Sense memory

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It came almost immediately, triggered by the change in the weather, a small change to the environment and by the striving.

Was it always autumn when we tried, or were made to try, sports for the first time? The start of a new school, or a new year, of a new team. Feelings of trepidation, of hope and expectation tempered by looming failure and disappointment. The micro-analysis of performance. This could have been done better. If I had done that, then the outcome would have been more decisive, the impression created harder to forget.

Being watched. The knowledge that as the ball approaches you, everyone is watching to see what you will do. This is the feeling that sportsmen successfully sublimate. This is the feeling that sub-sportspeople cannot escape as time is sliced into finer and finer layers that flick by one by one by one. Slow motion that passes quickly. This is my chance. That was my chance. The end of a long anticipated, long dreamt-out session and all there is to dissect is five seconds of contact with the heart of the game, and nothing to extract from those.

No-one has noticed you. Perhaps your name is on a sheet somewhere, but the game has moved around you and away from you.

The football is somehow rounder, more elusive than any you have dealt with. How can it be so different from others? It comes to you quicker, or you to it slower. It behaves in ways you cannot predict and you have less time to adjust because the others are at you and the ball, the game, the focus, the heartbeat has moved on elsewhere. You can run after it. Maybe the proper thing to do is find some space? No coach ever spotted a schoolboy finding space and thought he saw anything worthwhile. And if you do find the right place at the right time, if the smaller, harder, trickier ball comes quicker to your feet, will you be able to control it, to use it productively?

Tonight the temperature display across the sports park reads 20 degrees but there is a layer of cold settling above the heat. Autumn is on its way and the season has shifted irreversibly. The cold currents bring the smell of torn fields and rain. The warm brings a hint of fire.

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