On Certain Fields of Our Past on Which We No Longer Play

01Dec07

The bright and cool December air brings us back to the years we spent in Brooklyn, when each weekend we walked up Third Street to the park, and there on one of the inner fields — away from the strollers and the “ultimate” Frisbee players — met for a game of soccer. As ex-athletes and aspiring musicians still shedding the vestiges of our suburban youth, we were careful not to be too competitive about it; cleats, for example, were the exception.

Do you remember those indie-rock girls who showed up in skirts and platform shoes? Weren’t they on tour from Georgia, or maybe Tennessee? Or what about S___, who could always be seen in the middle of the action with a cigarette in his mouth? He could always be counted on to score a few goals; even in high school he had been an unusually gifted player. Or what about J____ and his Buddy Holly glasses?

It would be negligent not to mention how infatuated we were with P___, who was said to be related to the famous European writer; silent and swarthy, he played fullback, and each time we desperately sprinted by him, it was with the hope that our speed and agility on the field (and please don’t think us immodest if we say that we did not lack for either) might somehow lead him to fall in love with us. Alas, we never were able to do more than stare longingly (but furtively) at his muscular calves and dark eyes and imagine what it would be like to touch our palm to his unshaven cheek.

Then there was the time — and this, of course, very near the end — when A____ showed up; we had never seen her before, but were completely entranced. She had obviously played a lot growing up; like the best players, the ball seemed to be attached to her feet with a string, and when she passed or kicked, it was always with an authoritative tap. Like today, it was cold, but each time she ran by we could hear the rustle of her t-shirt; the air seemed to smell vaguely of fresh laundry. Someone said her family was rich, and that — hint — she was single after a bad breakup. Maybe, we thought in a moment of giddiness, she would be the one to rescue us from our demons! But thankfully by this point we no longer had the stomach for such a charade, and so did no more than shake her hand after we were all done. We walked out of the park as the fading light gave way to the fog; the game already seemed like a dream, and only the mud on our socks told us that we had actually played.

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