Marcel Proust opens Remembrance of Things Past with a rather famous vignette wherein he eats a madeleine, triggering a seven volume perusal of memory from his own perspective. I feel a bit like that now, as I write this, attempting to make sense of these last 40 hours and 45 minutes as we await Sunday’s fixture, wondering which version of the Reds will take the pitch against West Ham United.
But that famous line so many have referenced over the years is neither my favorite nor what I would ask we Reds ruminate on today. Instead, I am reminded of the following, which is Proust narrating awakening in the dark, midst REM cycle:
I could not even be sure at first who I was; I had only the most rudimentary sense of existence, such as may lurk and flicker in the depths of an animal’s consciousness; I was more destitute than the cave-dweller; but then the memory – not o of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived and might now possible be – would come like a rope let down from heaving to draw me up out of the abyss of not being, from which I could never have escaped myself…
Moncrieff, Kimartin. Remembrance of Things Past, Volume I: “Swann’s Way”
That the long winter of our discontent began with a tricky fixture against Southampton, of course, is classic Liverpool: whatever we do must be accompanied by poetry and tension. So it comes to this. We have 70 points after 36 games; Manchester City have 69 after 35 games; the hashtag that launched a thousand memes has 66 after 35 games; and our dreaded enemy has 65 after 35 games. Liverpool control our own destiny needing two wins to enter the promised land. Anything less, well, you can read the table.
After 26 years awaiting a title, it’s hard not to feel simultaneously adrift and disgusted with how much I want this top four finish. We have suffered many an indignity in that time, but it has become particularly acute since Rafa Benítez left: whether it be Hicks & Gillette; Nando leaving for Chelsea; Macheda’s strike; Gareth Barry; or Mascherano. We have not made the Champions League with regularity since 2008/09. Marinate on that for a minute. Aside from Brendan’s horrific cameo, the Mighty Reds have not been in Europe’s premier competition for nearly a decade.
That it feels like our birthright to occupy Europe’s elite for so many Reds—this one included—may be cold comfort for those that don the heavy weight of the match-day kit. That these Reds leave everything on the field for us, for each other, for Jürgen, for the 96, and for everything it is that we do (or, perhaps, attempt to) represent is undeniable. There may be no harder working bunch in England, yet here we are.
All of which is to say that as I sit in my flip flops and socks, sweatpants, I am asking for a rope to pull me out of this disorienting abyss. The darkness feels like it is closing in, what with comments regarding four points and cup finals, but if one refracts that narrative through the season’s prism, perhaps things are better than we suppose. A fast start counterbalanced by a truly horrific winter and a run of 4-1-2 in our last seven: just under two points per game.
Perhaps we can find succor in those great moments hitherto experienced, where Liverpool transcended time and space and linked the combined will of Reds across the globe: singularities all bent upon one stupid ball crossing a little white line between two sticks. But threading through that belief are all the times we’ve come just short. So I flounder, grasping for that rope.
I do know that I believe in Jürgen. I do know that I believe in Liverpool. I do know that I believe in the power of the collective. I do know that this club has provided me with more joy, heartbreak, and euphoria than anything else in life.
And I remember that Jürgen took Mainz to the top flight after a few attempts, including after losing a promotion campaign on goal differential. And I remember that he took an unheralded Dortmund side to dizzying heights. And I remember that without the withering injuries, we would not be having this discussion, wherein I beg you to help me step back from the precipice of despair and look forward to Sunday’s match rather than hide behind the sofa with one eye closed.
Perhaps there is no unifying force to the universe and this is all meaningless. Or perhaps there is some small degree to which everything is everything and we are all interconnected, making our tuning in Sunday matter more than we realise.
I know that I am increasingly wondering if all this is worth the sturm and drang and drinking and stomach pains, but then you remember those perfect, ineffable moments – where you are no longer present or sure of who you are other than a pure expression of love for this team, these Reds, and our Liverpool – and well, T minus 40 hours and 45 minutes, Reds. May we all meet again in the dreams of one another.