Monday, September 5, 2011

The Sudden Departure of Dagoberto During an Unfinished Soccer Match

The following is a true account. Although the event itself did take place, some modifications have been made to make some sense out of the whole thing, but I am not sure this was accomplished.

Dagoberto dropped dead during the second half of a soccer match before the amazed eyes of his friends, his son, and a few viewers. It was a copper colored evening of a dusty Fall Tuesday during the 1998-1999 season of the Over 40 Downtown League.

During half-time, Dagoberto, or “Dago” as his friends used to call him, had been passing bottles of water to his teammates and making jokes about the speed (or lack of if) of their soccer match. His son sat in the sidelines and held brief conversations with other spectators of the game. The teenager made it a point to go to most of his father’s soccer games.

Before going back to the field for the second period of the game, Dagoberto, who was not a tall man at all, hair somewhat messy and his skin as dark as the dirt they were playing on, found his way to where his son was sitting and patted him in the back.

“Thanks for coming,” he said to his son.

The game started again, and the middle-aged men ran after the ball with the same joy from their youth, but the rhythm was a different one altogether. After some intense 12 minutes of the second period, the ball went out of bounds.

Dago ran to the sideline to cover the guy who was going to “throw in” the ball to continue the game. He was alert, all pumped-up with his eyes fixed on the ball when he felt a sharp, incisive and prolonged puncture on the middle of his chest. He cringed, and then his expression changed to one that looked like he had seen something that shocked him. His knees slowly gave up underneath without him taking notice of it while his eyes were still set on the ball and the opposing player.

“Why is he not playing the ball?” Dago was thinking as his body became loose and his arms and legs numb. He fell on his knees first, not fully knowing what was happening to him, and waited -still- for the ball to come into play.

He paid little attention to the chest pain, thinking that it was only a direct consequence of the efforts made during the soccer match. After all he wasn’t 24 anymore. Aches and body grievances had become part of his life beginning a couple of years ago, when his cholesterol shot through the roof and he developed a slight case of the diabetes. Even then, he led an active life and played soccer twice a week.

Several hours of beer drinking followed each game.

As it was, the ball never made it into the field. The player from the opposite team, who just minutes before had said something nasty to Dago -all in the heat of the game- witnessed how Dago’s body collapsed and how his once dark skin became very pale in a matter of seconds. The player dropped the soccer ball and waved for help.

But all of this was in slow motion.

The ball appeared to be floating and turning on its own axis in front of Dago’s face. The player that was waiving for help with both of his hands looked like a clumsy seagull trying to leap the ground.

“What the hell is he doing?” Dago was thinking. “Play the damn ball already!”

Players from both teams ran towards the falling man faster than they did when they were playing the game and formed a circle around him. The sun was setting and their shadows resembled a stretched crown across the soccer field.

“Somebody get water!” One of the players yelled towards the benches. See, in soccer matches water is supposed to cure just about anything.

Dago fell softly on his left side with the help of his teammate, the one wearing the number 10 jersey.

“Why is everyone around me?” Dago thought, and felt very drowsy. His teenage son, already by his side, cried.

Dago heard the voice of his child, but didn’t know where it was coming from. Maybe it was just a memory, maybe an ill effect from playing under the sun, or maybe it was just the need to hear him.

For Dago the story continues in a big misty hall with a large gate, or maybe in a long tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. Perhaps the story continues as Dago floats above all soccer players, teammates and adversaries who standing still in a circle, his son by his side.

Maybe he looks down on them and realizes that nothing is really happening, he is just going somewhere perhaps better, or maybe just different. The story could also continue with Dago being born again, but with a different shape, or as a completely different being. Or maybe everything goes dark and that’s the end of it.

Only he knows.

For the rest of the players the story will continue attending a funeral in two days where they will drink a couple of beers and remember how much of a good person Dago was.

Next Tuesday they will play again. And hope they win.

♠ ♠ ♠