Familiar

As it winds down – another dodgeball Saturday well spent.  Hurling myself across the hardwood, making a battle out of something that wasn’t the least bit treacherous. Our host is packing up the equipment in a purple container, trying to make use of all available space.  His tired muscles flinch while placing ball after ball into an awkward rectangular plastic bin.  His struggle brings a smile to my face, as I jump down from the folded bleachers, throwing my water bottle into my duffle bag.

I would miss this space all month.  When I’m sitting at my desk, pounding away at the keyboard, I will think of underwhelming crests hanging from the rafters. Shuttlecocks, intercut and stagnant above industrial fans and swinging lights. It will take days before that smell of sweat and scuff-marks is expelled from my senses. I could hang on to it for days.

I slung the heavy, damp satchel over my shoulder, and took my surroundings again.  People were pairing off and going home. To mortgages and morning routines. Away from dodging playground balls, and toward the predictability of the world outside of this gymnasium.  Nothing will seem as lively all week – water cooler discussions about last night’s TV highlights will pale in comparison.  Every unnecessary word over lunch will not reverberate with the power of a body meeting the floor.

She looked destroyed, but in this moment, she seemed familiar.  Not in that sense that I had seen her before – I most certainly had, as our respective teams had met in battle last month – but more that I was conscious of her type.  Dodgeball wasn’t an activity to take the place of cardio workouts.  Nor was it something she thought would be a fun, one-off event that would be good workplace fodder for her coworkers to chew on.  A long sigh is expelled and the resolution of returning to a conventional existence is accepted, but not without hesitation.

I remember her displeasure amplified by the worn maple wood – she was built to play this game. Hair held back with a black bandana, as she threw everything she had into making the big play. Now, that black headband hangs out of her bag, not much different from mine. The scuffed tennis shoes, gummed with saliva at the soles, navigated her to each new exchange.  They remain on that aged floor, only at rest presently, waiting for that next battle.

Next to our host, we’re the only ones that remain, and that’s when we were introduced.  Not through a mutual friend, not over drinks at a dive bar, but through a child’s game.  Somehow we made it for adults and into something more than fleeting.  I was on my way through the heavy metal doors, and she was just getting off the floor, fittingly.  The only thing that was missing was substance, as there were no great truths exchanged.  I was tired, and she was beautiful.

Only seconds were spent and it was enough for a week of pondering.  I could see in an instant that we were different, but I could also see that this wasn’t the end.  I wanted to know her world: where normalcy takes a backseat to a game.  And I could see that she wanted to show me what else there was beyond all the monotony.  She was no longer an object of obsession, but a counterpart, an equal.  A shared consciousness.

All from a look across the court.  From a glancing connection.  A vague awareness.

She finds me.

She knows now.

Now she knows.

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