The mourners dressed in black passed by the flower-strewn plot of earth. They were all colors, the flowers. Red, orange, blue, even a few white. Memories hung in the air, barely whispered amongst the throng.
A few boys, hanging by the edge, were dressed in blue and white jerseys. A tear or two could be seen, but most hid their sadness well. They stuck together; as if that would make them stronger, help them hold together. Help them fill the whole left behind.
He was the captain of the team. He held them together. He was number 20, everyone’s best friend.
As the only one who made varsity as a freshman, every college was begging him to play lacrosse for them. Every college was throwing scholarships at him. It was assumed he would go pro during or after college, but he had never said what he wanted to do.
The day before the first practice of the spring season, a few of the guys were going out to eat. It was a Friday night, and after a long week of school, everyone was anxious for some fun.
He drove, number 20, in the car he had gotten for his 16th birthday. There were three guys in the back, having been restricted from shotgun by messing with the radio too much.
They were all seniors, discussing next year’s colleges. Most knew what they wanted to do, where they would go. A lawyer, off to Harvard. A teacher, off to Duluth. A musician, off to DePaul.
But number 20, no one asked him what he wanted to do.
One boy asked him, “Hey cap! Where are you gonna play next year?”
Everyone was hanging on for the answer. The captain had not yet announced where he would go for the next few years of his life.
Number 20 thought of the letter he had opened last night.
The rejection from his parents.
The folder in the bottom drawer of his desk.
The brushes and paints on top of it.
The jerk of the wheel.
No one knew what caused the car to veer off the road that night, at the exact right moment for the front of the car, on the driver’s side, to crash against a tree. All that was known was that the star lacrosse player, the captain of the team, number 20, would never play with them again. He would never go to college. He was gone from them, and his secret with him.
The secret behind his reluctance to select a college.
The secret behind his down-trodden attitude.
The secret of his paintings, hidden in his desk, found by his mother one week after his death. With them was the acceptance letter to the best art school in America, with a full ride scholarship.
The same school she had refused to let him attend because he said he had not received a lacrosse scholarship.
Because he did not want to play anymore.
He wanted to paint, and no one accepted that from him.
So he accepted none of them, and turned the wheel.
Number 20, the great artist no one ever knew of died because he was not accepted. All he left was the portrait of himself; a jersey and paint brushes. The two halves that could only be reconciled in death.
And so the mourners passed the grave, and many felt that they had knew number 20, the captain. But the secret hung in the air, adding a weight to the memories, pushing them down, so that the secret might reach them as well.
- by Starylights |
- | Submitted on 02/21/2012 |
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