The kick

The setting is a large park in a large city. It is Sunday evening and the sun, although shining, is starting to descend. There are families turning sausages on the barbecue; there are friends in circles, singing songs and dancing; there are small children chasing each other; there are youngsters chasing various kinds of balls; there are young not-yet couples, nervously trying to find out whether the other person likes them as much as they like the other person.

There is also a man walking slowly through the crowd. The man is middle-aged, unnecessarily heavy, and with a frustrated expression. He goes for these walks in an attempt to think what he thinks are deep and complex thoughts, but on days as these, when the crowd shouts loud and balls fly from side to side, his usually deep thoughts cannot descend, are filled with air, bobbing on the surface like a buoy, unguided, floating wherever the tide takes it.

He reaches a more secluded part of the park. He walks along a path through the grass and begins thinking. His thoughts gradually descend, but before fully submerged, he comes across a young couple that lies in the grass, in the middle of the path. They are blocking the path, as if their own little existence was all that mattered, as if no one else existed who wanted to use the path. She sits with her back to him while he lies on the grass, shirtless. He is muscular and lean, with the kind of confidence you only have if you know you look good shirtless. By the time the man passes them and notices all of this, he also notices that his thoughts begun drifting again and lost any depth.

Frustrated at his inability to maintain a line of thought, the man reaches the most secluded part of the park, where the path gradually dissipates and he has to walk through deep grass that reaches up to his hips. He should start exercising; lose some fat, gain some muscle. He should start dating again, go out and meet new people, meet new women. He doesn’t even know whether he knows how to seduce women anymore. Whoever takes pity on him first will be deeply disappointed, but at least then he will disappoint others rather than himself.

He continues wading through the deep grass. Maybe he should not do any of that though. Is the potential joy really worth the guaranteed humiliation? Besides, he is currently vaguely successful in his professional life, with a little more effort he could transcend mere mediocrity and become even slightly outstanding.

The grass becomes lower and the path reappears. Ahead of him is a group of teenagers kicking a ball about, passing it between each other, trying for the ball not to touch the ground. One of the teenagers kicks the ball too high and another runs to retrieve it. Maybe this would happen again and the man could kick the ball to them. He used to do this too, in his youth, when he was still lean and strong. He was never much good at it, but he was part of it.

He walks further, slower, watching the boys. One of them almost overhits into his direction, but the other manages to turn around quickly and kick it back to the others. The man comes closer and closer, slower and slower, and eventually passes them, without having needed to help. He is about to think of other things when he hears a loud ‘watch out’ from behind him. He turns around and just about manages to evade the onrushing ball. One of the teenagers comes over, but the man begins running, as casual as possible, to the ball. He reaches the ball first. He turns around and kicks the ball. The ball flies high, slightly beside the teenager. The man contorts his face, he could have done better, but the teenager smiles at him and thanks him anyway, and from afar the others thank him too.

The man can feel his heart beat. His passing isn’t as good as it used to be, but still descent and the guys had thanked him. He is walking much faster now. He walks along the path and sees a woman sitting in the grass, reading a book. When he passes her, she looks up. The man smiles at her and she smiles back and, even though he does not stop but continues walking, he doesn’t remember the last time he saw someone so beautiful.

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