Rules of the Game

Sundays we played volleyball.

Looking back it feels like we played the game for years, in the bright sun, under the gray sky, on still and humid September Sundays. We played. But it couldn’t have been years, could it? People came and went, the energy surged and waned. We paired off and disappeared, sometimes forever. But everything was forever then. How could there be an ending to those holy days, those brown and beautiful bodies, those perfect visions?

I can still feel the sting of the ball, its heft as I dug it out just before it hit the grass. I can see it spin up again, two more chances. We could fly in those days, before we found out about the things that are not possible. You have to keep it in the air. It can never touch the ground, but you can’t just grab it and stop it. You could save it that way, of course, but it’s not allowed. The rules of the game. What makes perfect sense, you can’t do that. You must serve, dig, volley, set, fake and spike, defying gravity, the rules of the game countermanding the laws of physics, of life, of the natural order.

We were out of college, all of us big boys and girls, starting our real lives, looking for our places in life, the ways we would make good, change the world, build the future. We were artists, con men, housewives and whores, makers, buyers and sellers door to door. We were learning the rules, making the rules, breaking the rules. Twenty or thirty of us, this is the way we partied, every week. Hard-fought games in the sun, Mexican beer in the coolers, whiskey, wine, music and drugs under cover of night.

I met you there on that field, and we played that game for all it was worth. After a while I told you that you had a nice set, and you cast your lovely dark eyes down, but you knew exactly what I meant. Then we played a different game, a game that didn’t have such easy rules, or maybe there were no rules at all – I never knew for sure.

I thought I was so smart. I thought I could play you, and you let me think it was true, while you volleyed and set me up, in the game where you made the rules. I thought I was winning you, but I was losing myself.

What a prize I was, brown and lean and smart and hard. What an ass I was, young and thoughtless and cruel. I guess you got what you were after, although I know I didn’t give you what you wanted. I guess I took what I needed from you, and I thought it was love. For a moment I held your heart in my hands, and you gave me indulgence and forgave me my sins.

Now I can’t find you anywhere, and I am certain that I never will. I catch glimpses in dreams, and I cannot speak. But I have learned the rules of the game, and now is when I need to confess to you, and now is when I need one last absolution.

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13 Replies to “Rules of the Game”

  1. Pretty profound stuff Larry, & unsettling in a way most of us can relate to. Most of us have one person in our past that we feel something was left unfinished. In leaving that person we depart changed ourselves, & we move on to evolve & reflect- wanting to go back afterwards & do or say something that we either didn’t think of at the time, or that we hadn’t experienced the life lesson yet that provoked the longing to go back & do/say. It can be both pleasant & scary as we role play those scenarios in our minds. I just believe some things happen for a reason & if we’re meant to come across this person again in our life, we will somehow….Knowing myself though, I’d probably be a bumbling idiot & not even be able to get the words out anyway……

  2. Your post reminds me of more than one person, most of them women. I was partway into tracking one of the women down on the Internet recently–I might have succeeded, since I’d found her new name!–but it finally dawned on me what a “superior” person she used to be. Maye she had a right to treat me as if I wasn’t keeping up with her, but I doubt it. And then I decided, what would be the purpose in finding her? So, for the first time in my Internet existence, I didn’t pursue the quest. She may think of me on occasion and wonder about me, but she wasn’t all that glad to see me when she was seeing me then, so why should I risk every iota of my self-respect by contacting her now? Still, one can invest the entirity of one’s guts in such memories. Then one may come to one’s senses and see she only seems like beautiful Rita Hayworth. She’s mesmerizing, all right, but like a snake.

    Better luck with my other memories.

  3. t1 – When I look back, it seems to me that I rarely knew what was going on. Maybe I still don’t, and I will see this in twenty years or so, looking back on today. I was and am a bumbler who innocently says mostly the wrong things. Given that, my task is simply to live now, slow down, think before I act, do no harm and give freely.

    Ron – People change. You never know.

    G.D. – You are too generous. Knowing what I know now, I would certainly play the game a different way. Not knowing, it would probably be different, but only because lightning won’t strike twice. I have to remind myself that these reminiscences are my only chance to go back, and that when I do this, I am not really going back.

  4. Theresa – During the day, I forgive myself. Late at night, I need something more. And yes, I proved I was free. See “What an ass I was…” above.

    Holly – Thanks, babe. And don’t we all?

  5. I deleted my comment above before I realized you had responded. … Apparently, late at night I have a difficult time tolerating my mistakes too.

    ~~I saved the part I liked:
    I liked this post a lot Larry. It reminded me of times when the most important thing was to be free and prove it.

  6. Don’t you hate it when you’re playing volleyball and you jam your finger? Used to happen to me all the time. Haven’t played in a while… Fun game.

  7. Chev – I know that I will never find her in this life, but I still want to.

    Steph – Eventually I quit because as a guitar player, I absolutely couldn’t afford to jam my fingers any more.

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