Boys of winter

  • Aperture: f/4
  • Focal Length: 300mm
  • ISO: 1250
  • Shutter: 1/250 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Theodore, Alabama

I lose myself and find myself again and again — more so this time of year than any other.

I live in a paper-thin veneer, cloaked loosely within a mantle of loss and redemption, scalded by summer’s heat, frozen by winter’s ice, dazzled by spring’s beauty. It comes rushing back to me in autumn, a dizzying surge of spirit, a restless longing for something I’ve never been able to name. May never find.

I walked onto my first football field 18 years ago, a new pair of boots on my feet to protect me from the mud. They were cheap. Boys’ boots bought at a yard sale for five dollars. It seemed an expensive price to pay at the time for a pair of used shoes, but when I slipped them on, I realized I had just purchased a whole new identity. I could kick things. Stomp things. Break things. Make noise. I could get dirty. Drench myself in mud. Wade in waters I’d never dared tiptoe through. I could be taller. Stronger. Better. I could play with the big boys and not only hold my own, but come out on top.

The colder it is, the more I feel it. The pattern is the same, year after year. It starts with a grey, cloudy day. There’s a misty rain falling, and I’m a little down but wide awake. Alert. Waiting. Somewhere deep within the reaches of my mind, I can feel spirit calling spirit, the soul being called home.

Quickly, I yank the jeans on, shivering in the first chill of the year. Slowly, I draw the fleece sweater over my head, shaking my hair loose and reveling in the way it feels falling around my shoulders. Reverently, I pull the Timberlands from the shelf and lace them slowly, deliberately, carefully wrapping the long strings once, then twice around my ankles. I rummage through the closet blindly until my hand touches the familiar canvas and corduroy field coat, close my eyes and slip it on. I snatch my press pass from the desk and toss a pack of batteries in my pocket. Shove a CD in the deck and slam the car door, back out of the driveway and send my car into a low growl as I hit my favorite curve.

Drive through the gate, past the kids parking cars for the math team, smile as I remember being one of them. Dangle my pass casually, thrill once more at the way no words are needed — a nod and a smile and the ticket takers step aside and wave me through. Walk through the entrance, sign the list, smile at the principal, shove my headphones in my ears and crank the music. It used to be Duran Duran. Now it’s more likely Evanescence or Linkin Park.

Pause for a moment. Lot of people here. Slam a foot up on the edge of a table and luxuriate in a catlike stretch as I untie and retie my shoes, tugging the laces hard as I try to find my center in the midst of the temporary loss of equilibrium. There. Better. Edge the volume a bit more to block the sounds of the crowd, sling my camera over my shoulder and slide into someone else.

On the sidelines, among my colleagues, I belong. The moods ebb and flow from game to game as we wile the years away joking, flirting, griping, cursing. Employers change, babies are born, people get married, people get divorced. But somewhere within us all, we understand implicitly that this is the constant — it will never be better than it is at this very moment. The spouses will never get it. Not really. The friends will smile indulgently as we skip yet another gathering to chase this insanity. The parents will keep clips of our work and say they’re proud even when they could care less.

It won’t matter. Nothing will ever matter like this matters. No one will ever love us hard enough, long enough, well enough to give what this gives. And so we cling to each other.

The frost of winter is around the corner, and it awakens a desperate hunger inside of me, a bittersweet longing to hold on to October just a little longer. It leaves me happy and sad, wildly lonely and inexplicably content. Feathering the nest as the soul flies fast and free. Fifteen or 33, it never changes.

Music: Sweet Sacrifice by Evanescence (lyrics)

Posted on tagged , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply