It was a clear afternoon in early summer when we all gathered at the field. There were around six of us, close friends who shared a long history. By then we had become our own people. When there was free time, and there was a lot of it back then, we sought open spaces. The field was just at the top of a hillside that sloped steeply down to the edge of Puget Sound, and you could hear the waves, just faintly, from the sunny grass.
Frisbee was something Eric had taught me. I say taught and you may laugh but it takes more than you would think in coordination to throw a frisbee. We had been at the beach then, too, or near to it. Eric’s father had taken us camping and one afternoon near the camp site Eric settled that I would learn how to throw a frisbee. It was all in the wrist, and with none of the wild movements that my gangly arms wanted to make. The frisbee was red and made of thick plastic. I battered my fingertips more than once trying to catch it.
At the field, we played Ultimate Frisbee — like American football for Americans who don’t play football. You couldn’t run with the frisbee in your hand. If you had it in possession, you had to wing it, skillfully, bending its course, to your teammate without it being intercepted. If you could jump then you had a real advantage, but none of us could really get any kind of height. I would try and leap sometimes and my feet came just barely off the ground but sometimes with my gangly arms I could snag the frisbee anyway.
We played in our bare feet and rolled-up jeans. When I started to sweat I could feel the pollen from the grass attach to my ankles and shins and make them itch. We would run and throw and barely jump until we were tired, and then we would take a smoke break, lying in the grass and facing a big wide sky. Sometimes I would look at that sky then and feel like I could see through the blue to the limits of the atmosphere. Then we hopped up and ran around the field again.
Throwing the frisbee with everyone guarding you was the hardest part. Especially if Bryce was guarding you. He was tall and big and a soccer goalie, skilled at knocking things down mid-flight. Eric had developed an almost gymnastic move to try and get out of such situations. He would face one direction with the frisbee in hand and then do a somersault, releasing the frisbee mid-turn so it went the other way. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it did. If someone else on his team was prepared for it.
I don’t remember what we did that day when we were done playing frisbee. We might have taken the steps back down to the beach, if you can call it that. It was a rocky shore slammed by the tide more often than not. There was a big rock wall there and when you sat atop the boulders in the sunshine they were warm, and we would often sit there. But that day we might have just gotten in our cars and drove somewhere else. I don’t know where we thought we were going. I wish we hadn’t gone off so fast.