Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Football Love

That possibly innocent observation by Henry had an instant and cruel effect on Lavinia:  it took her back vividly to Soldiers' Field at Harvard.  Oh! twenty years ago or more.  She had to close her eyes against the vision:  a dazzling New England fall day, a Saturday, the Princeton game.  The sky a cold, electric blue, and the stadium packed with milling crowds, the Crimson band.  And Lavinia:  she could see herself in her wonderful dark red coat, lined in gray kid;  she could see her own lovely pink skin in the marvelous air, could feel the perfection of her skin - and she was with Gordon, so handsome in his ROTC uniform.  Oh, she had loved him so much, so innocently, so happily - as they watched the game, and thought about being together later on, after all the parties, a little drunk and kissing, hours of kisses.  Lavinia inwardly cried out, even then, even twenty years later.  Tears came to her eyes.  "I think North Carolina is a terribly tacky state," she burst out, passionately to Henry.
The passage above is from Superior Women, a novel by Alice Adams about the interwoven lives of five college friends. Years ago, I dog-eared the page that carried this text because I felt it truly captured a fleeting fall day when one is young and very happily in love.  I also liked the fashion reference and I imagined the red coat perfectly in a 1943 wartime style, the year the novel began.

Once upon a time, I didn't hate football and if my seventh grade diary is to be believed, I attended a number of games.  This entry from November of 1968 is rather spare but amusing:  "Went to a football game and John Cole threw peanuts at me."   I doubt I was amused at the time but I do recall the thrill of football games in high school, especially when my love was playing in them.

The Friday night games under the lights were my favorites, especially if the atmosphere was newly crisp and fall-like.  I remember taking time to curl my long hair, don a pretty but warm jacket, spritz a little fragrance.  I clustered with my girlfriends in the bleachers, the smell of popcorn and candied apples filling the air.  And above us beyond the bright lights, stars pricked at the velvety sky.  It was magic.  As the game progressed, the crowd became more boisterous as the fans rose from their stone cold seats in unison, shouting and cheering.  It was easy to be caught up in the furor and self-consciousness fell away as I found myself cheering too, all the while scanning the field for my favorite numbered jersey.  And although I was pretty certain HE wasn't searching the stands for ME, I nonetheless felt an electrifying connection filled with anticipation, pride...longing.

When the game was over, the bleachers instantly emptied onto the field and it was then that I would see my love - his eyes seeking until they landed on mine.  My walk to him was slow and deliberate as my view was hampered by the constant masses shooting across our path to each other.  My pace belied the delicious unseen tension I felt knowing I would be in his arms in mere moments, and would get to feel his cold rough cheek brush mine just before he buried his face in my hair.  Whether the team won or lost, his smile was the same and despite the hordes, we were alone under those lights.  My love and I.  And football.

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