Chris didn't talk.
I met him in the first grade, but everyone said he didn't talk. Teachers occasionally huddled over him, voices gentle and high pitched, encouraging him to speak.
So in the third or fourth grade, I sat next to him a few times, waiting. Finally, we talked a little. 'Smart guy.' I thought. 'Fast runner. Understands stuff.'
I store the information away.
My dad's soft hand, palm to the sky, is the scroll for the next football play. 'Ok, you do a 8-step button hook. Tim, you fake short and go long bomb. Hike on three, ok?'
I run with the button hook kid, pause, and go long. The ball is soon in mid air. My eyes glue to the wobbly spiraling nerf football, running over uneven terrain in our front yard. I watch the ball until it touches my fingertips. Out of mid air, it's mine. Score!
We all yell and holler, celebrating!
That fall in school, silent Chris joins us to play football in the playground. The popular kid is the captain and soon his buddies line up against Chris, myself, and other misfits.
I yell, 'Gwen, wanna play for our team?' My little cousin is fast, we could use her.
My palm faces up, my eyes peering into everyone's eyes on our team. 'Ok, those guys think that Jim is the best, ok? They're going to follow you. So Chris, sort of stall at the line and go long. Gwen, if someone follows Chris, get open, ok? Hike on two.'
The popular boys eyes glue to Jim. They follow. I don't look, but I am sure that silent Chris is smiling as he runs long, forgotten and alone.
I see Jim smothered by defense. I play the fake and yell, 'Gwen, you gotta get open!' The defense shifts and starts attacking me.
Arm back, I heave a wobbly arcing ball to the end zone where Chris is heading.
Everyone watches, slowing, many are curious where the ball is going.
His hands extend, clutching the ball from mid-air and he scores!
I smile slyly, satisfied, and willing to run the play again and again until we crush the popular boys team.
Fast forward until now when I am determined to build my IT business and I feel a nostalgic sense of football coursing inside.
Eyes locked in to the eyes of my co-workers and business partners.
'Ok, if we do this, it's going to work, because the market is focused in a different direction.
'Seven AM tomorrow, ok?
'We're going to make a positive impression. I'm sure of it.'