rain fell fast and hard, my head was finally wet.
skin to scalp, hair soaked down my back, ball was moving. mud between my toes, we slid from stop to start with the water.
voices lifted from side to side, languages and laughter mingling. where english stopped, where laughter started, was something i could not tell. everyone knew each other already, they’d been 1, 2, 3, and 4 years friends in the making. not just at school, but from before.
i was new, the kind of white-faced new that somehow found a place.
‘here. what language do you speak?’
‘no, silly. what other language do you speak?’
‘oh, that. spanish. i speak spanish best.’
‘ok, we have latin america vs the world. you play soccer right?’
and they ran, and ran. across grass, across mud. world would score, latin america would score. and people would laugh. they’d trade ball back and forth with good-natured insults. pidgin to kikongo, swahili to tagalog, teeth flashing, feet flying. they told secrets with the passing of ball.
and i watched.
rain blurred faces and shapes. we were wet shirts and jeans, spanning continents with our feet. mud to grass, stone to tree, they ran. they ran like it mattered, they ran for joy.
and i ran too.
step, slide, step, slide, eyes on ball, black-white, black-white, it spins. i am feet to ball, running. rain disappears, voices stop. there is only one small globe. continents measured, even, congruent. oceans of black, oceans of white. we live, we lie, we sleep, we wake, upon truths of yes or no.
i was running.
he’d always say, ‘Shade, if you don’t manage to keep your head in the game, you will never amount to much. And anyway, only boys play sports.’
but ball was spinning, spinning, and it sang through grass. until full force, skin collided, granite silence, it stopped. voice echoing, time slipping, i floundered for escape.
hands reached out, ‘hey, slow down for a minute.’
and he laughed.
‘what’s your name again?’
‘hey. i’m north.’