BY LYNN MELNICK
One summer I walked to a field to watch boys run practice drills. I was 13. We girls drank beer in the bleachers and followed those small bodies in big shoulder pads scatter back and forth across a stretch of land like the larval graphics our eyes clung to in the earliest 80s arcade games. First rule of America is you can’t imagine everywhere doesn’t want to be here. Papers boasted Soviets were curious how many people die during our game which is a trick question. My grandmother taught me football is for the goyim, which meant probably it’s American, and I didn’t tell her about the boys, their drills and the beer. Meanwhile, Soviet infrastructure didn’t allow for exhibition because infrastructure didn’t exist there. The game moved to LA. Holy all that is capitalism, we craved publicity. The world seemed to start and end in California. At least on TV. The star of the Bowl later put a bullet in his own chest. Brain trauma. He beat his wife. I was 20 when another football player killed his wife and I watched it unfold on TV north of the city where I failed to flee a man of my own. He was also an athlete. I’ve never tried to bury anything so much in my life as my own unsafety and the spectacle of a famous wife’s death. Los Angeles was good to me. Scandal was for the goyim. Publicity is for America. My own bruised torso didn’t exist. First rule of America is strong men pretend to look out for you. Los Angeles lost, but won the rematch. The sun licked our skin on days so mild I still dissociate with familiarity then tire trying to get myself back. What would I tell the girl in the bleachers, buzzed on America? I’ve already closed the tab on the Soviets, on the 80s, on beer. First rule of Los Angeles is you need an audience. First rule of America is you have to face it head on like a man while men charge at you, while men send you to the hospital between apologies and excuses and the ER nurse who impatiently whispers Next time he’ll kill you.