At the center of Kosin’s campus is a dirt soccer field. The nets and goalposts are ancient, the ground sandy and rocky in turns. On one side of the field are buildings one and two where I teach global conversation and Greek mythology. On the other side are buildings three and four, where I fumble about trying to instruct others in the migraine-inducing art of grammar. And every day, there is the soccer field.
Sometimes a Korean boy is shooting. Sometimes two Korean boys are passing. Korean girls don’t play soccer. And since coming here, neither do I.
I tried to explain to my coworkers why I was so mercurial yesterday—all moody and mopey and all sorts of other “m’s”—but I couldn’t. I thought about saying, it’s like being in love. Like a first kiss, or like arms wrapped around you in an airport after too many months apart. Or like freedom—wind on top of a mountain and the great river gushing down it faster than fire. Or like a dog rolling and mucking about in the grass. Or like the knowing smirk of a friend. Or the reliable scowl of an enemy.
But everything sounded too melodramatic or literary or homesick. How do you explain the crazy addiction of a sport to someone who’s never discovered that she (or he) feels more alive on the field than off of it? How do you tell them that soccer has the beauty of a sunset, the wild abandonment of dance, and the raw power of fighting wolves—without sounding stupid?
Short answer? I can’t. If you’ve never been in love, Romeo and Juliet is the stupidest play in existence. And I think we’ve all watched the “triple complete rainbow” man enough to have a healthy cynicism about a nature-lover who can’t stop talking about mountains and rivers.
The slightly longer answer is this: I will play soccer tomorrow and it will give me the kind of joy that other people get from baking or programming computers or—God save us all—playing the banjo. I pout at the thought of being unable to find the right words, but I am comforted by the theory that everyone understands anyway.