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ture, though, I realized that we were into this evening for the long haul. She sat frozen, staring at the band that had just straggled onto the field. She was a red-headed zombie, sitting totally upright, her mouth slack and open. She leaned forward and studied the field. I thought she might start drooling. But instead she cried. Nothing too melodramatic. Tears simply welled up and then dribbled down her face silently.They came immediately and without warning, a flash flood from her large head. I looked back and forth between her and the field, searching for a hint of an answer in the florescent glow illuminating this very strange night. What I saw at first seemed mundane enough. Boys and girls completely de-sexed and swallowed by their ill fitting, tentlike band uniforms and ridiculous short-brimmed hats were performing a set of songs. Elbows and knees occasionally poked into their rayon clothes as they marched. The conductor happened to be the team’s left guard, and he stood atop his perch and directed the rag-tag troupe in his sweaty pads. The mascot, dressed in a furry Wildcat suit, blew into a horn. A cheerleader played a clarinet. These boys and girls were a team, but their soft faces were etched with expressions of vulnerable individuality. They were trying. The drummers rattled the skins and furrowed their brows. The horn players fixed their gazes in the distance and puffed their cheeks. The mascot kept stepping over her tail. The football player/conductor’s tight pants were riding up his ass, a problem he addressed with conspicuous failure several times during a cacophonous rendition of “Mr. Touchdown.” There was, I realized, nothing mundane about this fine tableaux of innocence. This was the essence of striving, the antithesis of death. And now suddenly I was the one sitting in the bleachers of an Archer City football game with a lump the size of a Texas grapefruit in my throat. I was once out there. Not literally, mind you, but in so many other awkward and stupid ways.And so was my poet friend. As will be my son. As we all have been and will be so long as “death grows around us.” And I remembered the feeling of being there, wiggling around on that metaphorical stage, seeking approval on the precarious cusp of something bigger. And I remembered that it meant nothing and everything. It was absurd and profound. Inspiring and dull. Heart breaking and orgasmic. A milestone and a dead end. It was a leap into something more important. It was the start of a sad decline. It was that rare and insoluble kind of confusion that only adulthood can dull and death bring to an end. The boys come . out for the second half, running through a cheering gauntlet of fans, and they dig their heels back into the grass. They grab each other, and crunch heads, and high-five, and try, try, try, try. As my friend’s tears . finally settle down, I jump up, say what the hell, and not knowing what the outcome would be, or where I would land, or what I would fall onto, or who I would hurtI hurl myself. With reckless abandon, with arms wide open, with utter contempt for something I can’t identify, I leapheadlong and gutlesslyinto the yellowed pages of my tiny book. The landing, as far as I can judge, is painless. Jimmy McWilliams is a writer in Austin. 10/25102 TI1E TRU 01411111EI 31