I USED TO PLAY SQUASH WITH RYAN GOSLING

by Jordan Moffatt

The first time I saw Ryan Gosling, it was when he was on the television show Breaker High. The first time I actually met Ryan Gosling in person is a completely different story altogether. This story takes place in Toronto during September and October of 2014. Here’s what happened:

I’m fifteen minutes early for my weekly match with my friend Hans. He hasn’t arrived yet. I have his racquet and safety glasses because he forgot them in the locker room last time we played. So I’m standing outside the court, waiting. Ryan Gosling walks past me. Then he stops, turns around, and looks at me. Then it gets stranger, because then Gosling actually says something to me.

“Squash?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“You’re about to play squash?”

“Yeah.”

I’m too nervous to reply with anything more eloquent.

“Is it fun?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“It looks fun.”

“It is.”

“I’ve always wanted to play squash.”

“You’ve never played?”

He thinks about it for a second.

“No,” he says.

I look down at my two racquets and two pairs of safety glasses, and I make a bold choice.

“Want to play?” I say. 

Gosling smiles again, that devilishly charming smile that we’ve all seen in his films.

“You serious?” he says. He says it that in that devilishly charming mumble we’ve seen in all his films.

“Yeah, I have two racquets. My friend was going to come, but he bailed.”

“Alright,” he says. “Sounds fun.”

“Great!” I say. “After you!”

He walks into the court. While he’s getting used to what the inside of a squash court is like, I take the opportunity to text Hans and tell him not to worry about coming.

“How on earth do you play?” says Gosling. “Cause I literally have no idea.”

Explaining how to play — even a basic, efficient explanation of squash — would take too much space in this story, but trust me when I say I explained to Gosling how to play in a basic and efficient way.

We start out by volleying, and he’s having a bit of trouble. After a few minutes though, he starts to look pretty good. Gosling is, after all, quite athletic. Eventually we play a match, which I win 3-0 (11-2, 11-6, 11-6).

Gosling and I shake hands when the match ends. Before we part, however, I make so bold as to suggest we make this a regular thing.

He says yes. 

I break the news to Hans that I found a new squash partner. It was tough to do, but it’s proper etiquette in squash circles to only have one partner at a time. He understood. I have the next match with Gosling the following week. We have another competitive game. It’s so great to have competitive squash matches against an attractive celebrity — I really recommend it. I win 3-1 this time (12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9). He seems to be getting better. In fact, he seems to be able to play good at will. Most of the points I win are on easy errors. I should’ve noticed this as a warning sign, but I didn’t. 

The more time I play with him, the less I feel like I’m his squash partner and more like I’m his friend. Friend or squash partner, though, I’m able to treat him like a regular person; not a celebrity. I never bring up his films, and I never ask about what happened between him and Rachel. Our conversations during our first matches were stunted and related to squash, but the more we played the more varied and personal our talk became. We started discussing shared interests. It turns out that Gosling and I are both big fans of the band Fleetwood Mac. After discussing the band for awhile, he lets me know that he has two tickets for their upcoming concert on my birthday weekend at the Air Canada Centre, and that he’d like me to come with him.

“Christine McVie is coming back,” he said. “It’s going to be wicked!”

That moment was the highlight of my friendship. Little did I know that it would be downhill from there. That night, just to kill time, I was cruising around his IMDb page and I discover his trivia section. Here’s what it says:

Ryan Gosling used to entertain himself on the set of Breaker High by playing squash with his co-star Tyler Labine. They still play matches regularly.

I read and re-read the sentence over and over again. It doesn’t make any sense — it can’t be possible! Gosling told me he had never played squash! He told me that he literally had no idea how to play. Gosling said the word literally!

I investigate more and find the interview that this IMDb trivia was pulled from.

Charlie Rose: You filmed Breaker High on a cruise ship. It must’ve been fun to film on a cruise ship!

Gosling: Well, we were pretty busy, but yeah we had some time to enjoy it. I remember they had this squash court, so me and [Tyler] Labine would play squash every day. (laughs) He never beat me. I’m just a natural at squash.

Charlie Rose: Do you still play?

Gosling: All the time, yeah — and only with Labine. It’s proper squash etiquette to only have one partner, after all.

 

So now I know the truth: Ryan Gosling is a liar. How many other squash partners does he have? Does he just walk around squash courts, trawling for people to invite him to play? Are we even friends at all, or is he just using me for a healthy exercise?

I have two options here: I can call Ryan Gosling out on the lie and give away our friendship and not go to a Fleetwood Mac concert, or I can pretend that I never read the interview and keep playing squash with him every week like usual and eventually go to a Fleetwood Mac concert with him. 

The next match, I didn’t show up to the court with my gear. I didn’t go to play; I went to confront. He shows up right on time, suspecting nothing.

“Hey,” he says. “Where’s your gear?”

I skip right to the point.

“You lied to me,” I say. 

“Whoa whoa. About what?”

“You’ve been playing squash with Labine since Breaker High!

Gosling drops his racquet to the floor.

“Shit,” he says. “You read my IMDb trivia.”

“Why did you do it?” I ask.

“I’m sorry,” Gosling says. He says it dramatically, like he’s acting. I guess it’s hard to tell when an actor is acting. “I like you,” he continues, “and I when I saw you for the first time, I knew that I wanted to play squash with you, but I didn’t know how to approach it other than to tell you I didn’t know how. I dunno, I guess it’s stupid, but I thought you wouldn’t play with me if you knew that Labine was already my squash partner.”

“You could’ve told me the truth. You could’ve stopped playing with Labine.”

“What if I asked for your forgiveness? What if I called Labine now and dumped him as a partner? Would you play with me again?”

I shake my head, indicating “no.” I’ve been burned too badly already.

“Okay,” he says.

He turns around and walks away. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac begins to play in my head:

I took my love and took it down

I climbed a mountain and I turned around

And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills

Till the landslide brought me down

I never saw Ryan Gosling again.


Jordan Moffatt is a writer and improviser living in Toronto. His writing has been featured in Feathertale, Typehouse Magazine, Hobo Pancakes, Defenestration Magazine, The Higgs Weldon, and The Big Jewel. He is the co-founder and co-editor of Vandercave Quarterly.