Monday, September 03, 2007

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"Afterwards I think you and [C] should play [Rower] and I" says Oberon.

I look at him and then back at the pool table, horror mounting. Currently Oberon and C are taking on the heterosexual male roles of indulging in competitive sport whilst Rower and I are being girls and cheering them on. Despite over 100 years of feminism this is something I'm entirely happy with, seeing as it does excuse me from actually playing. For it is probably fair to say that I cannot play pool any more than I can play any of the other games which various boys at various points in my life have tried to teach me. And as has long been established - I do not play games I cannot win.

But - and this is a big hovering but - I like Oberon. And as gestures of acceptance go -

"Ok". I resign myself to my fate of everyone discovering how crap I am.

Such is my preoccupation with the impending doom that Oberon and C finish their game and I do not realise which of them has won. This is not good, especially when it emerges that C has been the victor. Shit, he'll want to win again.

"You're going to have to help me" I say to C.

"Surely you can play" he returns, a look of surprise passing his face.

It is at this point that I almost feel the need to point out to him that I am not just a walking cliche and I actually did things with my time at Oxford other than sit in the college bar. I am a girl. And, anyway, I preferred table football.

"No". And then in hushed but unmistakeably panicked tones "I don't even know how to hold the cue".

There's a pause as the eyes focus on me. I take a deep breath and await the mocking.

"Ok". It's said deliberately and I sense he realises that we are to lose. Then, with probably more patience than I deserve, "You need to put your fingers like this"

C places his hand on the table, fingers spread, thumb slightly bent. Again I notice those incongruous bitten nails.

I attempt to mimic his actions but as I have no bodily co-ordination this does not work. C resorts to physically moving my fingers into place. It seems churlish to point out that if he is to do this every time I have to take a shot we will be here all night, he shall miss his next show and I shall miss my coach to V.

"And bend your knees".

I stick out my bottom slightly before realising that this is not what he has requested me to do. I blush.

When it seems that I have managed to muster enough enough co-ordination to be able to repeat the action unaided C passes me the cue.

"Have a go" he says pointing to the white ball and then - as an emergency after thought - "just try hitting it, not anything else".

I do not like to say so but I suspect that my chances of hitting the white ball are fairly slim. There is of course the possibility that I will make contact and it will ricochet off of the table taking someone's eye out in the process.

I hold my breath for a second - then -

I make contact. The ball glides gently to the side of the table. I smile as C retrieves it for me and am enough in shock to try again. The same thing happens.

Filled with the joy of hitting a ball into nothing in particular, in a practice session that counts for nothing, in preparation for a game I do not quite understand, I beam. This is easy. Naturally C and I will win.

Where C tries to teach Coza Pool

Preoccupied as I am with my newly discovered pool prowess it is only now that I note Rower standing at the other side of C. By the look on her face she is as impressed with the proposition as I am.

"Corinne - you know I love you".

I recognise the effort and I love her for it.

"I love you too" I respond.

C looks vaguely bewildered to be stuck between the two of us. I suspect he does not understand girls.

He is saved any more such displays as Oberon breaks, passing the cue to C who in turn passes it on to me.

"What do I do?" I hiss, all earlier thoughts of confidence evaporating in the knowledge that I do not even know which balls I am aiming for.

"It doesn't matter" C says gently but with a firmness that I know means I cannot get out of this.

Silently I count to five. I bend my knees. Ball and cue make contact, there is the dizzying slap of balls hitting each other. When I look at the table, however, I am unable to tell any discernible difference other than that the white ball is now in a different position.

"Brilliant" C says eyes shining.

I look directly at him. I do not believe him. He is an actor after all.

I pass the cue over. Rower - who is probably an equally matched opponent for me - misses. C becomes the first person to actually pot a ball before he misses and the cue passes to Oberon. As C and I talk neither of us realise that it, somehow, is now my turn again.

We both know that it is coming. "Help!"

"Try this one" C points.

"How on earth am I meant to pot that one?" I ask demonstrating my inability to reach it in a manner which is only socially acceptable after half a bottle of wine - by clamouring on the table.

C half suppresses a laugh, undoubtedly at the fact that he is on a pool team with a midget. "Try this one".

He holds his finger above a particular ball. "Aim for me".

With frightening predictability I miss the ball completely.

C retrieves the white ball and replaces it.

"Try again".

If this were the other way around then I would be full of righteous indignation at such behaviour.

"That's cheating!" Oberon laughs.

But Oberon is clearly much better natured than I am and this as far as it goes as I move to re-take my shot. And, in reality, we all know that full blown competition is not the point of this game.

"Aim for me" C re-iterates holding his finger over the ball.

I screw up as much concentration as I can muster after all the wine.

I shock even myself when I pot the ball.

"Ohhh..." I am gad my normal eloquence has not deserted me at such a moment.

C smiles back, the eyes alight, and the potted ball becomes the single most important thing about the evening.

Ever fair, I pass the cue over.

Not to be outdone - and with considerably less coaching from Oberon than I had from C - Rower pots a ball. It is a mark of my affection for her that I cheer.

My clapping is interrupted however -

"You're going to have to leave now" says a man in a black shirt who I have not seen before. I clock that I am about to add 'a Pool Hall' to the list of places I have been requested to leave from.

Oberon and C deal with the news in the only way they can - by taking Rower and myself out of the equation and attempting to settle the game between the two of them.

Even they, however, are soon stopped, game unfinished.

"It's incredibly rude of them to stop us mid-game" I chunter standing on the precipice of a wine fuelled rant.

I catch the eyes, startlingly blue and resolutely unreadable.

"Don't worry" - there's a pause - "we had the moral victory".

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