Written by Terrane Ansley.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.
I sat in the grass that I was allergic to and waited. The sound of the head coach’s whistle was rarely heard; he opted for yelling instead. In rare moments, he would blow the whistle before letting it drop to his chest. Then he would yell. The veins on his shaved head would jump forth. In my mind, they were yelling too, of something missed and of another thing which had been tragically misplaced. Together, they strained to remember, but they could not.
By the time practices became assumed in early fall, some of the other boys had mastered our coach’s style. Their entire bodies would yell, and then the assistant coaches, who were just their fathers, would yell too. Then the cheerleaders, who were just their sisters, would yell. Everyone would yell when they got knocked to the ground, or when they knocked someone else to the ground. Everyone would yell when something went right, or when another went wrong.
My father was not an assistant coach, so I did not yell. Instead, I sat in the grass that I was allergic to and waited. In the pauses amongst the men and boys, I picked the grass off my shins, those dry yellow blades that had been brought to revenge over the long course of summer. Fall had arrived, and soon the grass would lose its anger altogether. Everything would change, but we would continue to play football, yell, and wait.
At eight, nothing makes much sense beyond one’s preference of gatorade flavors. The stops after practice, at the tiger mart, were quietly seminal. Prideful of my cleats and padded pants, I’d walk with purpose to the back of the convenience store, winding through the limited aisles before arriving to make my selection. The zig-zag would morph over the years, but the destination, that corner of the corner-store, never faltered nor failed.
I would choose the red one. The red one made my lips red, and I enjoyed that. I would get the large one. The large one showed I was a big boy, an honor then. My dad was proud, so he wouldn’t protest. My dad was many things, so he encouraged it. He never yelled, though.
I would pull myself back into his pick-up truck with my large red drink in tow, but it was difficult, because I was eight. I would drink my large red drink to celebrate being a big boy and the idea of very red lips. I would drink to forget, in the smallest ways, the game itself and its yellow grass.
Practices would eventually be interjected by games at the middle school’s field. We would arrive, and my father would park his pick-up next to the rest, every Saturday the same.
We would wait until the game before ours was over. Coach was down there, on the field, yelling at a team of older players anyhow. His son sat on the bench. Through the chants of their cheerleaders and the cheers of their parents, I watched him. He simply sat there; he simply waited.
I watched for a while, he waited for just as long. Our time shared, with him on the bench and me in stands, came to an end. His game ended and mine began.
By halftime, nothing had changed. Most people yelled, some of us waited. Something, among the nothing, began to change when I glanced up and saw the coach’s son in the stand. As he waited, I thought of him in the same way that I thought of a large red gatorade. Somewhere, among the nowhere, I realized the futility of it all. Of the yelling, of the waiting. Coach had spent his entire life yelling with his whole self, and I could spend just as long waiting with mine.
When the time came, and the cheerleaders who were just our sisters, began dancing to Beyoncé for the halftime show, I stopped. In the endzone with the other players, far from the stands and the coaches, I began to dance. My body became liquid in my red uniform, and the screams of my underdeveloped muscles quieted, and I stopped waiting to pick off yellow grass, and I danced. Before long, the other boys were dancing too. Our parents and coaches laughed at the prospect, the other players did too.
And the coach’s son sat there like a large red gatorade in the back of a convenience store, and I stopped waiting to yell.