Getting back into life wasn’t as easy as it seemed. I went through the motions, I said what was expected, but it was all empty. I used to play soccer, I got into it in Italy. The most fun I ever had was when Italian kids –elementary school kids- beat my whole group - all of us high school students - at soccer. God I loved it, those little kids came up to us with a ball and spoke in a language we didn’t understand.
It didn’t take long to figure out they wanted to play. There were no cars about; it was on an island that didn’t have them, like Venice but much smaller. There was a McDonald’s, only one out of the country I ever went to. Don’t remember what I got. That was out of sight around the corner. We played in a square; fair bet it was the square of the town. There was a big building, not sure what, and its wall was one of the goals. No idea if there was another one or not.
There was a fountain with a stone bench cut around it that we used to sit out when we needed a break. The kids never needed one. God knows where they got the energy from. I probably played the best soccer I ever had while we were losing so very badly to those kids. Oh they were fun. The trip leader, my Latin teacher, video taped some of it. It’s the thing I remember most.
I never felt more alive than when I was in Italy, and that game was the best of it. Usually you feel most alive when you’re egging on death by climbing a mountain, or skydiving, or doing something that will break your neck, or make you go splat. Here I was living it up, and the only way I was pushing to the edge was coming damn close to a heart attack. You ever get that pain in your chest, y’know off on the left side? I got that, and I couldn’t breathe well for most of it, but that didn’t matter.
After I died all I wanted to do was be back there, losing a soccer game.
Things didn’t feel right. When I touched something it was like my fingers were numb. The colors looked washed out. The dark seemed lighter, and the light seemed duller. Everything sounded hollow.
Soccer didn’t have the same meaning anymore. It had never been the same, but now I was brutally reminded of exactly how pale a shadow it really was. If I could just get back there, if I could just recapture it … Somehow I knew, I just knew, that that wouldn’t be hollow, that would be vibrant, that would be living.
People noticed, as people do, and they asked what was wrong. “What’s wrong?” they’d say, and I’d reply
“Nothing,” then they’d say something like
“Come on, you can tell me.” To which I would reply
What was I s’posed to say? “Ever since I died life hasn’t been the same,” or “Everything has seemed meaningless since I rejoined the living.” Right. Or maybe “I have of late, though I know not why, lost all my mirth.” Hell no, I hate Shakespeare -talentless hack.
My parents, oh my parents. Since they almost lost me they had been trying to get close. As if I wouldn’t know that they were just trying to ease their own guilt. As if sudden attention would erase the fact that they ignored me most of my life. They knew I wasn’t feeling as well and they tried to soothe me. They were about as soothing as splinter.
Regardless, I just said nothing and people seemed to accept it. I became distant from my friends, if I ever had any. My game suffered. I went through the motions, like I did with everything, but in a sport you need that thing they always talk about. No, not heart. Umph. If you got heart, and you have hope, then you’ve got umph, but that’s not the only way to get it.
I didn’t even come close to it, eventually I quit and people were worried. They get that way, but it didn’t call anymore. I needed the real thing, but for that I was in the wrong hemisphere. It’s not like it was a big loss; no one ever accused me of being a great player.