The first part of the final summer related adventure. And post number 644, perfect, made even better by the fact that it wasn’t deliberate on my part.
Ever since Hansi had returned from the Czech Republic, Jogi had been unable to keep his eyes off him and right now was no exception. Normally Jogi hated lying around waiting for Hansi to wake up. He liked to get out of bed and start the day the moment he woke up. Today was different, not only was he waiting but he was doing so patiently and willingly. The sight of a sleeping Hansi before him helped with that. Jogi may want nothing more than to get the day started and more importantly share his all so special plans but there was nothing like the example of German perfection before him to calm any such impatience.
Jogi had been determined to keep his plans to himself, saying little over the past few days. He was worried if he talked too much he would accidentally say something. In saying nothing he’d said everything. Hansi knew something was on his mind but he had no idea what it was. From Jogi’s questions about what they were doing that summer, his constant checking that Hansi was going to be around the next few weeks, he wrongly thought it was the impending start of the season that was on Jogi’s mind. Thought that Jogi was checking without really asking that Hansi would be around for the first game of the season, since of course the second league started slightly earlier. Never would he have guessed that Jogi was planning a surprise. Such a thing was so out of character as to be almost unimaginable.
Thus Hansi had no idea that Jogi had something special in store for him, not until he woke up to find Jogi watching him. Whenever he woke up to find Jogi watching him as he was now, he knew he had something planned. Hansi recognised all too well the excited look in his eyes, and the equally excited way in which his hand went up to his fringe.
“What do you have planned for me my master planner?”
“How did you know I had something planned?”
“How could I not?”
“But I didn’t say anything.”
“And in saying nothing you told me everything. When I wake up to find you watching over me like that, I know you’ve got something special in store for me.”
“I can never surprise you, Hansi. I don’t like that.”
“You can and do surprise me, Jogi. Rarely a day goes by without you surprising me in some way; it’s just rarely in the way you intend. It’s ironic, I’ll give you that. You who loves to plan just about everything can only surprise me when you don’t plan to.”
Jogi looked crestfallen in his usual special way, the way that Hansi found both adorable and heartbreaking. It was made especially adorable by the fact that he could and did look like that in response to the smallest of things. Things that seemed small but weren’t to him; to him they were as important as any work related decision he ever made. At other times Hansi was unable to stop himself from enjoying a little that kind of look on his face, especially when it was sticker related. It was the contradiction of it that Hansi enjoyed so much, that meant he still found it as funny and as adorable as the first time. Knowing it was about something that really was important here prevented him from deriving any enjoyment from it whatsoever.
“Please don’t look like that, it’s not ruined. I don’t know what you have planned, despite what you think I can’t read your mind.”
Jogi doesn’t answer him, not with words at least. Instead he reaches over to his bedside table and picks up a package that he hands to Hansi, a package which is of course perfectly wrapped. Hansi takes the package from him, he wants to ask what it is but he can tell from the look on his face that he’s not going to get an answer were he to ask. Instead he sets about opening the package under Jogi’s watchful gaze, being careful to do so in line with his high standards. As he removes the paper he waits to see what Jogi will do, to see if he’s going to tell him what the gift is and what it means but all Jogi does is take the paper from him and neatly fold it up. Something which Hansi can’t help but be amused by, Jogi however pays no attention to this, and it’s not because he’s too focused on perfectly folding the paper up. All of his attention is fixed on Hansi and his reaction to the gift; he doesn’t care right now about Hansi finding one more of his quirks amusing.
The front of the album is blank, giving Hansi no clues as to the contents or what Jogi’s intentions are in relation to any plans he has. Opening it, before he can see what the contents are a piece of paper greets him, one of Jogi’s by now familiar lists. Now Jogi looks at him expectantly, this is what he’s been waiting for, for Hansi to read the all important list and to see the picture underneath on the first page.
Scanning the page Hansi sees the flight times listed, but before he reads the rest in more detail he looks up to find Jogi watching him, he clearly cannot wait to tell Hansi what this is all about. Before Hansi can even ask this is exactly what he does and he can only listen in silence as Jogi reels off his plans, as easily as if he had the list in front of him. Explains about going to Stuttgart first and then flying to Brazil, but he gives no explanation as to why they need to spend a whole day in Stuttgart. He lists the times and the dates but provides no explanation as to why those particular dates, not that Hansi needs any reminder of what the last one means. He doesn’t need Jogi or anyone else to remind him it’s the day they returned from Brazil last summer. When Hansi is sure that Jogi is finished reciting the list in front of him he asks his question.
“Why do we have to spend the day in Stuttgart?”
“Look at the first page and you’ll find out.”
Hansi does so, removing the piece of paper to see underneath a picture of him and Jogi from the Ireland game all the way back in 2006.
“This is from our first match, against Ireland.”
“Yes it is.”
“And this is supposed to tell me why we have to spend the day in Stuttgart?”
“It does tell you.”
Attempting to gain himself a little time to think and to work out what Jogi means, Hansi asks about the album.
“What’s in here?”
“Pictures from every match you were by my side for. They’re all there, from the first to the last.”
“What about the Austria match and the Portugal one, are they here too?”
“The Austria one is.”
“But not the Portugal one?”
“I wasn’t there for you to be by my side, that doesn’t count.”
“You made this yourself?”
“Someone else chose all these pictures?”
“No, I did that.”
“Then why did you answer no?”
“Because you asked if I made it, and I didn’t, I chose the pictures but I didn’t make the album.”
“There’s my Jogi, direct, honest and literal as can be.”
“What do you mean, “there’s my Jogi”, I never went anywhere.”
Weighing up his reply, Hansi tries to decide if he should attempt to explain or to at least ask him about this. He always likes to explain when Jogi takes something literally or misunderstands something. He never liked to say “it doesn’t matter” or some similar such thing. He would hate for Jogi to feel like it wasn’t important enough for him to understand or that he didn’t care whether he did or not. At the same time he wasn’t sure if it was better to just explain or to wait for Jogi to ask, Hansi knew from experience that going with the latter option may mean waiting a long time. Hansi had told him that it was ok to say you were confused, had reassured him countless times on this point in fact. Still Jogi’s perfectionism ruled or so he thought, and as he often did he would respond with nothing but silence leaving Hansi to pick up the thread of conversation once more.
“Tell me, Jogi, when you misunderstand something, would you rather me say nothing and wait or explain as soon as I realise?”
“I don’t want to talk about this, Hansi.”
“I get that, I do, but I need to know what to do, what’s best, what you prefer.”
“If you think you need to explain, then do so. I won’t be offended.”
“I can do that. I just wish you would say something sometimes, I wish you would just ask. I’ve told you its ok not to get something. I know how much of a perfectionist you are but I can’t help you if I don’t know you need help.”
“It’s not just about me being a perfectionist.”
“Is this about you worrying what other people think?”
“Not really, they think I’m strange anyway probably. It’s more that people get annoyed with you when you ask things like that. They don’t explain or answer your question, they say things like “you should know what I mean” and other such unhelpful things.”
“You don’t have to worry about that with me, I told you its fine to ask.”
“You say that now, you might not be so patient when I’ve asked lots of times. You might end telling me it’s not important, that it doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to get sick of me.”
“That could never happen and I’d never say it wasn’t important, you knowing what I’m saying could never be unimportant to me.”
Sure that he’s done all he can to reassure Jogi, Hansi gets back to looking through the album and flicks through all the pages, looking at the pictures Jogi has chosen. He wasn’t lying, every single game is there; win, loss, or draw. Every moment Hansi wants to remember and even the ones he’d rather forget. Happy, angry, frustrated, each and every last special moment he and Jogi shared.
Getting to the end he sees the pictures from this summer past, the ones that make him so happy and yet sad at the same time. He still can’t believe that he’ll never stand by Jogi’s side again. There’s been several matches since then, matches he’s been at and yet it still doesn’t seem real, the idea that he won’t be there. He reaches the last page and still finds no explanation; nothing to indicate what he’s supposed to take from this, what it is that he’s failed to understand. He knows he’s trying to tell him something but he has no clue as to what. It’s frustrating, normally Jogi is so direct and to the point that his intentions are never in any doubt. Being cryptic like this is not his style at all; not being used to this makes it all the more frustrating for Hansi.
“Jogi, please tell me what it is I’m supposed to have taken from this.”
“Are you pretending not to understand so I’ll feel better about you ruining the surprise?”
“First of all, I didn’t ruin the surprise, and secondly if you don’t want me to know you’ve got something planned then maybe you shouldn’t let me wake up to the sight of you watching over me with that wonderfully devilish grin on your face. And no, I’m not pretending, I really don’t know what it is you’re trying to tell me.”
“You gave me the idea, Hansi, back in February; you gave me the idea then.”
“With the trip to the Schwarzwald Stadion on Valentine’s Day, that’s what you mean?”
“The one and only.”
“So you’ve got something special planned in Stuttgart?”
“I do, but you can’t ask any more about it. I won’t tell you, back then when I asked you why we needed to go there you asked me to trust you. You said: “Trust me, I have my reasons. Trust your elf lord and all will go well.” So now I’m asking you to trust your sticker lord.”
“Ok, I trust you, I won’t ask anymore, I promise.”
Hansi kept to his word and didn’t ask anymore about what Jogi had planned. It was driving him crazy, trying to figure it out but he stuck to his promise. At least Jogi seemed not to notice that he was trying to work it out, so focused was he on getting everything in order for their trip that he paid no mind to such things. In fact Jogi was so focused on picking out shirts to take that Hansi wondered if he even remembered that he wasn’t going to be travelling alone. Hansi got his answer to such musings when he found himself dragged into the bedroom so Jogi could pick his shirts too.
Hansi didn’t know if he should complain about the fact that he was expected to stand here and not express any opinion whilst Jogi rifled through several different possible choices or if he should just enjoy the view in front of him. When Jogi had told him to stand there he’d given him express instructions not to move, instructions which Hansi was thinking of disobeying just this minute and reminding Jogi as he’d done once before that breaking the rules could be fun sometimes. Thus the next time Jogi handed him a shirt instead of just taking the shirt out of his hand, he took hold of his hand as well.
It took a few seconds for Jogi to grasp that Hansi was holding his hand, he’d already began to turn around to get back to the ever growing pile of rejected shirts. When he did, he was in no doubt about what Hansi wanted. He did not however take the bait.
“Not now, Hansi. There’ll be plenty of time for that in Brazil. Who knows maybe it’ll rain and then you can have even more fun.”
“You’re evil sometimes; you know that, now you’ve said that I’m thinking about you all the more.”
“Well, now you know how I felt then. I had to sit next to you for eight years thinking those thoughts and never being able to do anything about it.”
“Eight years? You were thinking of me all that time?”
“I’m not saying anymore about it, not now, not here.”
Jogi was back to being cryptic again, ever since he’d told Hansi he’d been like that, being careful about what he said. It was more than a little disconcerting, Hansi was used to Jogi being direct and speaking his mind. Him being so careful and considered in not just his choice of words but what he said was making this just that little bit stranger. As if the idea of Jogi planning a surprise wasn’t strange enough, now Hansi had this to contend with too.
The next day Hansi was to get his answer, was to get all of his answers in fact. He would soon find out why they needed to spend the day in Stuttgart, what it was Jogi wanted to do there and whether or not Jogi had really been thinking of him all that time. In the meantime, he could not wait to find out all of this. There was nothing more he wanted to do than to ask Jogi why they were spending the day in Stuttgart. He’d asked the moment Jogi woke up and was told to wait. He asked again when they got in the car and got the same answer. It wasn’t until they arrived in Stuttgart that Jogi said another word, then and only then did he tell Hansi why they were there and where they were going. Now he was back to being as blunt as he usually was, but he still wasn’t telling him what he wanted to know most of all.
“We’re going to the stadium, Hansi. That’s why we’re here.”
“For what reason?”
“You don’t get to ask that. I didn’t get to ask you so you don’t get to ask me.”
“All I’ll say is this; you took boots that day in case I needed them. You won’t need boots today.”
The only thing Jogi’s answer told Hansi was that he wasn’t planning on leading him out to the centre circle like he did that day when he asked Jogi the all important question. He should have known better, Jogi was unlikely to give anything away now, not when he’d gone to so much trouble to keep this secret to begin with. And him feeling like the surprise had been ruined no doubt made him all the more determined to keep his final reveal under wraps. Hansi just hoped this really was the final reveal; he was not enjoying Jogi’s attempts at being secretive. Before at times he’d thought him a little too direct and had not only wondered what it would be like if were less so but had actively tried to encourage this. He was no longer keen on such a thing. Now more than ever he appreciated Jogi’s usual directness and could not wait to have him back. If this is what Jogi was like when planning surprises, Hansi sincerely hoped he didn’t make a habit of it.
Arriving at the stadium Jogi continued his silence, saying nothing to Hansi, merely taking hold of his hand as they walked in. When they got to the touchline, Jogi stopped and turned back to the technical area, to the seats where he and Hansi had sat on that night so long ago. Where they’d sat several times since and where they’d never sit again together.
Now he was ready to tell Hansi the reason for being here. Still holding onto his hand, he made sure that they were standing exactly as they had been that night. Hansi stood there mystified as Jogi put his arm in place so that his hand came to rest on his shoulder. Only when he completed this task did he begin to speak.
“A lot of things happened here, I took charge of my first ever game here. I won my first trophy here. I stood with you for the first time here. And I fell in love with you here, Hans-Dieter. Right here, that moment here is when I knew I was meant to be with you and only you. That I’d never love anyone else the way I love you.”
“That’s what you were trying to tell me with the photo from the Ireland game?”
“Yes. At the end of that match was the first time you put your hand on me, the first time you hugged me. That’s when I knew you were the one. I didn’t ask you to be there because I didn’t need to ask, you just knew what to do. You always know what to do and you’re always where I need you to be.”
“All that time, Jogi, and you never said a word.”
“I didn’t know how to or even if I should, but I thought about it a lot. Especially last summer in Brazil, I couldn’t stop thinking about it then.”
“When did you think about telling me in Brazil?”
“During the semi-final mostly, at several points during that match in fact, almost right from the start. When the anthem was being played, I felt you take a deep breath. I don’t know why you did that or what it meant exactly or how I knew what to do. All I know is I felt something during that moment. As if you needed me to reassure you that I was still there, that I would never leave you, afterwards I thought you might have been thinking what I was thinking.”
“And what was that?”
“That whether we won or lost this match the next one would be the last time I stand by your side like this. And that I didn’t want that to be the case.”
“When else during the match were you thinking about telling me?”
“The second goal, when you came out of nowhere and hugged me. I thought about how you might never hug me like that again. I was happy about the goal, about how everything was going, but most of all I was happy seeing how happy you were. Seeing that look of pure joy on your face, feeling you grab hold of me the way you did. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Were you thinking about such things then, Hansi?”
“Why do you ask? Is there something that makes you think I was?”
“There is actually. When I turned to you and asked you “is this really real” your answer was really confusing. It made me think you might know how I felt, which just confused me even more.”
“I don’t remember that, I don’t recall you saying that or my answer. But you do, don’t you?”
“I do. You said “this match is just like you, Joachim; it’s too wonderfully weird and perfect not to be real.”
“I said that?”
“You did. The night after the match I kept playing those words in my head over and over again. I couldn’t stop hearing them, even if I wanted to.”
“So tell me, why that day? What made you wake up and decide that was the day you were going to tell me?”
“I woke up thinking of you, thinking of how I wished you were there. I thought of all the times we’d travelled together and of all the times we’d had breakfast together. And I realised, that wasn’t going to happen anymore, I was never going to see you in the morning like that ever again. I was never going to get to see a sleepy Hansi again, or get to watch you sleep on the bus or the plane. I realised that not only did I need you to be there, but I wanted you to be there.”
“So there was no real reason why you picked that day?”
“Not really, I didn’t pick it. It just happened; I’d been waiting for the right moment, until I found the courage to do it.”
“You get the point that I’m always trying to make then, that you don’t always need a plan. That it’s ok to just “wing it” sometimes?”
“No, I still don’t agree with that. Not having a plan for telling you made that the scariest moment of my life. Having a plan would have helped I think.”
“I don’t want to argue with you, not now, but you’re wrong. Having a plan wouldn’t have helped; it wasn’t because you didn’t have a plan that you were afraid. You were afraid because there was no plan to be had, because this wasn’t something you could prepare for. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you, you can’t prepare for everything. Your lists and schedules and plans can only get you so far.”
“I don’t agree, Hansi. A plan may not have helped that day but it’s because of a plan that we’re sitting here today.”
Hansi couldn’t find a way to argue with that and honestly, he wasn’t trying very hard to. There were times to set Jogi straight and to point out the flaws in his logic; this was not one of them. Here and now Hansi wanted to do nothing more than enjoy the memories they’d created together here.
It was all so perfect coming back here where it all began, in more ways than one for as Jogi had said, this was not just where him and Hansi stood together for the first time but here was where Jogi had taken charge of any team for the first time ever. It was made even more perfect by the fact that this was not only where their time together began but where it ended, at least in terms of matches played on German soil. Here was the last time they had stood together before departing that summer, the friendly against Chile being the last of the preparation matches before the World Cup.
Hansi however was not thinking of that match; was not thinking about any of their matches in fact. Standing here watching Jogi he was picturing all the times Jogi stood here without him, of his time in charge of the team here. Reminiscing about those days amused Hansi, thinking of how Jogi was back then and how different he was now. To think of his complete lack of taste in clothes and how such a thing would not be possible now. He made no attempt to hide the look of amusement on his face whilst he thought over all of this; consequently not even Jogi could fail to notice it.
“What’s so funny, Hansi?”
“I was just thinking about you being in charge here.”
“And that’s funny to you?”
“No, not at all. I was just thinking about the pictures of you I’ve seen from back then. Of your, how shall I put it, your lack of taste in certain things back then. I couldn’t imagine you wearing such things now.”
“Hansi, I love you, I do but…”
“I know, I know, don’t joke about the shirts. I know the Löw rules. I just couldn’t help myself; standing here with you I couldn’t stop myself from picturing you back then. Will you forgive me this one time, seeing as how it is a very special occasion?”
“I will forgive you, but you’ll have to make it up to me in Brazil.”
“I’m sure I’ll have no problem doing that” replied Hansi with a devilish look in his eyes, leaving no doubt that in this instant he was the one who had something special planned, many special things in fact.
Already his mind was coming up with several different ways in which he could make it up to Jogi who for his part was giving the subject some thought as well. A few moments ago he’d been content to stand there reminiscing and observing the smile on Hansi’s face, yet now he could not wait to leave. An impatience which was all too clear in his actions and his words. Tightening his grip on Hansi’s hand and pulling him in the direction he wanted to go, his words contained his customary directness that Hansi was coming to appreciate so much.
“Actually, why wait till we get there? I have a better thought, we’re going to go back to the hotel right this very moment and you can start making it up to me right away.”
“Sounds like a plan, Löw-mann.”
“It’s not a plan, Hans-Dieter. It’s an order.”
“An order, I stand corrected my ever precise Germanic pedant.”
Hansi did as he was told back at the hotel, they may have only spent one night in Stuttgart but in that one night he already went some way to making it up to Jogi for his shirt related joke. Later that night whilst he was lying in bed wrapped in Jogi’s arms, Hansi thought back on their first and last match in Stuttgart. Wondered if back then Jogi dreamed about him, if he thought about him being wrapped in his arms like he was right now. Hansi knew there was no point in obsessing over such things, yet still he could not prevent himself from thinking back to how much fun they could have had back then.