Rollin' Down the Street, Smokin' Indo With Little Miss Grab-and-Pull: Laid Back With Elizabeth Lambert
There’s something to be said about a week off from work and me chronically finding myself doing things I probably shouldn’t. Think of what could have been accomplished in an uninterrupted seven days. Think of it! The house could have been scrubbed clean—the dogs, too—a second-draft novel obsessed over and revised, revised, revised. But instead I found myself tied to Gmail, checking it every 20 minutes or so. And when I wasn’t doing that, I had my phone’s ring tone on louder than loud and would leap for it every time it cried out its pathetic little alert.
I’m not going to revisit Elizabeth Lambert’s story, her official 15 minutes of good-girl-gone-bad fame. ESPN and The New York Times can fill you in on her compelling, brutal, and, in my humble opinion, marvelous story (I recommend watching the ESPN video clip—it’s so righteous). I had sent a message requesting an interview soon after to her school e-mail address, which was widely publicized on the newly formed fans and haters pages on Facebook, but received no response. The publication I said I was writing for was still in existence, yes, but the women’s soccer section had been killed after the end of the inaugural WPS (that’s Women’s Professional Soccer) had ended—not enough hits, I was told, nobody cared about women playing soccer professionally—but Elizabeth didn’t need to know that.
Imagine my surprise when I received a Facebook message from Liz Lamb—her new social networking identity after her old one, I found out, had been flooded by too many death threats to count, too many people she didn’t know, had never heard of, saying she deserved to be raped and left for dead. For throwing a punch, mind you, and for pulling a girl down by her ponytail—no, wait—a Mormon girl. Clearly other athletes had received the same treatment post their own heated blunders, right? Like, who wasn’t in line to ass fuck Ron Artest after he jumped in the stands to ground and pound on a fan, or to cut Alex Rodgriguez’s throat simply for being A-Rod, that star-fucking douche?
But this line of argument is so played. Everyone knows that women are, will always be, treated differently, especially the ones that display aggression and remorselessness.
In her message, Elizabeth told me she’d be in the Boston area visiting her boyfriend’s family for Thanksgiving. I can thank Facebook for letting her in on my location, but still, I changed all my settings to a much more protective status that night. Boyfriend lived in Foxborough. She’d be there until Saturday night, when they’d both fly back to New Mexico for the remaining days of the fall semester at their university in Albuquerque. She would be attending Black Friday shopping with her boyfriend, his two sisters, and their mother at the Wrentham Outlets. She’d have no more than 15 minutes for me, I was told, but if I still wanted to talk, she could do it then.
My phone vibrated in my pocket late in the afternoon on Thanksgiving. There’s little I’d drop my fork from mom’s cheesecake for, but this was it. The message read this way:
avail 10am. B says café on site. talk then?
I secretly considered having this freedom to dash off and meet up with some strange woman from across the country one of the many benefits of being newly single.
495 was backed up a mile, maybe more, from the Wrentham exit, but, always prepared and ready—that’s me—I was waiting impatiently and motionlessly on the highway like everyone else two hours early. By the time I was near the outlets entrance, I decided to park at the Mobil station across the street and walk my way in. I had lost an hour already.
It turns out the cops don’t like this, but whatever. One had wanted to know where I parked—a walking stereotype, this cop: overweight, mustached, pink-nosed in the morning rain and chill. I told him I lived in town, lived right down the street. From over there, I pointed. He let me go.
I regretted walking in only because I was dressed way too well for the ugly weather, and I don’t know how to walk slow, so I was sweating. The cafeteria was full tilt, even at 9:30 in the morning, with families eating their first meals of the day. Tired families. Big families—we’re talking many generations in attendance, with pants wet from the cuffs up to just above their ankles, hair matted down and damp like mine. There were cranky, crying babies calmed only by a bottle or French toast sticks. I took a table in the center of this, but quickly gave up the empty three chairs to an Indian woman with literally two tots and three totes hanging off her arms.
This would be a good way for Elizabeth to find me: a woman alone sitting at a table with only one chair, watching the crowd for a sort of familiar face.
Like my arrival, her text came early.
Center of caf, I wrote. Black jacket. All alone.
I tucked my phone into my front pocket and got nervous for the first time. I spent nearly an hour and a half in deadlock traffic and not once did I think of what I’d ask her, how I’d angle this interview.
This voice came from behind me and I turned quick in my chair, feeling a little caught off guard to be honest, for some weird reason.
I said, “Yeah, hey,” and stood with my hand extended for her to take it. “Good thing my hair’s not long enough for a ponytail, huh? This introduction could have had a lot more umph.”
Big surprise. Elizabeth had no appreciation for cracks made at her own expense.
She had promised she’d meet her boyfriend and his family outside Pottery Barn in 15 minutes, so we decided to leave the table and chair to a family settling in that were quickly claiming them both, pushing them together to accommodate everyone: nana, papa, mom, dad, and four kids that had hair as red as their dad’s flustered face.
Elizabeth looked just like her photo in the Times. Shiny brown hair, light makeup, a scarf, but white this time, so as not to clash, I’d assumed, with her pink pea coat. She was tall, she was young, and she wore Ugg boots, which I thought suspect, seeing how she spends most of her year in New Mexico, and when she’s not there, she’s, I’d imagine, home in California.
I asked her why she had wanted to meet face to face, not sit through the interview in the privacy and comfort of her dorm room, or her boyfriend’s house, or, even better, to take her time with answers to an e-mail interview. She expanded her umbrella, motioned for me to join her beneath it, but I waved her off and stretched my wet hat over my head. She said she hadn’t really thought of that, but that she had liked movies, the segments on ESPN, showing athletes spending time with reporters and being interviewed about their lives and accomplishments.
I had problems not smiling at this. It could be argued that being “indefinitely suspended” from Division 1 collegiate soccer for committing a series of on-field assaults was considered an accomplishment only by me. Couple this with Elizabeth having lived only to see a 20th birthday, and I was having problems finding how we’d match this movie model in the time allotted.
“Plus,” she added. “It’s harder to ask people rude questions when you’re in front of them.” She looked me over. “Aren’t you going to record this? You have to tell me if you’re recording this.”
I fumbled in my jacket pockets for a bit, but decided there was no way I could fake it. I said, “No fear. I have an amazing memory.”
She smiled, uncertain, and said, “I wish you could have taken Western Civilization for me.” She window-shopped as we walked the sidewalk to the opposite end of the complex.
“So,” I said, and this prompted her to lift her chin and pull her shoulders straight in what I thought was a pretty defensive pose. I paused. “Who’s your favorite band?”
She looked at me. “My favorite band?”
“Yeah. Tell me what you listen to.”
Rihanna, T.I., and Ani Difranco were her answers. Not bands, but that’s okay. “And Dave Matthews, too. I still like him. What do you listen to?” she asked.
I stumbled and stuttered through the beginning of my answer. Was I even the one to be talking so much? But before I knew it, I was explaining the ins and outs of black metal to her, with it’s awesomely violent, church-burning history, and by the time I found myself having gone way too far, actually introducing the name Count Grishnackh—you know you’re overboard when you’re talking about the Count—and using the term kvlt in a conversation with a college athlete who looked like she had driven in a Barbie car to meet me, it was already too late. She said, “Wow. I didn’t know people still listen to metal.”
“Oh,” she said, “and I also like that song that goes ‘Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice.’” She sang these lines to me. I can tell you that Elizabeth Lambert may be a hot head with some anger management issues, but she is not tone deaf.
“Snoop Dogg,” I said.
“Oh, really? Wasn’t he on The L Word?”
I asked her about the WPS, if she’d ever had dreams of playing in it, and whether or not she saw a career in professional soccer a possibility now that she has sort of, you know, a rep, with U.S. national women’s soccer team members new and old reprimanding her behavior in both print and television media. She said, “They forgave Hope Solo. But I guess I’m no Hope Solo.”
“Hope Solo wasn’t provoked, though. Not really.”
She turned to me, surprised. “You believe the provocation story then?”
“Why shouldn’t I? You didn’t feel provoked?”
She moved her head from side to side, like she was still grooving to the Doggfather, then stopped, got focused. “I really regret—”
“Nah, nah—nope. I don’t want to hear your apology again. Everyone knows you’re sorry and regret it. But I’d like to see how half the naysayers would react to a hard elbow in their gut, or a good, old-fashioned crotch tickle. How come no one saw what the BYU offense was doing to you?”
“No one saw anything that day.”
“Certainly not one of the four officials.”
“Nope, not them. No one except for that one kid with a YouTube account.”
“And then your name’s mud. Just like that—overnight.”
“A seriously messed-up way to end the season. I’d take it all back if I could, do my best to switch that score around.”
And although I still had a good five minutes or so, we had already walked the slow, straight line from the cafeteria to Pottery Barn. Elizabeth looked in through the glass windows and found her boyfriend waiting by the cash registers, like a dog on alert and anxious for her return. She waved and he relaxed, moved his eyes on me, and made his way out to greet her.
She turned and said, “Not what I expected, to be honest, this interview—the way it went.”
“Me neither,” I said.
She collapsed her umbrella, tucked it beneath an arm, and dug her hands into the front pockets of her jeans.“How come you didn’t ask me about previous experiences with abuse? Or my emotional issues?”
I shrugged. “Is it any of my business?”
She turned when her boyfriend put a hand on her shoulder. He was eyeing me evenly, protectively. She brought him close in a half-hug and said, “This is my boyfriend Brian.”
I shook his hand, his tight around mine, and then thanked Elizabeth for her time.
“I can’t wait to see this. When will this run?” she asked.
“Soon,” I said. “I’ll let you know.”