They expect too much of me. They always do. The people. The mass. The mob. So many eyes diverted away from my existence, I live my life through a transparent veneer like a ghost floating across misty plains. I call to them all and urge rationality and temperance but my words are shrivelled when thrust up against the bulging veins and spittle of venomous hatred. My life goes unnoticed. I live a solitary existence despite living amongst hundreds, thousands, millions. Alone. I am always alone. Until…
Until my judgement is called into question. And then the wailing banshees and hysterical professing of all-seeing knowledge is unleashed from its Pandora’s Box and I am called to account. Prostrate before the world, my frailties are nakedly apparent. A mere blink of an eyelid heavy with perspiration or ray of glistening light blinding my vision is all it takes for my reputation, my name, my very reason for living to be sullied and pilloried from the highest of rooftops.
Who are these self-appointed judges of a man? Are they so above criticism themselves, that they can offer pontifications and judgments from distant citadels inhabiting banks of glowing screens which frame every second of a man’s movement? Do they live the moment as I do, in a constant state of suspended tension with every sinew stretched and every sense sharpened? I am not as young as I was. My body tires and my breathing gets heavier, more painful with each passing year. But those around me never wilt, never slow, never decay. I am trapped within my own living nightmare; doomed to fail as others prosper.
Nobody calls the Others to account. Those notorious tricksters with their repertoire of deceptions. It is I who is expected to spot the nudge, the pinch, the theatrical clutching of swollen limbs weighing heavy with the placebo of artifice. I watch these Others from my exile in dark, echoing tunnels after their deeds have been extolled and championed by the writers and cameras. I watch them leave watering holes with gaggles of peroxide pin-ups and zoom off in streamlined, black motorcades. I go home to my three teenaged children and my high-school sweetheart. We drive a Renault. On a street with recycling bins and potholes. I pay my taxes, work my job from day to day. And in the evening, I go for a run. The iPod nano, my eldest got me for Christmas with the money we gave her, has eight songs on it which I shuffle on repeat. Five of these are by Dire Straits. My Sunday paper shows the Others on the front and the back. My joints ache.
My intentions have always been honourable. In confrontations, I am always the peacemaker, sorting out the ‘he saids’ from the ‘she saids’. I expect that we all would like everybody to just get along. But the Others are like children, you see and sometimes they need to be admonished, corrected. The young can be so petulant and I’ve always suspected that they don’t really mean it. If they did, why then would they hug and caress each other like scampering lion cubs after the event? And they’re usually very nice to me then, despite the pointing and the prodding that had gone before. Not always though. That’s the time I fear the most. Because if the Others are angry at you, it will more than likely follow that the others behind the Others are probably too. And when that happens, I am forced to hide. But I don’t need to really. After all, nobody ever remembers my face. They aren’t here to see me.
But without me, there would be no order to the anarchy that surrounds us all. I record the passing of minutes and seconds with pinpoint precision. I take notes. Fastidiously. I am immaculate in both my presentation and my demeanour. Though I am invisible, I am always dressed for the occasion with sharpest of black or lurid of yellow. I prefer the black. The yellow is too conspicuous and I would rather lead a quiet life. But sometimes, that is impossible.
Why do I do this? Is it because I seek to gain my revenge on the Others who had inflicted a school-life’s worth of playground humiliations on me as a child? Do I prefer to be a passive voyeur rather than actively participate? Am I a dullard? A jobsworth? A pedant? Or am I the eternal diplomat? The politician, the policeman, the patrician? My tools summon all to attention and my word is final.
But with that comes doubt. There are people who doubt me and ridicule me and mock me. But it is always they who come running and screaming to me when they seek fairness. But more often than not, they forget that I was ever there in the first place. And more often than not I leave the arena alone; after the cheering, baying crowds have dispersed into nothingness. I go home and look in the mirror and I know that I have to live with the decisions I have made alone. Without comrades and without supporters.
I am the loneliest man in the world.
Howard Webb has been selected as the World Cup Final referee.