The Unwinding Series
A long soft breath out as if exhaling away my African soul; I see smoke.
“Pleased to meet you England!” Today, on these new shores I breathe away all of which is already written and breathe in a new chapter. Dreams and hopes from a far away place, only days ago, seemingly gone but for the moment.
Cold. Stinging on the skin. Emotionally sore. The fibres begging a weary mind for help; All I have left to give is heart.
The mist just sits there. Watching. Foggy walls blanket all natures distractions. My only focus now is the game.
The game of a new language; a new system, new rules. I am anxious. Anxious because I haven’t yet the voice to reason nor the savvy to challenge the rules …I guess I’ll just have to take the hits.
I invoke the spirits of the ages. The many voices who have gone before me. In exchange for my time they had left me parables; words woven so deep within they would only loosen when I needed them most. Yet still from those darkened corners, even as I plead, silence.
I begin to hear the sounds of Africa. Low rumblings on the Earth, like a stampede. Through the damp haze, boots, at least 10 pairs, run at me…
“Tackle him… OI BAMIN …get him!”
I stand still and wait for the perfect time to steal the ball … alone, and head to head, ‘crack’, I received my blessing!
“Yeahhhhh well done Bamin, great effort”
The team pull me up from the earth and back to reality… The pain in my face and ache in the shoulders seem irrelevant as my hair is tussled by many hands; a mighty pat on the back, though still sore, seems to make it alright! I conclude that tackling means taking a hit.
“More like that mate”
Not sure if the compliment was for me or the wildebeest, either way, everybody was smiling.
The line is cast out into the unknown… The shell that has been my cocoon for 11 years starts to crack. When rock fishing, shells are broken with stones to release the bait for the hook. The left-over fragments, mere fodder, are tossed near the cast line. The innards from a creature once so innocent, send signals to the prey. The baited hook becomes a beacon to entice the catch; it is at this very point the test of a fisherman can truly begin.
My carapace cracks. Fear and fragments are released. Bait for the test.
As I unwind into the unknown, the foray into self belief can begin. Practise, Practise, Practise to survive. Tears of fear and sweat run over the contours of my chapped lips. Droplets of diluted blood mark the field. The English Earth and I become one; elected as the keeper of my secrets, my hopes, my dreams.
“I SAID MINE!!!”
They say that some friendships meet your needs and some friendships do not come about by words…
“You can’t pass it forward Bamin; just stay behind me and I’ll show you okay”!
All expectations, hopes and fears are thrown and tossed about on the pitch. They float around, bob up-and-down until they draw interest.
“You there, Yes you; all ok? Here a moment…
Mr Agar. I have heard from the other boys that he is a legend …a wicked bowler… whatever a wicked bowler is.
…is this your first game of rugby lad? Be sure to show up at practise on Saturday”
We leave the frost and head back toward the grey changing rooms. Natural light streams through the large single paned windows as we charge inside seeking heat. The only warmth it seems, emanate from the ocre in the wooden benches. Studs smash against the cold concrete floor while the aluminium lockers are dented further. Voices of who-did-what all blend into soporific notes. I sit and watch only to discover that stamping the floor can loosen the mud while locker space staves confusion over kit mix ups.
Taking my time, most had already showered and dressed, I peel away the remaining soil from my new boots, lost in wonderment. Voices slowly disperse down the hall and beyond changing room doors.
“You need to get a move on if you’re going to make French”
The clothes go on quickly over my shorts. I wipe down my face and limbs with the only dry thing to hand, my school jumper! Nobody will know any way as the dirt seems to blend in nicely.
During supper, conversations still abound about who played the best and future team selections. Meanwhile, I’m lost in my plate of something I don’t quite recognise.
“Shower before lights out!” comes the call.
We gather our washbags and with the odd bit of earth on my skin now hardened and flaky, my stiff crinkly knees attempt keep up with a few other stragglers. One lad is from Singapore, second year, but speaks English as good as any local. He knows everything and seems to understand the system very well. As we rush through the doors of the gym changing-rooms, the taller boys leap up to touch some pipework… this must be an English tradition.
The showers come on at the push of a button. There’s limited time before it pops back out again turning the water off. Initially it seems quite good fun but soon I realise it is not. Through the moans I understand what the pipework rubbing was for… no hot water.
As the remaining bits of soil are washed away in stops and starts, the pristine white floor-tiles turn muddy. I stare at my brown feet and watch in wonder… not too long ago that was sand underfoot. I have a go at scrubbing my knees but it’s tricky; they’re sore and the water’s not inviting. Late to the shower-rooms, I learn, means missing out on a blast of heat …next time I’ll get there earlier! None the less, we laugh, we talk through the echos; and soap, I discover, is not as cool as shower gel…whatever that is…
“Hey Lee, what’s a tosser???”
Acrylic on Canvas
508 x 406 x 38mm (unframed)
Canvas is triple primed 100% quality cotton all wrapped around kiln-dried A+ solid pine timber.
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