2024.04 : 50 Yard Line

Small Town, U.S.A.

Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.

— Epictetus

High school coming to an end later in the Spring.

At long last, she agreed to go on a date. Date and time set.

She had a curfew. Couldn’t leave until chores were done. Small window of time.

I have enough money for gas and not much more.

Must make an impression, or she’ll move on.

Go anywhere in our small town, and we’ll be seen. Best not to carelessly offer up her reputation to the ever-grinding rumor mill.

One choice left. Date in the big town. But where? Do what?

In such cases, reconnaissance is my go-to. Three days before the date, I drive to the big town solo. Cruise around. Mind open to inspiration. Nothing.

Drive home. Idea. A picnic. But where, and is there even a deli in that town?

Next day. Long drive back to the big town for more recon. No wonder I love the internet now. Drive around town.

Park won’t do. Hill with a view, too soon. Need something symbolic of how I feel about her.

Down a side street when what to do bubbles up into consciousness and crystallizes.

She and I share an intense distaste for the big town’s sports teams. Rivals. Arrogant. How satisfying it would be to picnic on their 50-yard line, I imagine. I drive to the high school and check for after-hours access points to the field.

I return the next night to ensure the access points remain unchanged. No security. No cameras. Self-consciously and anxiously walk to midfield. Check that the grass isn’t wet nor prickly. Light jackets to cover, then sit atop their mascot as we dine. This date is a go.

Town doesn’t have a deli. Swing by the grocery store to survey their offerings best suited. On the way home, my mind races to construct the schedule of beats so the date is allowed to unfold naturally.

Pull up to her family’s house. And away we go. My imaginations were manifested. A good time had by all. Second date desired by both. Date and time set. The date that never happened, yet would reverberate through the fabric of both lives.

As we head back to the car, she says, “you are so spontaneous.” I didn’t correct her. She’s right. Then wasn’t the time to unpack how spontaneous moments need a bed of planning to grow. She knows now.

Recently, I surveyed my tight-knit inner circle from high school. We still are. I wanted to know if I told them this story. They said I hadn’t until years later, and even then, never revealed her name, as it should be.

And now… know the photograph.

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