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.