Green flags flapped in the wind, attached at my sides, clipped to both hips. I slanted across the field, eyes constantly pivoting to an angle that kept the short, bald, stocky man with sunglasses wielding the pigskin in my view. The man’s appearance was not far from that of actor Michael Chiklis. Our glances met and he rifled the ball through the middle of the field, through the heart of the defense.
The ball shot at me, and arrived in milliseconds. Instinctually my arms drew upward and my hands grew wide. As soon as I felt the leather coat on the ball sharply connect against my fingertips, I released the stiffness in my hands ever so slightly to let the football glide into my palms. Once in my grasp, I pulled the ball close to my chest, rotated my head upfield, and wheeled toward the gap that lead to the end zone.
Defenders chasing on either side swiped at the green snakes that violently clapped against my shorts. Ignoring them, I pushed endlessly, eyes and feet determinately transfixed on the grass that lay between four cones. Distance gathered between me and my pursuers. A moving image of a score flashed in my mind. Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, the chaotic movement of pursuit subsided. My flag had been pulled. I lowered my sprint to a slow jog, and finally to a complete halt. Adrenaline still pumping, I disappointingly, but not fully dejectedly, trotted yards back to where my flag rested. It was a triumph, but not a touchdown.
In an attempt to shake clean the crowded etchings of love’s complications from my head, I hesitantly decided to join in at an organized flag football exhibition. It was only the second time I’d played with this group, the first being in September. Determined to improve my mere satisfactory play, I analyzed mistakes I made during my freshman game. Most notably, I’d been terrible at snatching ball handlers’ flags. Careful thought and visualization brought me an answer: when a receiver caught the ball I did not shift my focus to the flag, I left it on the ball. My instincts, from a technical standpoint, were sound, yet I needed to tinker my response to succeed.
Quiet murmurs and filtered footsteps filled the wooded basement wing of the Legion of Honor. It currently hosted a short run exhibit on impressionist and pointillist painter Camille Pissaro. Weeks ago, a passing 38 Muni bus flaunted an advertisement of “Pissaro’s People” featuring one of the artist’s pieces. Instantly I associated the image plastered against the side of the public transport to that of Cameron’s hopelessly emotionless glare at a Seurat painting in the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I marked my internal calendar for the first Tuesday in December to see the exhibit on a free museum day.
Staring at one of Pissaro’s paintings, the needle effortlessly dropped in my head and the longingly melancholic back melody of The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” reverberated. At the time, I was caught up simply, or maybe unnecessarily complexly, in what could be and not what actually was. My date two days prior I thought had gone exceptionally well. Tortuously analytical, I continuously played out successful, muddled, and losing scenarios in my head. Racking my focus closer into the picture revealed minute checkered dabs of what seemed like an infinite palate of textured colors. The painting depicting Pissaro’s version of an utopian farm life looked much different when attending my eyes to a narrower plain.
As the week passed, I gained more distance from the situation, and with it came more perspective. I realized what seemed originally to be encouraging texts, despite being far and between, were in all likelihood only intended to keep me open as one of their dating options, as opposed to someone of prioritized interest. Powerful attractions aside, I did not want to be unequaled in investment.
There is an art to sport. There is sport in creating and understanding art. Love can be a game. And there is an art to love. Similar to sports and art alike, to be fully successful in love you must accept, acknowledge, and master all of the angles, not merely the convenient ones. By almost falling in love, I unearthed an essential perspective: mutual attraction is useless without mutual investment.