I have a German friend here that I talk to nearly every day. We are fascinated by each other; we compare history lessons (what they do and don’t teach us about each other’s cultures) and majors (his eyes light up at the mere mention of balance sheets) and accents (why the hell do Americans say like so much? I couldn’t answer). I’ve corrected and admitted to American stereotypes — no, not everyone owns a gun; yes, Burger King is authentic American cuisine. I’ve given beer pong tutorials. I’ve listened to anti-Nazi metal music. I’ve shared country music, to resounding disapproval. It’s overwhelmingly interesting.
He said a few days ago, “Ice cream in America means being sad, right?” At the time I was halfway through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and had no intention of slowing down. I had to say it’s sort of the answer to everything. Sad? Ice cream. Happy? Ice cream. Homesick? Ice cream.
Him: “So you’re homesick?”
Me: “I think I’m teamsick.”
It was an idea that he couldn’t wrap his brain around. He’d played soccer for years and years, but “in Germany sports is the complete opposite.” He asked and asked: Why do you miss them? They’re only teammates. They’re only housemates. It’s not that long now. Sixty days is not so long.
How do you explain a team like this to someone looking from the outside in?
In the past two years, I have spent over nine hundred hours working out with my teammates in-season. I have eaten more than 90% of my meals with them. I have sweat, and screamed, and raced, and celebrated with them. I have laughed and cried and fought with them. I know their best and worst races nearly as well as I know my own. Being cut off quickly and decisively is a feeling similar to waking up without any hair: what has always been there is gone, and you’re left feeling bare and vulnerable and a little cold.
Their first meet came this past weekend, and I found myself awake at four in the morning, texting, listening, reading the results, wanting to know who was satisfied and who wasn’t. I have weekly dates Thursdays at three thirty AM to watch American Horror Story over Skype because we have always watched it together and a few thousand miles isn’t going to change that. I stay up late to hear how practice went. I am slowly becoming someone who lives for the earliest hours of the morning.
There are some that text, and some that Snapchat. There are some that tweet and some that Facebook message. There are some that I talk to every day, and some that are quiet for weeks on end, and some that I talk to only when one of us is reminded of the other by coffee or Harry Potter. But they are there, and it’s more than I hoped for.
I didn’t think I’d miss it. And honestly, I sometimes go entire days without thinking of it at all. I went a week as a redhead before telling them because I was so happy about the amount of privacy a six hour time difference provides. But five weeks in I’m realizing how much I love being one of forty — regardless of how wrapped-up-in-each-other we get sometimes.
I told my German friend that they are my brothers and sisters. He said, “That’s a pretty big family.”
Yes. Yes it is.