Told Between Puffs, October 2017

In which our hero comes to terms with love and football

The trees had belatedly begun to shed their leaves, and Riverside Park was a mesmerizing bricolage of auburn and gold as Verily finished preparing what is in the vernacular referred to as a baseball bat. As usual, there was a great deal on our hero’s mind, as the slow burn of summer had given way to the tumult of the fall semester.

At a party in September, Verily had been introduced by a mutual friend to one Pera Perfida, with whom he had been smitten from the very first moment. Sharing a providential cigarette on a rusty fire escape, they had been intoxicated momentarily by each other and the vast realms of possibility that seemed to envelop them. Drawn to what he thought was ambition and intelligence, Verily thought Pera was perfect for him, and he glossed over the brevity of their interaction and the shallowness of their acquaintance and descended promptly into the seventh circle of infatuation.

With the normally sharp faculties of our erudite protagonist distorted by the sirenic charms of a young woman he really did not know in the slightest, he quickly came to see her as capricious. He would dwell arduously on her late, noncommittal replies, and linger tentatively in well-lit Butler corridors as he watched her interact with other men and projected self-deprecating narratives onto each encounter.

His failings in love led him to seek solace in that festival of masculinity, American football, the only sport which Verily liked to say instilled in Adonis himself a sense of inferiority. Though he didn’t really understand the sport very well, the sporadic bursts of intense motion fomented in him a strange new kind of excitement, and Verily was soon as tribal and enthusiastic as the most ardent fan of Columbia football, though he was considered by one eloquent observer to be a “bandwagon poser dilettante who never cared about this team before it started winning.”

Pera Perfida was soon forgotten, and **sports** were the new central interest of Verily’s young life, prone as he was to unpredictable and fleeting interests. Looking back now, Verily realized that the deep internal thirst he had sought to fulfil was just the cry of a firmly ensconced internal demon. Perhaps self-improvement until this point had in fact been an endeavor of self-exorcism, and his unprecedented liberation led him to believe that perhaps it was important to free himself from a prison of his own design.

That evening, the streaks of pink in the sky bathed everything in a kind of ephemeral light, and Verily thought to himself that love was powerful, that happiness existed somewhere, and that the opportunities ahead of him were limitless. It was a quiet euphoria, one that cannot be sought, only encountered. Later, he would try to render the feeling in words, but find himself painfully and frustratingly barricaded by the limitations of language. Everything he wrote sounded conceited and unnecessary.

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