We gave each other five minutes to write our footballing Valentine’s dates. Please don’t run away, it’s been a long week.
SD <3 MN
We sit across a plastic-coated metal table, affixed to the floor.
“More liquor?” he asks, smiling.
“What do you think?” I reply, playing with my spork.
The light green parsley sauce oozes over my pie and seeps into my mash.
“Say when,” he says, looking at me, not breaking his gaze.
I hold his look, our eyes locked in together, the rest of the shop empty, the kids shouting “Mark, you cunt!” through the door.
The sauce starts to ooze over the lip of my plate and over the table and onto my trousers, West Ham training tights, a gift from the club captain.
The liquid keeps going until the pot is done. I sit in the warm damp.
“You really like parsley sauce,” he says to me, adjusting his flat cap.
“I really like your penalties,” I reply, a smile breaking across my lips.
“Remember when I scored that volley against Bolton?”
“How could I forget?”
We share a moment of silence. The sun setting in Chadwell Heath. The streetlamps glowing yellow, casting the skips opposite in gold.
Mark looks around and holds my hand softly, gently, and yet firmly, like he means it.
“You love me more than Dimitri, right?” he says.
I don’t answer, letting the goo in my lap cool.
“I come here every day, you know,” he says.
“Yes, Mark. I know.”
OB 4 E (THE ANIMAL)
I come to, face down on a sofa in a dingy flat on the Holloway Road. There is a heavy weight on my back, and something is picking at my scalp. I catch my reflection in the telly. There is a chimpanzee on my back and it is picking my hair. I look to the balcony, and through double vision and glazing it all comes back to me. Edmundo is smoking a cigar, naked, and juggling a fast-melting Terry’s Chocolate orange with his feet. I’d been out on a romantic jaunt around in North London with Ronaldo and Romário. A three-ball I’d long desired, a pair who should’ve played together at the 98 World Cup. Edmundo ruined it. They’re all in town for a legends match at Wembley, and someone has let Edmundo bring his chimpanzee. His fucking alcoholic chimpanzee. Bastard emptied a full soup terrine over Ronaldo and kicked Romário in the knackers while Edmundo slipped a Mitsubishi turbo in my vodka. Oh we danced. Oh how we danced. Gets a bit blurry after that. But have you ever seen a pissed monkey do the Milly Rock? You should. I turn around to face the chimp and he’s lit me fag. Edmundo walks in and offers me a piece of Chocolate Orange. It’s going to be a long day.
JB HEARTS EC
And, with your assured fingers circling a peppercorn on the table cloth—there you are. After all these years—there you are. “Sorry I keep blinking—I just can’t believe you’re actually here!” I say, with my clammy hands scrunching the Polaroid I’ve had in my wallet since that day. That day: it’s Normandy, it’s Spring, it’s the last afternoon of the school trip. “Excusez-mwah, juh m’apple James” and your response, with the lisp you seem to have got rid of: “Oh, hallo, mai nem is Edithon”. Swoon. The coach journey home was condensated and I had no money left for the arcades on the ferry and my mom and dad didn’t say a thing in the car back from school. But none of that matters anymore. We are here. This is now. The onion soup is far too hot. The clock ticks.
I keep saying words until my lips fizz. Your eyes dart around. They look special in the candle light. Like a forest. A forest of our future—with its ups and downs and ins and outs—the forest of our future is in your eyes. I ask about Naples, about Paris, about the goals. I make jokes that you don’t laugh at. I tell you I’ve got a cat, and that I really love cats. I start splitting the bill, item by item—always—in my head. The peppercorn is on the floor. The service charge is optional. The soup is still too hot. It wasn’t like this on MSN.
JW LUVS AT
It’s not mine and Adel’s first Valentine’s Day date. Back when he was the King of Loftus Road, when Neil had him fit, we had a nice evening playing Final Fantasy Vll and eating mezze. Things were better then. Things aren’t fun in Lisbon. As soon as I walk into the dingy cafe near the port and see the platter of salt cod, I know it’s going to be bad. In he strolls from the toilet. He’s been having a dump. He’s got egg all down the front of his ill-fitting Benfica (b) trackie and he won’t make eye contact. He passes me a fork. “Haven’t got my PlayStation here James,” he says. “What’s the fucking point.”
DS LOVES DT
You know we belong together,
You and I forever and ever.
No matter where you are,
You’re my guiding star.
And from the very first moment I saw you
There was such emotion
I’m walking on air,
Just to know (Just to know)
You are there (You are there)
Hold me in your arms
Don’t let me go
I want to stay forever
Closer each day…
Thanks for sticking that out, we’re going to be ok. Honestly. If you’d like to read more of the things we write, most of it more serious than the above, then you can order our magazine to your door here. Have a very special Valentine’s Day. You deserve it.