Eternal Play

By Jonathan Weisberg

My daughter and I play as the sun is squashed to pink along the horizon. We don’t want to stop. We’ve had rallies where the bright yellow birdie passes six, eight, or ten times between us, and as long as the birdie keeps pinging between our rackets, decay is suspended. My workday and her school day might never come again. Each time it ends, and we feel like we might have tumbled out of the sky to hit the ground, and we want that timelessness back.

So we try again. Some number of fitful starts. Hits into the net. Swings and misses. Stumbles on the rough lawn. Have we used up our share of transcendence? And then it happens. And we run to where we need to be, and we swing and the world lines up around our rackets, and we smile at each other.

So we keep going, playing and seeking, until the light barely clings to the horizon and the birdie is a glint in the overarching gloom more than a solid object. I remember playing like this when I was young. I remember a pack of friends dispersing over a shadowed lawn until we were each only a voice calling back to the others. I remember throwing a ball in arcs that might have been predestined and feeling it come back into my fingertips. But when I look back, I also see the darkness encroaching. I see friends I’ve long since lost. I see heartbreak waiting the moment I went back into the disbelieving house. I see night’s inevitability. And yet, I believe there were a few glorious hours when I was young that never ended.

My daughter has that now, I think.

I pick up the birdie again, and I try hard not to look at the sunken sun and calculate the minutes remaining for chores before bedtime or worry that a late start to dinner will dislodge the schedule and make us all cranky and tired. I want her eternity to go on and on.

But a moment arrives when I have to admit that my 46-year-old eyes can no longer see the birdie in the gloom, and I have to disappoint my daughter who still has all the light she needs.

Jonathan Weisberg is a taciturn professional communicator, a husband, and a father.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Digital drawing, photo collage)

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