Soccer Cleats and Green Grass

 

I press my face harder and harder against the suede cushions of my couch. For a second I forget how to exist. The harder I push the darker it gets. I need to keep pushing though. I need to find out how to let go. She is gone. She was there, and now she is not.

An endearing laugh echoes in my head as I replay my last memory of her. I am trying to impress her with my soccer skills as I move the ball up field. My goofy attempts at foot and eye coordination bring her a smile, and I can’t help but feel acceptance and warmth.

10 years later, a memory of a small scrimmage iconifies soccer cleats and green grass.

It is Halloween night 2005, and I am thinking about the previous morning.

The air was thin and the grass on the school courtyard was firm. Before my hand even reached the front door of the school, a face turned to me and said, “Did you hear about Taylor?” I turned my head anticipating to hear middle school gossip, but instead heard the most obtrusive combination of words.

“She died.”

The comment blindsided me. It felt like someone was trying to shove spam into a gogurt. The thought of death mixing with my reality was abhorrent, and I immediately rejected it. Once I saw the sincerity of his words, the chatter in the halls faded to white noise. I watched him hurry off to class as the bell rang. Unfazed by the morning rush, I stood shell shocked.

My 8th grade English homework is lying abandoned on the dining table. I have spent the past few hours trying to make sense of her mortality. Her personality embodied such boldness that it seems impossible to think it disappeared. As a 13 year old philosopher, I confidently set out to solve the problem. I go back and forth between proofs; a series of “ifs”, “therefore’s” and diagrams. As time presses on, my frustration and grief increase.

With my adolescent head still buried in the couch, my mind scrambles to find answers. It is as if I have been confronted with a test question that I was not prepared for. I nervously play with a number two pencil as my mind sprints to find an answer. I’m not sure if my attempts to solve humanities deepest questions are courageously optimistic, or arrogantly hubris. Confronted with the limitations of an adolescent mind, I make a rash decision.

I choose to settle with darkness. All my attempts to explain life after death and God leave me unsatisfied. Rather than live a life of doubt and disappointment, I choose to accept the worst case scenario:

There is nothing after.

My 80’s Sony Portable radio player is playing Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan. This black and silver rectangle sits symbolizing my adolescence; a period of Classic Rock, Harry Potter and stolen street signs. A timeless era unstained by the reality of death; a mischievous innocence.

Bob Dylan’s heaven is swinging off of my radio’s antenna.

My eyes have been shut for so long, I forget that my face is buried in the couch. There is a moment of deafening silence as I stare into the recesses of my head. A warm breeze moves through my spine, and I can hear the darkness sway with the wind.

It sounds thin and artificial.

No longer intimidated by it, my chest swells with courage and I clinch my fists. I listen to the darkness move with the breeze, and remember that hope is tangible. It moves with the wind and whispers in the dark. The thought that there is something incredibly beautiful beyond that inconspicuous darkness inspires a different fear. I don’t want to miss out on beauty.

Like the plaster horizon of The Truman Show, the unknown holds the potential of true love and beaches in Fuji. My pride rails against the status quote, and I refuse to be deceived by flimsy darkness. In desperate protest, I abandon proofs and diagrams for faith.

What if “Enlightenment Thinking” is playing us for fools? It has developed a monopoly on truth by selling the peasants that came before it as blind sheep. Like a once famous naked emperor, The Enlightenment parades its reason through the streets by demeaning the vision of its subjects. In truth, its arrogance and pride blinds it from what a small child can so clearly see.

Uninhibited by the physical limitations of my mind, I stretch out my hand with the anticipation that beauty will stretch back.

It does.

It isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and it isn’t a vivid vision or audible voice. I open my eyes and existence demands hope. I went from trying to explain the existence of a deity, to listening to God give cadence to existence. Faith is like listening to Jazz. It doesn’t need to make sense to enjoy it.

 

 

 

Taylor,

Whenever doubt creeps into the cracks of my mind, I visit your smile. Thank you for continually reminding me that there is beautiful hope.

With warm regards,

That lanky 8th grader that couldn’t steal the soccer ball from you.

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