Austin and I decide to watch the 2014 World Cup finale at a movie theatre close to our house. Beer, popcorn, a big screen, a buzzing crowd. Perfect.
We find good seats, halfway back, right in the action. Sitting immediately in front of us is a young mom and her two kids, a girl and boy, maybe 8 and 10 years, the little boy proudly sporting his Messi jersey. She’s a pretty woman: tanned skin with happy crinkles around her eyes and short shiny nails painted in the lightest ballet slipper pink. She has long, thick ashy blonde hair that she flips over her shoulder, a nervous habit. She turns around toward Austin and me and she laughs, asking us if she can have some of our napkins: “two kids and popcorn, and I forget the napkins…” she concedes, raising her shoulders.
Two kids to her left is a single guy, maybe 35 years, a sturdy and handsome German expat, here to watch his team claim victory. He strikes up a conversation with the little boy in the Messi jersey. “I want my team to win,” he says to the boy, “but I want your guys to win too. It will do a whole lot of people a world of good and happiness.”
Mom observes their interaction. She texts occasionally. She refills popcorn. She keeps watching the exchange between son and stranger. Tentatively at first, but then raptly, chiming in on occasion. Halftime. The German stands to use the bathroom. “Will you keep an eye on my spot?” he asks with a wink, and at this point I’m not sure to whom… maybe the son, maybe the mother. She grins broadly and drapes her cardigan over his seat.
Our German returns, chatting up the little boy as the game resumes, pointing at striker Miroslav Klose as he exits the field his last time –“you’re too young, my boy, but this man is a legend and true sportsman. You are witnessing a moment in history.” He applauds, loudly, as Klose bumps heads with his sub, a young #19 who will shortly make history, too. Mom’s body language has shifted by this point, she’s turned exaggeratedly in her seat toward the German two over, legs tucked under, nervous hair flip now furious.
This young unknown, Mario Götze, scores the first goal of the game. The theatre erupts. The German cheers loudly, hooting and hollering and full of expletives and apologizing profusely as his gaze turns back to the little boy. “My French!” he says to mom, “your kids… I’m sorry… my vulgar mouth!” He gracefully recovers, “this makes the game more exciting!” he tells the boy. “Now Messi has to score so we can go to penalty kicks! If we go to kicks, your guys will win, I promise.”
Of course, the game doesn’t go to kicks. 1-0 Germany. We crumple up popcorn bags and gather our empty bottles and ride the theatre’s buzz, high from an intense match. Our German clears his throat and extends his hand to mom, “I’m Chris,” he says, like he’s done this a thousand times, only from my vantage I see the trickle of sweat on his brow, his hands wringing the poor theatre napkin, “and you have beautiful, well behaved children. And you are a beautiful mom.” He’s getting smoother, now. “May I ask your name?” She’s grinning even more broadly and stammering her thanks and her name, “I’m Lynn. Thank you, yes, yes, they are good kids, aren’t they?”
“Well, Lynn, we should do this again sometime. All of us, even Messi here. I mean, not exactly this, let’s not wait four years, okay, but sometime soon?”
She grins wider. Austin steers his eavesdropping wife out of the theatre before she catches the reply. It’s broad daylight and car horns honk and strangers cheer and high five victory — fans and onlookers alike who realize they’ve witnessed a moment.
The subplots. If you take the time to listen, unfolding all around.