Blistering. Summer heat. The sun was high. My neck felt itchy, the result of an overdue haircut.
‘James!’ someone shouted. ‘Get the ball.’
I looked up and squinted. The ball was too high. No way I could reach it. Giving up, I let it fly across the grass field. It fell with a thump on the slope and rolled down to the pavement. I ran leisurely behind to retrieve it. I thought the ball was going to stop anyway, but it continued rolling to the main road.
Across the street, a woman and her son were standing at the bus stop. She was on her phone, while the little boy was stomping around, restless. Upon seeing the ball, he dashed across the street. A taxi came at a high speed.
‘Watch out!’ I shouted, but it was too late.
I heard a deafening screech followed by a loud bang. The yellow sedan rammed the child as he picked up the ball, sending the tiny body flying like a rag doll. He landed on the black asphalt, the ball shortly after. It rolled to the side of the road and stopped in front of my feet, next to a discarded lemon drop wrapping.
The woman screamed as she ran to her son. Hugging bloodied body, she was hysterical. Face wet from tears, she looked at me with eyes that said, ‘You murdered my son.’
I stayed rooted on the ground, unable to move.
My God, what a mess I’ve made.
‘James!’ someone shouted, startling me. ‘Get the ball.’
I looked up. The sunlight went into my eyes, momentarily blinding me. I ran after the ball as fast as I could. When it curved down, I jumped to catch it. I managed to reach the ball, but lost my footing when I landed. I fell on the pavement and rolled to the main road.
I heard a deafening screech, followed by a loud bang. My body flew, before it landed on the hot asphalt.
When I realized what had happened, a scene from my past flashed into my mind.
It wasn’t the time I scored the goal which helped my team win the inter-school football competition. Nor was it the time when my mother slapped me after the teacher had told her I‘d been caught smoking. It was also not the time when Billy and I found his father’s secret stash of porn magazines.
What I did see was a scene from the summer at the football field. A girl was standing in front of me. The wind rustled her ponytail. ‘It’s okay,’ she had said with a flustered face while handing me my water bottle.
Alice…. Alice… Alice…
Her name echoed in my mind, over and over.
Soon, the image began to fade. I saw the football ball rolling underneath the taxi. The dented bumper was red from blood.
My God, is this how I’m going to die? I haven’t had my first kiss. I haven’t even confessed to the girl I like.
The ball flew high, glistening. I ran after it and jumped. Catching it with two hands, I landed at the edge of the field. Losing my balance, I fell on my knees.
Billy laughed. ‘Hey dude, this is football. Not slam-dunk. Stop showing off.’ He ran to me and checked my knees. ‘Alice, we have an injured player here!’
The team’s manager looked up from the bench. ‘Can you walk here?’
Grimacing and slightly limping, I walked to Alice. She had opened her medical kit.
‘Sit down,’ she said.
I did as I was told. I could smell the tanginess of the lemon drops she was sucking. She hummed as she disinfected my wounds with alcohol. It stung a little, startling me
‘Don’t move, stop being a wimp,’ she said.
I laughed, and she did too. The wind blew and messed up her hair. She took the rubber band on her wrist and used it to tie up her hair, highlighting her slender neck. It stirred me and reminded me of the day I fell in love with her.
James, it’s been two years. How long are you going to wait? a voice in my head told me. It’s now or never.
‘Are you free this weekend?’ I asked. ‘Want to catch a movie together?’
She looked up. ‘Are you asking me on a date?’
‘No, I didn’t… I mean…’ I took a deep breath. ‘Yeah, I did.’
‘Because I want you to go out with me?’
She burst into laughter, and made me flustered.
‘Is that a yes or a no?’ I asked.
She smiled and sealed the gauze cloth. Packing up the stuff, she got up and whispered to me, ‘This Saturday, pick me up at eleven.’
I couldn’t believe my ears. My God, did I just score a date? Is this for real?
Down the field, people were shouting. The ball flew high. It fell on the grass with a thud and continued to roll. Someone approached and kicked it.
Yes, this is for real.
I still remember the day I fell in love with Alice. It was an ordinary Thursday afternoon, except it wasn’t so ordinary for me.
I had gone to the bench to take my water bottle. In a rush, I dropped it. It fell with a thud and rolled on the grass. When I bent down to pick it up, someone else did the same. It was Alice, and my hand ended up on top of hers.
I pulled it away and said nervously, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s okay,’ she said with a smile, handing me back my bottle. She had said it lightly, but her face was red.
My heart started to pound faster. We were so close I could smell her candy. She was sucking a lemon drop. The tanginess always reminded me of the summer at the football field.