The sky cried and so did I. It was the type of storm that forces self-reflection; the storms that you can't quite remember when exactly it started, you just look outside and realize that it's raining. You cringe at the fact that you wore a short sleeved shirt that day --like Flamini-- and that you had once again forgotten to pack an umbrella. So you stare outside, pitiful and powerless against the unrelenting weather.
You watch your car get drenched in the rain, thinking that at least it's getting a wash. You watch till the constant sound of it sends you into a daydream, a beautiful relief interrupted by a ray of light that breaks through the granite sky, and for a few seconds you think the sun will persevere before the drizzle returns like the dreaded Arsenal injury bug. You sigh heavily, the storm and the light, the darkness and hope, allegory of life.
I was in the midst of a storm of such a day ago. Wearing a suit at the request of my employers and trapped in the building by the rain, my spirit burned at the agony of these imprisonments. I yearned for the comfort of my everyday clothes and the promise of the sun, but here I was, at the mercy of nature and poverty. Like you, always like you, I sighed as I went about my day's work: answering phones, nodding in agreement to people who made more money than I did, smiling at passersby as I died slow and painful death on the inside. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed outside and my soul hardened.
When the workday came to an end, my body and soul were too tired, too heavy to even celebrate. That's how life is sometimes, you invest so much into the journey that when you get to the destination, you can only greet it with a lift of the eyelids and a slow trot. I walked out of the building door and swore in my heart that I would never return. I would no longer be a slave to the corporations; I was going to pursue my dreams, write a book, find love, maybe even adopt a dog. I was going to live life!
"See you tomorrow Zito!" my Boss waves me out of the door.
In a telling act of reflex and cold revelation, I reply "See ya! I'll be back bright and early tomorrow."
Disappointment of self is the most cruel betrayal.
The storm persisted and I drove towards my house --which was 30 minutes away, when I reached it, I drove past it. I drove for 45 minutes more, out of the city, past numerous cities. The lightning flashed and so did I. What was I looking for? At this stage, I knew that the fastest road to home is to oneself. Though I sped past the brick and mortar that I slept in, I knew that you take your home anywhere you go, inside yourself. You cannot drive past yourself, but I would be a fool not to try.
Who knows how long I would have drove had I not received a text message on my regrettably expensive cell phone. Knowing that it is bad practice to read texts while driving, I proceeded to open the message. Mouth open in disbelief, I almost lost control of my car in the torrential downpour. The message stated that Arsenal had activated the buyback clause of one Carlos Vela. I pulled over to the shoulder of the highway, turned on the hazard lights and scoured Twitter and google for confirmation of this news. I found confirmation --or what my heart had led me to believe was confirmation-- on a few reputable websites and Twitter accounts then I sent a multitude of texts to numerous contacts to inform them of the news,
The great rapper/singer/Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City fan and Universal diplomat Drizzy Drake once said "Heard once that in dire times when you need a sign, that's when they appear." The words resonated in my heart at this Vela news. The song, the melody, every single letter struck the very core of my being. Carlos Vela was the lightning in the storm of my life and I was Jeremy Reed in his mother's womb. I had no idea how to react; my body called for exuberant celebrations, but my brain threatened to slip into unconsciousness from the disbelief.
That night I kept driving till I was three hours away from my house. There, in the midst of the unknown, I played outdoor soccer in the rain with strangers. Strangers who laughed in the face of the danger of thunderstorms and the god that protected them. I played freely. A large smile beamed on my face, a silver lining that threatened to wash away years of dark clouds and my teammates quickly noticed it. The forward, a young man of 26 years with a body carved by Bob Vila and an English accent that threatened to undo the work of his handsome face asked me, while we re-hydrated at halftime, why I was such a happy person.
I looked at this bemused poor man's, English, Sergio Aguero and just shook my head. I shook my head because life shouldn't play tricks with a man's heart like this. I shook my head because I labeled the village idiot and laughed out of Arsenal forums and Twitter groups when I penned an op-ed describing Carlos Vela as a Mexican god. I shook my head because for a year, I was the crazed man on the side of the road proclaiming that one day the prodigal son will return. I was pelted with cruel statements like "He's only good in Spain", "he's had his chance", and the worst of all "he will never be good".
I shook my head, chuckled and started to walk back onto the field. As I started my jog, I turned back to the idle forward and whispered "Carlos Vela is returning". Four quiet words that flashed in his membrane and left shook as a human being. He stood there and cried tears of joy that joined the beautiful rain as they trickled off his face . That night, I went back on the field and played the best game of my life. Never underestimate the promise of light during the darkness. Never underestimate Carlos Vela.