Thursday, February 20, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 8

February 20, 2014

Lena and I walked into the atrium together.  It had been a couple of days since we last hung out together.  I'd been too focused on curling to give her a thought.  But, Max had changed my mind.

"Dude, you have to go out with her."  he said three nights ago when we got back to the room.


"Yeah, man.  She totally digs you."

"But we have-"

"A game that we're going to lose tomorrow?  Dude, have some fun.  The games are over soon anyway.  You gotta get some digits."

"Alright." I said before turning out the lights.

Now, we were walking together, talking in the main hallway.  The sun was just setting over the Black Sea, turning the sky and water a beautiful orange.  People were hanging out, but it felt less busy than before.  It was as if everyone had taken this moment to watch the sunset and enjoy their time here.

"I'm sorry you guys aren't in the finals."  she said.

"We never really thought we'd get there.  It's fine."

She grabbed my hand gently as we walked.  "It's so beautiful out here tonight."

"Not as beautiful as you."

Even in the orange light, her dark skin blushed.  I'm sure mine did too.  God, that was stupid.  Who was I, Max?

"Thank you."  she said.

Well, it worked.  Thank God.

"You want something to eat?"  I asked.

"Sure."  she said.  We walked over to a small cafe, got two plates of pierogis, and sat down in front of a window.

"This has been the best time of my life."  I said.

"Same here." she said.

"What's been your favorite part?"  I asked.

She looked at me, her dark eyes bright in the low light.  "You."

I scooted over to her and put my arm around her.  She leaned in close to me and put her feet up on a third chair.  We sat there, watching the sun sink lower and lower until it disappeared below the Black Sea.

"I can't remember the last time I saw a sunset."  I said.

"Me neither."

We untangled ourselves and threw away our food.  Then, I walked her back to her room.

"Buenas noches."  I said.

"Buenas noches, mi carino."  she said.  She leaned in and gave me a kiss on the cheek, then closed the door.

I walked in a daze back to the room.  Max and Matt were talking.  I walked in and flopped on the bed.

"So, the date went well?"  Max asked, smiling.

I smiled back.  "You could say that."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 7

February 13, 2014

"Hey."  Max said, clapping me on the shoulder.  "You got this."

I smiled at him, then turned back to the ice.  Tyler and Max were waiting ahead of me, brooms at the ready.  Bryan was waiting down at the end of the ice, showing me where I needed to throw.  It was the final stone, the last shot.

I nodded to all three of them.  They nodded back.  I knelt down and grasped the handle of the stone.

I looked up to the British team on the other side of the ice.  Matt was standing there, watching me while one of his friends talked at him.

He was watching me.  Why?

I looked back to the ice and tried to clear my head.

I took a deep breath in.

I breathed out and pushed off the ice.

The stone and I slid forward, gliding on the smooth ice.  I gritted my teeth, trying to keep my path steady and straight.

I let go of the stone.

Max and Tyler started to sleep as I stopped, helpless to what would happen.  Bryan shouted to them, telling them when to sweep and when to stop.

I took a sharp, harsh breath as they finally peeled away from the ice.  Two stone resounded with a loud CLACK as they stopped in the target.

I sighed and turned back to the scoreboard.

One point.  Nowhere near enough to win.  I looked back to see Matt and his team cheering, celebrating.

I picked myself up off the ice as my team joined me.  We all walked over to the Brits and shook hands.

"Great match."  Matt said, pulling me into a bear hug.

"Same to you."  I said, rubbing my arm where he squeezed me.

We walked out of that arena together.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 6

February 12, 2014

I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.  The coffee in my other hand shook slightly with each tap.

Lena opened the door, wearing a tank top and sweatpants.  "Ryan, what are you doing here?"

"I came to bring you breakfast."  I said, lifting the plate of muffins from the ground.

She smiled.  "Come in."

I walked into her room.  Aside from the bags and clothes, it was exactly the same as mine.  I sat down on the bed and placed the plate next to me.  She grabbed it and sat next to me.

"So I saw you didn't do so well."  she said, taking a sip of the coffee.

"Yeah, but it's all leading up to the finals.  I'm not worried."

"I'm sure you'll do great."

"Yeah.  Hey, how'd you do in your game?"

She was quiet for a little bit.  "I got 46th."

"Oh."  I said.  "I'm sorry."

"Don't be."  she said.  "That's great!"

"Oh."  I said, surprised.

"That's better than I did last year."

I smiled.  "Well, that's good."

She set her muffin down and looked at me.  "Are you doing anything later today?"

"Match against Denmark."

"Right.  After that?"

"Probably going to rest up or something.  Why?"

She turned back to her plate.  "I just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out."

I put my hand on her shoulder.  "I'd love to."

"Really?" she said, smiling and looking up at me.

"Yeah."  I said.

She hugged me.  "Thanks."

"No prob."  I said, hugging her back.

All of a sudden, my watch beeped.  "I'd better get going."  I said.

"Oh, okay.  Thanks for breakfast."

"No problem.  See you later."

"Bye!  Good luck!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 5

February 11, 2014

Max and I got back to our hotel rooms and flopped on the bed.  Two losses in a row had really drained our spirits.  I turned over onto my back and closed my eyes, trying to take a nap.

An hour or so later, I woke up.  Max was still sleeping, but I was starving.  I threw on a jacket and walked out to the cafe.

I poured two cups a coffee, bought a bagel and sat down at a table.  I spread cream cheese on my bagel and was taking a bite when a small Japanese girl walked up to the table.

"Um, excuse me, is that seat taken?"  she asked.

"No, take it."  I said.

"Thank you."  she sat down across from me and ate her muffin.

"You're Lena's friend, right?"  I asked.

She swallowed.  "Yeah, actually.  You're Ryan?"

"Yeah.  Nice to meet you."

"Same here.  I'm Renai."

We sat for a little while, her eating and me sipping.  The event on the T.V. ended and switched to something else.

"Hey, it's biatlon!"  Renai said.  I looked up at it too.

Women lined up at the starting line, skis on their feet and guns on their backs.  They were tensed up, ready to sprint off and compete for the ultimate prize.

"Look, there's Lena, in the back!"  Renai shook me and pointed.  I looked and saw her, goggles and uniform on, ready for the race.

"I hope she does well."  I said.

Renai looked at me.  "She won't win, you know."

"Yeah."  I said.  "I'm pretty sure she does too."

"Then why does she do it?"

"She can compete on the world stage.  If she can do at least a little better than her best, she's happy."  I looked to her.  "I don't expect I'll be taking the gold in curling, but I'm not complaining."

"I guess you're right."  Renai said.  "I guess it's different for me."

I glanced at her sideways.  "Figure skater?"

"Yeah."  she said.  "How'd you know?"

"Just a guess."  I stood up.  "Well, I need to get going.  It was nice meeting you Renai."

"Oh, yeah, same here, Ryan."  she said, turning back to the T.V.

I walked back up to the room.  Max was just waking up when I shoved the coffee into his hands and rubbed his back.

"You feeling okay?"  he asked when I sat down next to him.

"Yeah."  I said, thinking about Lena, up there in the mountains, skiing and shooting.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 4

February 9, 2014

"Ryan!"  I heard her say.  I turned and saw Lena running up to me.

"Hey, Lena!"  I said.  "What are you doing here?"

"I remembered you guys are starting today.  I just wanted to wish you good luck."

"Thanks!"  I said.  Max grabbed my arm.

"Come on, Ryan, we have to go."

"Okay.  See you, Lena!"  I said as the rest of the team moved on.  I ran up to Max and fell into step.

Max playfully punched me in the arm.  "You sly dog."


"You somehow got a girl to like you in less than three days.  That takes skill."

I chuckled a bit.  "Yeah, right.  She does not like me."

"I wouldn't be so quick to right this off."  he said.  "It took me a good year to get Tammy to go out with me, and it looks like this Lena chick is willing to date you after a few nights."

"Please.  All we did was hang out at the rink, then get breakfast the next morning."

"Wow.  You already got her on two dates.  That's some hardcore romancing."

"I-"  I stopped and stared at him.  "'Hardcore romancing?'"

"Yeah.  What?"

I shook my head.  "That is potentially the dumbest thing you have ever said."

"At least its not as dumb as what you say."

"Hey!"  I said, hitting him in the arm.  We laughed as we walked out of the village and over to the stadium.

The arena was as expected: long rows of ice, people warming up, seats half-filled.  We set our bags down and started to lace up our shoes.

"Do you think she actually likes me?"  I asked.

Max was silent for a moment.  "It's as good a possibility as anything else."

I smiled.  "Could you maybe..."

"Give you some advice?"  he asked.


He finished tying his shoes and looked at me.  "First, ask yourself.  Do you really like her?"

"I- I don't know.  I just met her."

"Well, when you figure that out, then I can start helping you."

I finished lacing up the shoes and smiled at him.  "Thanks."

"No problem, bud."  He said, clapping me on the shoulder.

We stepped onto the ice.  Our opponents, the Norwegian team, stood on the other side of the ice, with pants that looked like my grandma's curtains.

"But, right now, let's focus on kicking these Vikings' ass."  I said.

"That's my Ryan."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 3

February 8, 2014

I woke up at a little after 8 the next morning.  Max was still snoring in the bed next to me.  I got dressed, sprayed on some deodorant, and went down to the cafe.

I didn't see her when I walked down, so I sat down at one of the tables near the edge of the cafe.  Teammates from every nation were eating breakfast, laughing loudly at jokes and conversing about...something.  I couldn't understand them even when talking slowly.

"Ryan?"  I heard an accented voice say.  I looked up and saw Magdalena standing there.

"Magdalena, it's good to see you."  I said, standing and shaking her hand.  We sat down and started to talk.

"How did you sleep?"  she asked.

"Well enough."  I said.  "Not like back home, but it was good."

"Same here."  she said.

"Would you like anything?"  I asked, standing.

"Just some coffee, please."

"Got it."

I walked over to the large tank of coffee and poured two cups.  I grabbed a few sugar packets and cream cups and walked back, setting one of the cups in front of her.  I poured two sugar packets in my cup and swirled it.  She just started drinking hers.

"Your Spanish is very good."  she said.  "Where did you learn?"

"I learned it in school, actually.  We had to take a foreign language to graduate, so I chose Spanish.  But last summer, I spent some time working in Buenos Aires."

"It's a beautiful city."  she said.  "Have you ever been to Mendoza?"

"No, I haven't.  Is that where you're from?"

"I'm from Palmira.  It's a small town outside of Mendoza.  It's a lovely little town."

"Well, I'll have to visit next time I'm there."

We sat quiet for a while, sipping our coffee.  The flat screens played some skiing footage a couple Nordic guys were deeply interested in.

"How long have you been curling?"  she asked.

I swallowed and put my cup down.  "I actually started after the last Games.  My friend was kind of obsessed with it, so we found a trainer and started getting to work.  How about you?"

"I started skiing when I was a little girl.  I always loved it, and when I was fifteen, I started training in the biathlon."

"Is this your first Games?"

"No, I went to the Games last year.  You probably wouldn't have seen me.  Argentina doesn't do too well at the Games."

"Well, with you on their team, I think Argentina might get a medal this year."

She chuckled a little and blushed.  "Thank you."

"Magdalena!"  one of her teammates called as she ran up to her.  "Nuestra entrenador quiere hablar sobre el evento."

"Bueno, estoy yendo." she said, standing up.  "I have to go.  It was good to see you Ryan."

"Same here, Magdalena."  I said.

"Please, call me Lena."  she said before leaving with her friend.

I threw the cups away and walked back to the room.  Max was still snoring away.

Friday, February 7, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 2

February 7, 2014

I walked back into the village, still aglow from the opening ceremony, as were the other hundreds of athletes around me.  Everyone was talking quickly and excitedly and sharing photos.  As soon as I could, I ducked down the hall into my room.

"WHOO!"  Max said, beanie askew and enthusiastically waving his flag.  "That was AMAZING!"

"Calm down!"  I said, changing into a Team USA t-shirt.

"I'm just too freaking amped!" he screamed, shaking my shoulders.  I put my hands on his and held him down.

"Come on, man, keep it cool.  We've got that party at the rink."

He took off his beanie and sweater and changed into a t-shirt.  He grabbed my arm.  "Come on, man, let's go!"  he said.

We ran through the halls, pushing past Russians and Ukrainians having conversations, a group of Swedish skiers playing tag in one of the atria, Chinese and Irish girls hanging out at the cafe, and a couple Norwegians flirting with Peruvian girls, until we got to the ice rink.

It was packed.  Everyone was on the ice, or in various stages of putting on skates.  People were milling about, introducing each other, laughing.  Max and I laced on skates and glided out onto the ice.

We hadn't been on the ice since practice back home.  It felt good to be back there, the cold, the slight wobbling at first, the sound of metal scraping and slicing frozen water.

A loud shout silenced us.  We all looked over at a tall man in a German uniform standing on a cooler.  He was held in place by two of his teammates.

"Wir danken für Ihr Kommen."  he started.  "Wir sind alle sehr stolz, hier in Sotschi. Wir sind in der Blüte unseres Lebens. Ja, es darf gefeiert werden!"

Everyone cheered.  I cheered with them, though I asked Max, "Do you know what he said?"

"No idea.  Come on, let's skate!"

We skated around for a while, talking to people.  It was kind of annoying having the figure and speedskaters darting in and out of us, but it was still fun.  Someone started passing around some Russian beer in plastic cups.  It tasted nothing like the stuff I was used to, but I drank it in the spirit of the Games.

Eventually, the ice started thinning out as people started leaving.  A New Zealander I was talking to was leaving on the arm of some Turkish guy when I was knocked down onto the ice.

"Max," I started, picking myself up.  "How many-"

"Disculpe, señor!"  the girl who bumped into me said.  I was struck by her for a moment before regaining my voice.

"No, it's no trouble.  Es mi culpa."  I said, hoping my three years of Spanish in high school would pay off.

She had big, dark eyes and a long, curly ponytail that ran down her back.  Her skin was tanned slightly, probably from days spent on the slopes.  She was small with powerful legs.  Her Spanish was thickly accented with the Argentine accent I heard on my trip to Buenos Aires.

I held my hand out.  "Tienes problemas patinando sobre el hielo?"  I asked.

"No, no tengo problemas."  she responded.  "Mi amiga allí me empujó."

I looked over and saw a small a petite Japanese girl staring at us while skating with some other figure skaters.

"No es una problema."  I replied.  "Me llamo Ryan.  Cómo te llamas?"

"Magdalena Castro.  Soy de la Argentina."

"En cuál deporte vas a competir?"  I asked as we skated back towards the entrance.

"En el biatlón.  Y tu?"

"El curling."

She nodded.  "Vas a competir el domingo, no?"

"Sí." I said.  "Y cuándo vas a competir?"

"El martes."  she said.  We walked out of the rink and took our skates off.  We talked more as we walked until we reached the main atrium.

"Cuándo veo a ti otra vez?"  she asked.

"Quiéres desayunar en el café manana?"

"Sí.  Nos vemos."  she said, walking back to her room.

"Nos vemos!"  I called after her.

*If my German sucks, don't blame me, blame these guys.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

El Amor es de Oro: Day 1

I love the Olympics.  I really do.  So, to show my love for it, I thought I would write a little short story for each day of the competition.  Enjoy!

February 6, 2014

"We made it!"  Max said, jumping up and down.  I nearly fell over as he shook me, dark blue suitcases in hand.

"Seriously, calm down." I said, moving with the crowd into the Olympic Village.  I fumbled in my backpack for my entrance pass.

"Well, excuse me."  Max said as we got in line behind a group of girls speed-talking in French.  "I'm just a bit excited that we finally got into the Olympics."

I chuckled a bit as we moved forward.  "This is your dream.  I'm just glad you're happy."

"Oh, come on.  If it was just my dream, you wouldn't have nearly pushed me off the team in qualifiers."

"I didn't even know what curling was until you forced me to watch it in Vancouver."

"And hasn't it made your life so much better?"

"It's definitely made it more interesting."  I said as I handed over my pass.  The woman scanned it, then handed it back to me.

"Welcome to Sochi, Mr. White."  she said.

"Thank you." I said, picking up my bags and meeting up with the rest of the Americans.

"Alright, guys!"  one of the coaches said.  "I know you're all excited, but just remember to be smart.  We're on Floor 3 in Building A.  Get your room mates and get settled in."

We picked up our bags and all moved as one unit through the halls.  Athletes in uniforms conversed in what sounded like every language around the world.  More people than I'd ever seen before were milling about, relaxing, joking, hanging out.  In a small cafe, people were sitting, staring at figure skating on flat screens.

Max and I set our bags down in our room.  I started to unpack as Max dashed out of the room, probably to get a Coke or something.

Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door.  I turned around to see a tall, lanky fellow with dark hair and a bright, white smile in the open door.

"Hey, mate.  How you doing?"  he said with the high accent of the Brits.

"Good.  Yourself?"  I said, walking over to him.

"Not bad.  Name's Matt Davis."  he said, holding his hand out.

I took it and gave it a good shake.  "Ryan White."


"Yeah.  You too?"

"Yeah.  Guess we'll be seeing each other out on the ice."


He looked down at his watch, then looked back at me.  "Listen, I've got to run.  Some of the Germans are putting together a party down at the ice rink after the ceremony tomorrow.  Tell your roommate to come."

"'Kay.  I will."  I said.

He smiled.  "Great.  Nice to meet you, Ryan."

"Same here, Matt."  I said.  He walked away and I closed the door.  I turned back to my suitcase and resumed unpacking.