After my post of March 13 (Making magic), a friend reminded me of this piece I wrote about a year ago, before the inception of the Journeys Into The Night blog. Thought I’d post it here as a sort of companion piece.
The lanky teenager takes a step to the right, fakes left, pivots, swings his leg and kicks the ball.
It makes a long, slow arc through the air, its sweep so beautiful, so graceful, a mathematician might take pleasure in graphing it.
His track suit bottoms slung low on his hips, the boy stands frozen for an instant, arms slightly raised, his head bending forward as if to will the ball on to its target.
For a split second, he looks almost like a worshipper in the act of obeisance.
And still the ball flies.
A lone car passes by as the dusk of the evening deepens. Across the street, a woman pushes a pram. Somewhere in the distance a siren wails.
The football hits the inside of the post, drops, and rolls along the goal line. The teen holds his breath. With almost a sigh, the ball kisses the net on the other side as it goes over the line.
“Yesssss!” the boy says quietly, punching the air. He runs forward, grabs the ball and dribbles it back to the half-line.
Suddenly he is not just this boy, but several dozen others in various neighborhoods pulled to football pitches all over the country for a kickabout. They watch their idols on television, then slink silently off, a ball under one arm, to mimic them. It’s their own version of footie fever.
I watch from a distance as he continues playing, whirling and feinting and dribbling around players only he can see, practicing free kicks from outside the box. He’s quick on his feet. A row of houses behind him watches, but silently.
Only later do I learn that he’s a ninth-year student who also likes bikes, dance music and Sprite. He plays for his school team. He’s crazy about football, a fact that goes without saying.
His parents want him to be an engineer or computer programmer, but he wants to play football professionally, and why not? he asks. “I’m already quite good at my age,” he adds matter-of-factly. Well, sort of.
Nothing wrong with dreaming, though. Dream on. At 14, your whole life is ahead of you.
Sadly, of course, the odds are against him, which is a shame to even think, because he looks so earnest. Unless he’s a Beckham or a Rooney or Gerrard, chances are he’ll awaken someday and it won’t have happened. That’s the experience most have.
I remember how the obvious struck around my 30th birthday. Wow, I thought, or something like that. A lot of options are now closed to me.
Where anything once was possible, I knew I’d never be a professional athlete or play for Manchester United or be a famous actor. I had never pursued any of those things, you understand. Yet up until a certain age, anything seems possible. Anything.
Right now, out on a vacant playground, this kid is a football star. He plays for his team, Tottenham Hotspurs. He goes on runs down the wing just like Aaron Lennon.
He sweats a lot. His biceps bulge. He has tattoos all over his body. In his mind, I mean.
And so he spins and shoots and scores, visions of Tottenham fresh in his memory. England is next. Like any decent Spurs fan, he despises Arsenal and Chelsea and wishes he could be at White Hart Lane on Wednesday cheering on his team and waving two fingers at the opposing Gunners – but he doesn’t have tickets.
And so he plays. He misses a cross, attempts a back-heel pass. Takes a few throws. His legs are as skinny as Q-tips, but out here they are powerful. He goes up against players like John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.
Yeah! A hattrick! The World Cup beckons!
Anything is possible. Anything.
Dreams do come true if you keep believing in yourself. Anything is possible. – Jennifer Capriati