Chewing slowly, savoring a fast-food meal (if one can be said to savor such a thing) and looking out the window, I watched a young kid dribbling a basketball as he gamboled down the street. He was leaping like a colt and switching the ball back and forth, hand to hand, looking for all the world like someone who wanted to be Kobe or LeBron. The energy and vigor of his movements could only be demonstrated by someone who does not know the limits of their own physicality. Someone who is not yet old in mind, whose American heart believes the fuel will never run out.
This is not me. But I am glad I got to see it. I thought of myself when I was younger, when I wished for the ability to throw a tight spiral or smack a home run every third trip to the plate. Those ignorant halcyon days when I believed that if I just kept running faster and kicking harder I too would bury the ball in the back of the ol' "onion bag."
Those days haven't come true, quite. I'm older, supposedly wiser. I don't burn white-hot from sunup to sundown anymore. Kicking off the covers, putting feet on the floor every day is more like firing up the wood stove to bake some biscuits. It can't be done too fast, it won't get you there in a hurry. Things take time to catch. The flames have their moments but what is needed is the slow burn and coals under the ash.
Any sporting heroics I indulge in anymore lie primarily in the fields of my mind., where I am soccer lightning and "running in his seven league boots" to quote from Eduardo Galeano*. Maybe, maybe that sort of confidence and bravado shows up in these pages now and again. But the real world leaves me worn out, and I have learned to conserve my energy, saving it for the right time and right place.
This is as it was meant to be, caught up as we are in the turning of the wheels.
I downed the last of the meal, jaw working slow like a cow in the grass. The young superstar hustled up the street, driving the lane in the court of his mind and I'm sure he was thinking what an awesome dunk he was going to deliver after shaming the defenders with a master class move. For a brief moment, superimposed over my vision, was a collage of images from the news. Earthquakes, nuclear disasters, floods and tornadoes...thousand dead and wounded, places unlivable, homes flattened...they ghosted themselves over the kid and the ordinary street in the suburbs. It was seeing life through old glass negatives of disaster.
I shook my head. The kid knew nothing of this. I closed my eyes to make the images go away. I sent up a prayer, a wish, that that kid would have his slam dunk and the roar of the crowd, that maybe that could be his normal.
I wished and I prayed for all those who have lost so much, their homes and loved ones, that they would get their normal back.
*From "Soccer in Sun and Shadow", his essays on soccer published in 1998. If you want to understand the Beautiful Game, or even Life, read this book.