I toss and turn, haunted by images from a time far away. Ten years, and it still has me gasping for breath. I sit up in the unfamiliar bed; sleep, many light years away from my weary eyes. There’s a painting on the wall, a lone green, white, green ball whizzing through the air, a wicked ‘booted leg’ in the background. The boot had motion lines at the edges; it must have kicked the ball right into the middle of the next century. That’s what I should’ve done, ten years and three surgeries ago.
The stadium had been packed full, green, white, and green everywhere. Independence Day games were the thing back then. After the match past and the boring speeches, the game began, and as usual, I dazed them silly. Coach Edahor had mentioned there’d be scouts in the crowd; some of them, already tipped off about me. I had to shine. And shine I did.
I made Miller’s defense look like child’s play. Dribbling artfully past him, I could feel his breath, hot on my neck. I was unstoppable. Liquid energy coursed through my veins, I was born to do this.
Several minutes and frenzied screams later, I spotted my chance. I guarded the ball, inching closer to the Supreme Eagles’ post. The post, wide open was ready to swallow my throw. My heart beat faster, threatening to jump out of my chest, literally. I threw my left foot back, sort of like a recoil before the shot (if there’s anything like that), but in reality, it was the calm before the storm, because at the very moment when my foot should have jutted forward, knocking the life out of the ball, my hand clutched my chest in a desperate attempt to catch my heart. I could’ve sworn it had detached from every vein, every artery and nerve ending and like an excited electron, was ready to leap out of its orbit.
I was too young to die.
My alarm goes off, crazily. I rub my eyes hoping to wear off the effect of the evil time travel. This is no spell, it’s the past. I haven’t had a relapse in six years, not even close. But here I am, hours to another ‘patriotic’ game, with no scouts rising from the woodwork, no pressure to perform and I dare say a few trophies to my name and I’m nervous, replaying ugly scenes from a past I love to forget.
Enough! I chide myself.
I shower, inhale a light breakfast and join the rest of the team.
I’m on the other side of the game this time. Who knows, there’ll probably be some star on the young national team who’ll give the scouts something to think about. I’ll be playing, praying, hoping his heart holds out.
It’ll be my bequest, my gift. After all, there should be something to celebrate, this first day of the tenth month of the year.