It was four o’clock in the morning when I awoke, suddenly. My mind quickly began to shake off the groggy effects emersion from sleep brings about. Funny, because as my mental faculties came online, I realized I had just finished a foot race with current Barcelona striker and Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry. To add realism to the oasis my mind created, I ran my fingers across my forehead and actually felt tiny beads of sweat. The memory was so fresh in my head it truly felt real.
I am a die-hard Manchester United fan. So why in my dream did I race Thierry Henry instead of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo or possibly Eric Cantana or even the genius himself George Best? I suspect because the only love I have above Manchester United is my love for the game of football itself. Henry in his Arsenal days was my first introduction to the game. The first match I ever saw was Arsenal against West Ham. Henry was a glorious blend of speed, power, and fluidity heavily endowed with a quality I can only describe as majestic. He scored on a wonderful cross from Ashley Cole. After he coolly chipped the ball into an open corner of the net, he trotted away as if he’d simply taken in a breath of fresh air. The great ones, while being great, always seem to maintain an air of calmness about themselves. I followed Henry’s on pitch exploits from that day forward. He is truly one of the games greats.
In my dream Henry is young, maybe eighteen. By age definition I was a man, 30. We both held in common one single thought. We must win this race. The glorious prize for finishing first was the chance for a special life, a real chance. Is a special life big time football? For Henry yes, big time football and a better life go hand in hand for him. For me, it was the chance to be a writer, to have my words effect positive change in someone’s life. Two totally separate walks of life but both just as valuable to the other.
The two of us stood in an open field on what had been a beautiful day. Now, the sun had begun to set, a splattering of clouds painted the sky. Nightfall was probably forty-five minutes away. We both stood a few yards apart from the other and looked straight ahead. Our thoughts in tune with the other, this is my time. Make or break.
We both descend into the classic four point stance adopted by Olympic runners. Our heads and eyes locked straight ahead staring at some unmarked finished line we both knew existed. I don’t why, but at that moment we were as brothers. Separate in age, separate in life, but together in desires.
There was never a “go” or gunshot but we both took off simultaneously, our minds in sync to the task and stakes at hand. After our initial burst, Henry surged ahead by a half yard. As a professional, many a defender has fallen victim to that burst. After twenty yards I made up the deficit and we were neck and neck. Our nostrils flared, arms were pumping, legs, moving like pistons and sweat oozed from our pores. Dirt and blades of grassed kicked up behind us. We were flying! Fifty yards and nothing had changed, we were inexorably tied. But ten yards later something did change. I slowly pulled ahead, to the tune of two full body lengths. My lead was never relinquished. Remember, it is my dream. Like we started, we ended, no finish line crossed no tape was broken, but we stopped knowing the race was over and had been won.
I stood without celebrating my victory and solemnly turned to my brother whose desires to live a special life matched my own. He collapsed in my arms howling tears of despair, “I want a shot!” He believed this moment in time was his single chance, be it first or last he knew it to be his only. I can identify. I don’t rightly remember how this bet was consummated but as he cried in my arms I knew his dreams were at and end and mine were about to begin. But even in Thierry’s tears I could feel a small sense of warmth emanating from him, a genuine compassion for a fellow dreamer moving forward. As I held Thierry’s quivering body, I silently thanked him. For that is what fellow dreamers do. It was a simple foot race, what seemed to be a 100 yard dash. But it decided the fate of two men. I awoke from this dream at 4:12 am on Wednesday March 19, 2009. My Dream with Thierry Henry.