha soon got tired of looking for the guy. She went to her boss’s office and asked him if they could talk about their client. But she has apparently chosen a bad moment as he was holding the phone and a hysterical woman was yelling at him from the other side. The voice was extremely loud and Agatha knew she wouldn’t get anything right then. So she then moved to her friend Cynthia’s office, in order to talk a little bit about how uncomfortable this all was. The fact that she was preparing so much for a meeting with a person she had never seen.

 Cynthia assured her that the client was very new and maybe that’s why there were no pictures or thorough information on the person. That night, during practice, she decided to play a little bit more violent. Not only because she didn’t know the gay but because she was really pissed off at herself for the job she had and the things she had to do to keep. As she hit every ball as hard as she could, she remembered the days she had wanted to become a baker. She had always loved that profession and would have loved to pursue it but things rarely go exactly as we want them.

 She stayed so late that night, than the next morning she decided to call in sick and just not go. It was a Friday and it was very well known that they were never really productive on Fridays. So Agatha could have a long weekend and try to reorder her thoughts and priorities as well as she could. She had a hearty breakfast and then spent fifteen minutes in the shower, with hot water forming some kind of sauna all around her. It felt really good,

 By lunch, she already knew what she was going to do. There was only one week to go to her date with the client and then everything will be over for her. She was determined to quit her job and use her savings to live around, until another opportunity showed itself. Of course, looking for a job that matched her skills was not the easiest thing to do, she had found out that she was fed up with all the clients and the extra work and everything she had no idea about. It didn’t matter how much money she won there. That money could help her survive a few months, if necessary.

 She was tired of pleasing everyone else but herself. She hadn’t taken a proper vacation in a long time and it was really due because every single day she felt tired and bored. Cynthia, for example, didn’t have to deal with clients directly like her so she didn’t really care about it all. It was difficult for anyone to understand why Agatha wanted to leave a job that paid so well but she was so frustrated with it all. That client, the tennis client, would be her last one and that tennis match would be the last thing she did for that company.

 When the day finally came, she prepared herself by buying the best outfit for the occasion. She wanted to look good but also very professional. It was very difficult to do in the tennis skirt she had bought, because of the length, but the idea was that she would distract him into thinking about something else and then he would sign anything and everything. The game started with a slight advantage on Agatha’s hand but it soon became a really even game, where they played as if their lives depended on it. The guy happened to be excellent at the game.

 When she finally so his face, she was able to put a proper image on the large amount of thoughts she had imagined about him and the game and everything that had to do with that moment. After two sets, one won by each, they decided to rest and talk a little bit. Agatha decided that was the perfect time to talk about business. However, he didn’t even have to: the man grabbed all the papers and signed every single one of them in silence and with a beautiful pen that he kept on his tennis bag. She never expected thing to go that way.

 The man told her he had decided on working with them the moment she showed her fierceness, her need to overcome an obstacle that she obviously had. To him, it was clear she had never properly played tennis. But he admired her obvious dedication to it. Just before the match began again, he asked her how happy she was working in that place. It was just as if he knew what she was thinking. So she just blinked her eye and told him they needed to keep playing.

lunes, 23 de marzo de 2015

Out of focus

   Gong was simply the best in her dancing class. She did every routine perfectly, able to combine different kinds of disciplines and styles with modern music. She thought classical music was out of the game now and that dance needed something else to make it more interesting. She was also a gymnast, which made her even better to the eyes of her teacher and more annoying to the eyes of every single one of her classmates. They all knew she actually thought she was a better person only because of her achievements and knowledge and they didn’t try to make her feel welcome.

 The girl didn’t care. She was only fourteen but knew very well how to treat people and how to behave by herself. She had to think she was the best to be the best every single time, in every competition and every class. It got very tiring and pretending something that she wasn’t sure was true was very exhausting. She did not do it in daily life, preferring to relate more to her sister and her parents. But only her father because her mother was all too obsessed with her practicing and winning and it had gotten to be unbearable to be in the same room with her, always criticizing and thinking she was being encouraging but wasn’t.

 Her father wanted all that for her too, but he didn’t as much. He always reminded Gong to have fun and never forget that dance and sports were not about destroying oneself on a mat but about making the art bigger and better. She listened to this and though of it always before any of her presentations. To be honest, the days of fear had passed because she had learned not to care about anyone but her, especially when performing. She just put the world out of focus and did what she had to do.

 Gong loved to use rock songs for her performances. Hip-hop was the kind of music everyone used to seem different and classical with any change was too dull for her. She had won a tournament by performing, all five of her events, with songs by Metallica. It was her who designed every single movement, not needing or asking for any kind of help. She used to have a trainer but she left him as soon as she realized he only pressured her to be the one to gain all the recognition.

 She got rid of him and decided to be dedicated and train everyday at least an hour by herself. Her parents were very supportive and it was all unnoticeable for the media or the judges of the next big event after that. She was praised so much; no one even realized she had no trainer but only her loving parents and her sister. After that particular time, she was asked to be photograph for many famous magazines because she had won a slot on the Olympics, which were going to be celebrated in Rio de Janeiro.

 Practice was intensified. She practiced every morning, from sunrise to lunch. She only had a slight breakfast on a very short break and then kept on going. Her diet had not been consulted with a doctor but her parents read all about them to make every meal appropriate for her. It was dreadful, she knew, especially for them because they had decided to do the diets as well and that proved to be a tough decision as her meals were not really full of flavors and variety.

 It was funny at first when her dad was caught by her mother, eating a cheeseburger in the car. Gong didn’t blame him and told them that she could keep doing it all by herself but they refused and her father apologized to her, although she didn’t really understand why. She just kept focused on her practice and on designing the best possible routines for every single event she was going to be performing in on the Olympic arena.

 The girls was exceedingly happy when her parents came in one morning to her room, after practice, and told her they had bought the tickets and all the hotel arrangements had already being settled. She was going to be staying with the rest of the athletes but they would be close by to check on her and join her on every event. According to the rules, they couldn’t have meals with her on the days she was to be busy but they could go out and get to know the city on the days nothing was happening.

 But Gong noticed something she didn’t like and which made her loose her focus from practicing. Her little sister Zhang, had begun to shut her out. It was very often that she could talk to her and play but now, when she tried, Gong was refused entrance to her room and on dinner Zhang wouldn’t even look at her, preferring to eat fast or at least fake she ate and leave early for her room. Zhang was eleven and had always been Gong’s best friend. She had been very supportive when some of the girls in the dance school or in the gymnastics practice were mean to her but now she was absent.

 And when the date of the trip to Brazil came nearer, she realized the whole time there she was going to think of her sister, trying to see her up there in the seats with her parents. And she didn’t now if she could stand that, not being in right terms with the one person that had always supported her and from which she felt no pressure at all. It was the morning before leaving that her parents told her Zhang was not coming with them. They had decided to leave her with aunt Myrna, who wasn’t really their aunt but her uncle’s wife, who had three kids and a big home.

 Gong was destroyed by the news and, for the first time in all of her life, she refused to practice, to dance, to do any of the things she normally did. She cried and begged Zhang to come out of her room and talk to her. But Zhang was not there. She had left the day before for Myrna’s house and she, the bad sister that she felt, had not even noticed. Her parents almost had to force her to eat, put on her clothes and hop in the car for the ride to the airport. Her trip there was awful and the one on the plane to Brazil was even worse, always thinking of Zhang and feeling worse by the minute.

 When the plane finally landed. Gong insisted on calling her sister. She dialed the number herself and once she her aunt Myrna’s voice, she was relieved to know that Zhang was being very normal and even pleasant around her children. She asked Myrna to pass the phone to Zhang but then Myrna fell silent and it took her a bit to tell Gong that her sister had asked not to be interrupted while playing, especially not by them. She didn’t want to speak to any member of her family and Myrna didn’t want to make her feel worse.

 Almost in a whisper, she told Gong that Zhang was feeling very bad because of the entire trip thing and that she thought her parents had failed by letting her out of everything, clearly putting Gong first and her second. Aunt Myrna asked Gong not to blame them or her sister for anything and just to focus on her events and comeback soon to get things sorted out. She then wished her good luck in Rio. Gong thanked her for her good wishes and her advice and hung up.

 It got a bit better when she met the rest of the group and, the next day, when they did the big parade of nations. She was mesmerized by the thousands of people in the stadium and hoped her sister understood how much she wanted her there right now. The night of the parade, everyone went to bed early because the first week was always the most intense one. Gong had the following three days for practice and then it was time for the first event. Regrettably, time flew by and the moment came for her first performance.

 She did great. With the sound of pop music roaring all over, she focused only on her moves and sharpness and she was surprised to take the first spot among her group. The following day, she was able to move on the semifinals groups and then on the grand finals. All the girls were very talented and she had seen their every move for the last few days. Some of them seemed even stricter with their dancing, almost looking mad every single moment. It was as if they had nothing else on their minds.

 But she did. The final day, somehow, the thought of her sister took over everything and she didn’t even have a proper breakfast because of it. Suddenly she became worried because there was a feeling on her chest, a weird sensation that something felt wrong. Before leaving for the arena, she asked her parents to call her aunt and ask for Zhang. She thought only asking for here would be enough, not to be too pushy. She would have time to talk to her when they got back.

 Her parents went to their seats and she went on to perform beautifully. She had only a few points of advantage over her nearest competitor but it was enough to win the gold medal. She was thrilled when receiving the flowers, the medal and a stuffed mascot. Everyone was taking her picture and she was simply the happiest girl in the world. She would go back home and show the medal to her sister and everything would be ok.

 But it wasn’t. Her parents were nowhere to be found and when she did, she realized something awful had happened. Right enough, Myrna had told them that Zhang had committed suicide overnight. She had taken her to the hospital but here was nothing the doctors could do. When Gong heard this, she just collapsed. Her only friend in the world was gone, on the happiest day of her life.  

jueves, 22 de enero de 2015


   The ocean was his thing. When high school drew to a close, his parents had insisted on him finding a proper career to study in a big city, at least ten hours away from their small town. But Ari, our young enthusiast, was fascinated by the treasures of the sea and was eager to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. That man was a living legend as he had broken all records of size and number of fish he had caught. He was just the best at his craft.

 Ari visited Mr. Gons, his grandfather, pretty often. The old man lived in a small shack by the sea, where he would still fish his lunch and ate very little fruits and vegetables, despite his daughter’s insistence. He always told her that he was over eighty years old and, beyond that age, it didn’t really matter what had eaten before in your life. Mister Gons thought the ocean could give anyone a fair life and enough to nourish from.

 So it was from him from whom Ari had learned to appreciate the ocean, which had always been there for him. He loved swimming, of course, and had done a bit of surfing but he wasn’t much into it. He loved diving, though. He had attended a school were he had learned all the basics and now he did it every time he had a moment to do it. He would ask his grandfather fro his boat and dive alone, from the break of dawn to lunchtime.

 To his grandpa’s disappointment, he never brought fish to eat. He only went there to see the ocean creatures live, to the things they did normally, which was fascinating. He loved animals, sometimes bringing his dog Kop with him in the boat. When high school finished, his parents were mad at him for not having put his name down in any of the schools they suggested. They knew he loved the town but they also knew opportunities there were scarce.

 So, because of his decision not to study, he had the chance to do two things he wanted to do instead of studying law or medicine. First of all, he found a job leading tourists to a nearby reef. He would go with small groups and show them the marine life and how they tried to protect it from being destroyed. Besides work, which he always looked forward, he decided to help in the only fishery remaining in town. He started taking the guts out of the fish and putting them on ice but he hoped to get one a boat some day.

 The first months were both easy and hard, all at the same time. Driving the tourists around was incredibly relaxing, as only people who really liked the ocean would go on those kind of tours. The few times there was a nervous person, they would all help to make the experience the best of his or her life. There was definitely nothing like watching life just happen before your eyes and that’s what he loved of it.

The fishery, on the other hand, was hard work. He would do it four days a week an even then it was hell. The people handling the place had been shaped by the sea, just like their product, and they didn’t allow anything to go differently than what they had planned. They yelled a lot, especially when the work place was too filthy or the worker was too slow. Taking the guts out and scaling the fish was not as easy as it looked like and it had to be done properly or the fish would be damaged and selling it would be harder.

 Every time he got back home, after work, he would be exhausted. It didn’t matter from what job he came from, his hands would always be sore as well as his feet. Besides, Ami would gulp down food and a lot of water at diner time, as he didn’t properly eat all day. His parents were not happy for this but they didn’t say anything. He was being responsible and was winning his own money. They hoped that the workload would make him realized that he needed to study to improve himself.

 Then, halfway through the year, something no one had seen coming happened: Mr. Gons had died. It had happened in the night, while he lay on his favorite rocking chair, having fallen asleep with the sound of the waves and the feeling of sand beneath his feat. He was loved by many, especially by those families that had always lived in the town. The turnout at the funeral was outstanding; the family couldn’t have been more proud. Everyone shared stories about him and coincided that he was a one special man.

 Ari then, stopped working for a couple of days. His bosses excused him, just by looking at him: he looked beyond sad. He looked as if it was a defining moment for him so they gave him some time to think but not too much as he was needed in both the reef and the fishery. Indeed, Ari thought of his grandpa, who had thought him everything of the sea, but he also thought what he wanted from life. He knew that things were hard out there but then he realized he had already taken steps to make a live of his own.

 So the day he returned to work, confident that he was doing everything right. He couldn’t push to happen, he couldn’t force anything, but he could improve himself and just be good at what he did. He started reading a lot more about fishes and other sea creatures so that he would be available to give more complete tours on the reef. As for the fishery, he trained himself with a small knife cutting open everything at home. His mom was certainly impressed when she noticed everything in the fridge had already being chopped in various ways.

 On weekends, he would return to his grandpa’s house to drink a beer and watch the ocean. He understood then why the old man loved the place: the peace and quiet was overwhelming but appreciated. Being away from everything but that soothing sound was just perfect. But then, four months before the end of the year, he began going there with a girl he had met in one of the tours. She lived in a town close to his and would visit him when out of work. It was the first time he fell in love for real and knew she was in love with him.

 When working, he noticed he didn’t thought of it as he did it. He would think of her or of his plans, which were slowly forming in his mind. He had realized that, despite everything he thought, his parents were right. He did need to educate himself more to be better, not just to earn more money but to afford to live, as he wanted to do it. He had even thought of living with his girlfriend but that was another project, for the future.

 He told his parents of his realization that learning more was necessary to him, in order to know more about what he loved and to live a good life too. They were happy tear it but not so happy when he told them he had found an aquarium, in a medium size city about two hours away by car. It was not that they wanted him to go but that they wanted the very best for them. He explained the aquarium had a school where he could study marine biology. They actually had at least some ten more careers to choose from, which was very interesting.

 One weekend he was free from work, he took his girlfriend and his parents to the aquarium. The place was beautiful and they were all amazed that they had never really known about the place. The lady that gave them a guided visit, explained that the school had been open only for the past two years but that many students that wanted to study the careers they taught were very happy with their presence. Even the zoo area of the compound was much better than any other he had seen: the pools were very big and the machines were kept away from the animals, so not to disturbing. They didn’t have large mammals, as they believed they were better off in the ocean.

 So when the year drew to a close, Ari told his bosses all about him studying and not being able to work anymore. They were both very happy for him and wished him all the best. He had been an exemplary employee in both places, and people had learned to appreciate his work thoroughly.

 Then came Christmas. They all had a big party in his grandpa’s old house and there was no one sad or thoughtful. Everyone smiled and enjoyed the food, the company and the prospects that the future was putting on the table.