This is the day I have been dreading for seven months: Game Day. The season opener — Miami vs. Florida State, down in the Orange Bowl. I haven’t been there in a couple years, and although Danny says we’ve been to games there without Mikey, I’m not so sure about that. I don’t remember going to the Orange Bowl without him in the past several years. He went without me plenty, being young and single and pretty much unencumbered. My uncle is there tonight, and my cousins. I’m jealous as hell, but relieved as hell, too, if that’s possible. For months I’ve thought about football and literally gotten queasy. It’s loomed large in my mind all weekend.

I know what it’s like down there right now, an hour to game time. People have been there all day, drinking, partying. The streets around the stadium are near gridlocked. All the parking lots are full, as are most of the yards and driveways in Little Havana, at least the ones nearest to the stadium. Maybe there’s a nice breeze to match a view of the Miami skyline, and rustle the enormous palm trees on either side of the scoreboard in what’s normally the open end zone. Tonight it’s probably completely filled in with temporary seats. The bands are warming up somewhere. The place is loud and only getting louder. General Admissions is probably already full and raucous. I hope they’re doing their very best to rattle the Seminoles — if, in fact, they are even warming up on the field. An hour from now it’s gonna be fantastic — the band will line up in front of the entrance to the ‘Canes locker room, and Sebastian the Ibis will be down there somewhere, and the ‘Canes will come on the field and the place. Will. Go. Ballistic. My family’ll scream until they’re hoarse. It’ll be a total football circus, the crap I love fiercely and rarely get to enjoy now that I’m Married With Child.

Yeah, I’m not gonna be there, not for a while. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back, but even if I have to go just with my uncle and cousins someday, maybe I will — if they don’t mind. I don’t know if it’ll be a relief to go back or if my heart’ll explode, and that’d be no damn fun for the folks I go with. I mean, it’s football, not therapy. (Speak for yourselves.) But I can’t stand the thought of never going back. It’s been too big a deal for too many years. But since just the thought of “ORANGE!” “GREEN!” makes me choke up, God alone knows when I’ll be ready.

An hour from now, Danny, Zoey and I will head down to Granny and Pop-Pop’s house, and watch the first quarter or two. They’ve had their “U” flag flying out front all day. Danny suggested I might want to stay home for all the last-minute pregame stuff — the ‘Canes coming onto the field and all that hype. In case I get upset in front of Granny and Pop-Pop. Guess I’ll decide at the last minute.

You know what’s odd? I think I’m the only one having this problem. I wish I knew how everyone else is getting excited, instead of nervous and sick, so I could try and mimic it.

It’s 45 minutes to kickoff.

LET’S! GO! CANES!

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