Silence. No sound. In her bag: granola bars, hope, bottles of water, instant ice packs, pride, and band aids. Nothing that can soothe the child’s anxiety, the lopsided stomach…all highstrung momentum.

The calm before the calamity, a ball kicked up up up up and over the heads of all defensive players…the arc of its path aiming at the goalkeeper. The keeper: a lone man, isolated, mouth stretched wide in ghastly determination, crouched, then sprung, lifted impossibly sideways. The bruised fingertips grazing the ball to keep it from earning a point. The clapping, and shouting, “Good, Keeper! Good, Keeper!” She knows this good keeper will not hear any of this…he is already advancing to throw the ball in, already calculating where to place foot, leg, torso, mind.

So there are saves, and there are losses. The losses are extreme. Outsized. A ball goes in and she shouts, “Good try, Keeper!” She watches him pull at his hair, his chest heave with the effort to not sob. She watches him crouch in the net, waiting alone for the next ball to punish or redeem him.

Silence. No sound. After the game. Out of her bag comes a portion of praise. “You were so good. You made so many saves.” He frowns. Then: “I should have kept that second point out.” She explains life. There are things that are not possible. There are things that cannot be prevented. “There was no way to prevent the ball from going in, son.” She explains physics. An acrobat could not have contorted and lifted their body to have stopped the ball. The mother explains all this. Her son listens. Nods. Then says: “I should have kept that second point out.”

The good keeper.

The good keeper.

###

When is it finally one last thing, and when does that last thing expire? (When things have expired, they are said in the vernacular to have “gone bad.” )

The things we burn ourselves with. Trying to grasp a match through the flame. The matchmakers, when they made matches, they attached a little stick to the sulfary head so that the fire needn’t be touched. But we forget that.

The knives we wield backwards. The way we go to grab and cut the other. We forget ourselves, and we forget which end is the handle, which is the blade. Hold the cutting edge tight in the hand, until the flesh is so slaughtered, the sweet pad of skin so bloodied that the knife finally must fall away. There is no hand where there once was one, there is no way to hold onto the sabre to fight with. The fight was won and lost the moment the hand picked up the knife and the spine of the blade made its first cut.

The delusions and the mistakes we make. Seeing a wreck before it happens. The purposeful and panicked abandonment of a train powering 1000 miles per hour toward disaster. So safe and sure that tragedy has been avoided, breathing in vats and vats of relief. Bent at the waist, hands on knees, shaking with relief and breathing until the trembling ends. Forgetting to leave the tracks. And so run down by the next locomotive.

###