The Freeway Blues
We all grunt. The shocks on the old dilapidated school bus driving us to Brentwood high school seemed to be less effective than usual. When the water polo team (plus the photographer, and I, the scorer) first rushed the bus, the waxing din was remarkable. But now, the California summer heat had leached away our desire to converse, and each one of us retreated within ourselves.
With the waning of the noise, I sat, reasonably comfortable, facing the center aisle of the bus. As I scanned the faces of my fellow water polo players, I noticed something: each and every one appeared to be looking for something. But it wasn't something that they had lost; they all seemed to be searching for something that they had never really had.
I first saw the longing in Johnny's eyes while he listened to his headphones. His eyes scoured the seats, desperately trying to find someone to sing along with him, a person to momentarily connect with. Then there was Taylor, the ex-homeschooler, looking for people to take pictures with, almost as if to prove he really had made friends. In the seat across from me was Herman, furiously shaking his bottle of blue frozen Gatorade, looking for a way to get to the sweet iciness trapped inside.
Observing the boys from the safety of my own mind, I asked myself, what am I looking for? I groped around my internal catalog, only to find a jumbled cluster of emotions. I felt afraid and indefinitely small. But as the turbulent freeway draft wafted away the heat, so too went my introspection.
The game and many days passed before those thoughts flitted back into the foreground of my consciousness. I remembered the feelings that had been shaken to the surface from my observations on the bus, as well as the assumptions I had made about the boys. They seemed arrogant to me now. As I examined my interpretations and inferences about others, I saw a striking similarity to subtle, underlying insecurities about myself. I had found my own faults on the faces of my friends. Why had I pleaded with my coach to let me accompany the boys' team to their away games? Surely not because I had a crippling desire to record every turnover, ejection or goal in the game. I wanted to go to be a part of something. I wanted to go to secure to myself my place within the "aquatics kids."
The boys' water polo season is now at an end, and now I realize that going to those games did improve many friendships, and help me emotionally stabilize my unsupported fears of not being wanted. But I still feel like I have something to prove to the aquatics kids, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what or why. I await the day when that feeling catches the wind and flutters off my shoulders, out the window, and onto the freeway.