I HAD the falling dream again last night. The one where I’m grabbing at thin air as I hurtle towards the ground and certain death. It seems to take a surprisingly long time, broken only by vain attempts to break the plummet.
I always wake up before I hit the deck and do that sitting up in bed bolt upright thing. Wide-eyed, panting, crying, laughing. I’m alive!
Part of me would actually like to finish the job, within the dream. To be actually dead. Dream dead. To be dreaming about being dead. I’m wondering if it hurts when you slam into the floor after a thousand-foot death dive. Is there even a moment where you get to think, ‘Jesus, that hurts’. And then when you are properly dead, in the dream, and pass through to another state of consciousness, does the pain stop instantly ? Or do you linger in the dream afterlife wincing indefinitely like you do when you’ve stubbed your toe. That eternal pain.
You know what’s coming. Two things we can all set our clocks by. Two inevitabilities if you’ve ventured here before. Both death and me saying that death is what supporting Liverpool is a bit like.
Actually, in the main, supporting the Reds is very life affirming. It’s why we do it. For the kicks. For the wins and the goals and the giggles.
Losing, though, is not life affirming. It’s death confirming. It’s a salutary reminder that no true stories end happily. We are all destined to fail. You, me, and the Mighty Reds. Even when I was so much younger than today and bouncing along from season to season watching Liverpool captains hoist high trophy after trophy, I knew that one day it would all come to an end. A messy end. EXACTLY LIKE LIFE.
I think this is why I was so taken — decades ago — by the stories around the demise of John F. Kennedy. Of course the assassination conspiracy tales are an endless rich seam of whodunnit pleasure, and there’s plenty of scope for warm feelings of virtuosity because it’s such a binary good/evil saga, but I think, if I’m honest, that the thing that most lured me into the whole oeuvre is the last bit. The bit where Kennedy’s head blows up in the Zapruder film. It’s a truly terrible image and one I can admit to now being totally desensitised to. The appalling goriness of it no longer has any impact.
What stayed with me was the following perverse conclusion — in some ways JFK gets to have the perfect death. His life is taken from him in the blinking of an eye. He never sees it coming. He’s in his prime. Everything is going his way. The sun is on his back. He never has to fall.
Looking back, maybe I would have been better off being taken out by a high velocity bullet to the brain, fired by a mystery sniper from a tall building and/or positioned behind a picket fence, back in May 1990. I’d have just watched Alan Hansen lift the league title. I’d have had a lovely night out in town with good friends. Maybe I’d have had a kebab and chips from the Lobster Pot chippy opposite Liverpool central station at the conclusion of the evening’s celebratory revelry.
Then, BANG. No more me. Taken out at 2am on a Saturday night in Liverpool by an assassin’s bullet. Maybe fired from the sixth floor of the Lewis’s Building, at the bottom of Renshaw Street.
The cops find my body on the pavement outside the ‘big house’ pub. Arms spanned outwards, legs together, as if crucified. A splayed bag of chips still clutched by a dead hand.
“Strangest thing, guv” says the head-scratching junior copper to his senior colleague as he joins him at the crime scene.
“Top of his heads been blown right off, but he’s still got this calm smile on his face. Like he knows something we don’t.”
This scenario might have represented the only ending to the true story of my life that might be deemed a ‘happy’ one. I never had to grow old, to wither, to be disappointed. By either myself or Liverpool FC.
But then, conversely, think of all the shit that I’d have missed out on. Like Istanbul, like the treble season, like beating Everton — again, and again, and again. Like Alan Partridge. Like salt n pepper chicken. Like my wife. Like my children. All that kind of stuff.
The Reds; they kick you in the pants, time and time again. But we keep going because we want to know what happens next. We have to know how things pan out. We’re off to Watford on Monday night for what has become a big, big game. We may win, we may lose. Either way there’ll be more of the same to come in future days, weeks and years. It’s obviously still all going to end badly. Of course it is. Might as well just try and enjoy the fall.
Flailing Reds, with hope in hearts: Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner; Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Coutinho, Firmino, Origi
Kick-Off: 8pm live on Sky Sports 1
Last Match: Liverpool 6 Watford 1
Referee: Craig Pawson
Odds: Watford 6-1, Draw 18-5, Liverpool 11-20