The coffee had been cold for how long I don't know. Hours, certainly. At some time, distant now, it had been hot. But the coffee had never been enough; it was dirty water, that's all. Although perhaps there was no coffee strong enough or hot enough to do what I needed it to do. I needed sight, I needed to see what was invisible, to see a sound. I needed focus. I needed my whole being, everything I had, concentrated. Instead, I had this cold cup of coffee, I had weary lamplight and the Vine looping again, again, again.
Or not just that. I had what I knew, too. There was a sound, and I knew that sound -- it was a burp, all right, a human burp into a microphone right there on ESPN's set, brazen and unashamed and probably a bit redolent of tropical fruit. But this burp came from beyond the camera's eye, its author invisible and unidentified. I had my suspect: it was the Dutchman, Van Nistelrooy, the suave one to Tirico's left and Roberto Martinez's right. His name was circled on the legal pad, underlined in red. The Man In The Center. I was sure of this, until I wasn't.
The more the Vine echoed, the less I heard. It was a burp, and then at some point it wasn't. There are frogs in Brazil, big ones; who knows what kind of access they have to the ESPN set. It could have been anything, or it could have been The Man In The Center. There was no way of knowing, no way of making it stick. I would listen until I knew what I heard, but the coffee was cold. The coffee was dead, no life in it, and the burp -- the Dutchman's Burp, the Buurp, the Ruud Noise -- sounded again and again. It was a taunt.
There was a stirring, then. I looked up as if in a dream and saw my wife in the doorway. My eyes were fogged, shot, I'd broken them, but I could see concern on her face, concern and something like fear. "Come to bed," she said. "You need to rest."
And I would have loved to have done that. I would have loved to yield. But I could not tell her that I would, because I could not do it. I could not rest. When I knew, when I knew for sure which member of the ESPN studio crew burped into his microphone, when I knew, then. Then I could rest.