Honestly, I had never been a fan of those cliché rom-com plots which try to condense the originality of the laws of physics and the order of the universe into the philosophy of human life. I mean, taking the beautiful and more importantly, scientific theory of ‘opposites attract’ which states that ‘each subatomic particle in the universe, positively or negatively charged attempts to attain the state of neutrality and thereby, stability, by seeking to form a bond with its diametrically opposing body’ and generalising it to human relationships is…repulsive, to say the least.
Likewise, I am pretty sure great scientists like Mendeleev and Sir Humphry Davy wouldn’t be so proud when they realise the way their great discoveries of elements have been put to use: for creating petty puns which people think are ‘sodium funny’. I mean, I too crack jokes about chemistry and elements, but at least I do that only periodically.
And these actions of Homo sapiens are exactly what has made me hate biology. And human philosophy.
Until I met a certain someone, who made me question my these very beliefs.
With straight As in all my subjects, preference for solitude, and my insatiable curiosity for science, I had successfully gained the reputation of being a ‘nerd’, enough to keep all the self-proclaimed ‘cool’ kids from bothering me. And being the only student in the school’s library club, life couldn’t have been better for me. That was, until I graduated middle school.
As much as our world categorises human beings as social animals, they ought to respect those who beg to differ. And respecting opinions is where we lag. At least my school does, for the first news I heard upon setting foot in the school as a high schooler was that the library club had been scrapped off due to ‘lack of participation and coherent reasons’. Now, I am usually a rather calm and collected person, but that was the perhaps one of the few times I had felt the emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong, or in other words, anger. But debating about it wasn’t going to change things, and for all I knew, it would have only made things worse, for I never enjoyed debating or heated arguments, and I’d always end up withdrawing myself in the face of emotional conflicts.
So here I was, on the first day of my freshman year of high school, analysing all possible options and carefully calculating the ratio of the amount of individual work to work which involved directly interacting with people, so as to best determine a club which would suit me, but my trail of thoughts were fast interrupted as I was tapped on the shoulder from behind. Turning around, I was met with the sports coach, with his powerful head of black hair and muscular hands on his hips, staring down at me with his piercing brown eyes from atop a height of almost 6 feet. I had known him since elementary school. Each year, he had been taking physical education classes for my section. And for the sake of my grades, I had attended each class diligently, so much so that I ended up having the maximum attendance most of the years in sports. So it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when he asked, or rather, tried to persuade me to join his club - the boys’ volleyball club, upon knowing that I was yet to choose one. However, sports had never been my area of interest, especially team sports, ones which involve what people like to call ‘chemistry’ between players. I, therefore, tried to turn down the request politely, providing a few reasons like ‘My schedule is quite busy for after-school practices’ and ‘I have never really played competitive volleyball before’, but none of them seemed to be convincing enough for him to budge from his stance. And if there was one thing I was bad at, it was turning down requests and saying ‘no’ to people. It was as if my mind was sending perfectly woven threads of words up to my mouth, only for them to come out as shattered pieces of ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘well’ and the like. And taking advantage of my inability to decline, the coach put his seal of victory onto this conversation by saying, ‘Just try it, I am sure you are going to love it. I see potential in you’ and before I could realise, I was being dragged towards the volleyball gymnasium, my feet begging me to use them for once, for stopping and running away, as the rubber soles of my shoes screeched and screamed against the polished wooden surface.
I could feel my heart palpitating profusely, scolding me, as I stood there, at the entrance of the court, regretting every single life choice I had ever made. However, paradoxically enough, I was saved from my own reprimanding self by getting smacked in the face by a volleyball which seemed to appear out of nowhere, sending me flying onto the ground, and I swear, to this day I believe my nose is slightly dispositioned than where it should have been. As my overheated, scrunched up face relaxed a bit for my eyes to painfully open, I could see a a tall, scrawny boy crouching down beside me, a gleam in his eyes as he wonderingly stared at me. An apologetic smile made its way onto his rather pale and freckled face as our eyes met.
‘Are you okay? I’m sorry, I got a bit carried away that I didn’t notice you were standing there.’
‘It’s-it’s okay’ I replied, following which he beamed me a bashful smile, ‘Westwood. Levi Westwood. Pleased to meet you!’
‘Yeah, um, Luca Evans, nice to meet you too.’
‘So you are our new member, huh? Well that’s awesome! At least I’m not the only freshman in this team now, so what position do you play? I’m a Wing Spiker you see, and am aiming to be the next ace of Evonhill High, ain’t that cool!’ he said, motioning his arm forward and backwards in a powerful way, as I flinched a bit, not wanting to suffer any more injuries.
Honestly, I was slightly taken aback by his rather, well, chirpy nature and internally worried about my fate at the club. For all it seemed as of now, I was nowhere near fitting in.
‘Yeah, that-that’s cool. Well, the setter’s the only position I have ever played, so…’ I said, with the end of my sentence practically trailing off, dullness evident in my tone. To be frank, the only times I had ever played volleyball before was among my cousins, as a setter, since I found it the best out of the worst, so to say, as it at least gave me little individual space.
However, something about this sentence seemed to have struck an instant chord with him, for I saw his eyes gradually widen as he drew his lips together in an ‘O’ shape before letting them spread across his face in a wide smile as he mumbled, ‘It’s a match made in heaven, and that collision was our Big Bang…’
A moment of silence ensued between us during which he and I gaped at each other, one hopefully and the other hopelessly.
Two months into the club, and not a day passed without me not knowing every single detail of Levi’s day. In fact, we had reached a point where I think I could have qualified to write a whole biography of his life, and the thought that I might have more knowledge about his life than my own had crossed my mind more times than I would have liked it to.
And just when I thought things couldn’t have been better between us, His Majesty decided to bless me by becoming the personification of my worst fear - science jokes, and following them by proudly going about spreading them across the world like the plague. In fact, I don’t think I had ever experienced real cringe before his jokes traumatised me forever, making my ears bleed till the point I thought I’d be better off without them.
But that was not all. I was yet to experience the realversion of other things as well. Including fear. For one fine day when he had miraculously taken a leave, my eyes, which had once been so loyal to me, had wandered off in search of him. The day I had thought would be most peaceful was spent in my ears playing science jokes in his voice, the day I thought I didn’t have to put up with his goofy antics saw me putting up some of them instead. It was as if he was some sort of a wild force that had set forward a motion of changes in my calm and quiet life. And most importantly, or rather, ironically, it was in the physics period that day that my brain started to think like him, for it successfully managed to generalise Newton’s first law of motion to our ‘friendship’,
‘an object at rest, stays at rest…‘,
‘…unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.’
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that over time, Levi had become the backbone of our team. Not only in terms of spiking, but also in terms of our morale. His passion for the sport was infectious, his energy contagious. Don’t get me wrong though, his antics did give me second hand embarrassment, and still do, however I can’t help but smile when I watch him doing his wild celebrations every time we score a point.
He practically breathes the game, lives the game, but that comes with its own price, for if the game goes downhill, so does Levi. And the acceleration with which that man goes downhill causes him to hit a point where he crashes completely, thereby absolutely refusing to cooperate. And it is not just Levi going downhill, but he pulls the whole team down with him, as he goes straight from being the most flattering cheerleader to the most brutal and inexorable critic, thereby crushing our momentum completely.
And trust me, there is nothing harder as a setter than to keep up the momentum of the game with Mr. Pendulum Mood Swings being the driving force of our team. But, I’m not even surprised, for Newton did warn us about it with through his second law of motion, didn’t he?
‘The rate of change of momentum is directly proportional to force.’
The first time I noticed this, was during one of our Inter-High matches, when I could practically see the crash coming. And though I didn’t mean to, the corner of my lip betrayed me and turned slightly upwards. And of all the things Levi could have observed in that fraction of a second, he chose to observe that, and well, got the wrong idea.
Let’s just say that was the end of me.
And our game.
And as I stand here on the court today for one last time, ready to cradle the ball in my fingertips for what was perhaps going to be our last point together, a plethora of emotions engulfs me around its warm arms.
My eyes which had once deemed the court lights to be too painfully bright were now striving to take in as much as they could before the light extinguishes. My ears which had once deemed the sound of the rubber shoes as screeching and screaming were now trying to get hold of each melody they produced. And my heart, which had once been beating so rapidly, so as to barge out of my chest and escape from everything, was now knocking incessantly onto my chest to come out and witness for itself the moment, especially hisflight into the air, one last time and engrave it onto itself forever.
I didn’t have to worry about his ‘crashes’ anymore, since over time, I’d learnt to drive his car. And he, on the other hand, had become the brightest headlights my car was missing, bringing into my view all the adventurous roads I’d earlier been missing.
With each spin the ball makes above my head, it sends towards me a new memory, until it swiftly lands into my hands, easing the twitching sensation in my fingertips as I release it upwards, for his soaring form to go after it, like the mighty eagle, and flap his wing forward (no, this time I did not flinch) and send it across the net till…the final whistle of our victory.
I don’t know what has taken over me, but surely, it isn’t me who is controlling my body right now. Nope, it isn’t my style to jump around the court as all the air that had been stored inside my lungs till now bellows out through my throat, but I’m doing it, as he watches from across, his eyes wonderingly staring at me as they had did then, his mouth making the same ‘O’ shape before spreading across his pale and freckled face.
It’s as if during these three years, our souls had been secretly trading their parts with each other, unbeknownst to us both. If my soul had given his soul some ice, his had given some fire to me. For Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion does say,
‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.’