Credit: Jennifer Matthewson [MATTHEWSON.COM]

It is 2009 when I see Tendency again. The year the Seattle Sounders are officially welcomed into the Major League Soccer fray, the year my marriage falls apart.

I make the drive north from Portland one weekend, and at a bar on Capitol Hill we sit with beers in our hands, laughing, and catching up about the last five years. I have been a bad friend, I confess to her, focused on everything but friendship—married, now separated since she last saw me, but still, our decade-old bond has not changed. As we part at the end of the evening, she urges me to come back to visit again soon, to find respite in Seattle as I move through my separation, to join her for a soccer game.

I return weeks later for my first Sounders match and try to keep up with a game with which I am unfamiliar. I am full of beers that are too expensive and my legs are tired from standing the full ninety minutes and then some. My throat is scratchy from soccer chants I didn’t know beforehand. A knee screams from below after being whacked on the seat in front of me during bouncing and cheering. My head spins, but I bask in the collective happiness of a win. As we flow out of our seats in a sea of green and blue, I aim myself straight for the Emerald City Supporters membership table and drop my $25 down without hesitation. My first scarf arrives in short succession.

I venture up a few times over the next couple of years, running away from the perils of separation and divorce hoping to escape the heartache if only briefly. I attend matches as often as I can, learning the chants and songs, pogoing until my knees are bruised once again. Each game—whether we win, lose, or draw—helps to rebuild the places in me that feel weak amidst all the change in my life. I start to reconnect with others in the city with whom I was once close. I start to see myself in the light I once saw before. With every visit, with every match, I am me again.

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Published on Matador Review, August 2018

*Images: Jennifer Matthewson