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Soccer Kid from Oakland, CA

    It's afternoon. I'm walking across the fields below hippie hill. Kids with tattoos and dogs ask me if I want some nuggets. One kid, his goatee, Ray Bans and 49ers cap anonymizing him rides by me on a BMX, smelling heavily of weed.
    The fields are full of people of all ages, playing hooky from their jobs and their lives. Some just out on picnics, but others, obviously the picnic started in 1963 and was still going on in some acid induced vacation.
    Not ten yards from the daily drum circle, four young people are kicking soccer balls around. Probably students, they are somewhere in their twenties, a woman and three guys. They are athletes, kneeing the ball and heading it with much skill. One guy, kind of scrawny, Hispanic looking, smiling, is hogging the ball a little.
    He finally does a backward kick over his head, and it goes sailing toward the other three, who crowd around the ball, and yell something that I can't hear over the pounding of someone's doumbek.
    The Hispanic guy comes walking in my direction, isn't really watching where he's going, and nearly stumbles into me.
    "Hey, man," he says to me, exasperated, on the verge of tears. "You won't believe what those guys said to me over there."
    His hands are in front of his eyes, but physically he looks fine. His fists clench and he is glances over in the direction of the other guys, who are kicking the ball back and forth, ignoring him.
    I say, "What's wrong?"
    "I'm from Oakland. I mean. I used to live in Oakland, and over there I've never had anyone treat me like they just treated me. I'd go out on the street and people over there, they'd respect me. And ever since I've lived here, everyone is so mean. You'd think the people would be so open minded here, wouldn't you?"
    "Oh man, that's horrible. I'm sorry," I say. "What happened with those guys?"
    This caused him to pause and consider carefully. "Well, they were playing with the ball, and I saw them, and I used to play a lot of soccer back where I'm from in Mexico City. And I thought I could play with them."
    I ask him, "And they won't let you play?"
    "Well, at first they did let me play. But then after a while. I guess it's because they saw that I'm better than them. Then they got an attitude. And didn't want me to play anymore. They said, 'We don't play with people like you.'"
    "Oh no. I'm so sorry." I feel like keep saying "I'm so sorry".
    "And I just want to go back and kick their… sorry," he said, holding back more tears.
    "No, there's no need for that," I say. The corner of my mouth goes up. I move to block his view of the people who insulted him. "Don't worry about them anymore. They obviously wouldn't have been very fun to play with anyway."
    He shifts his feet and looks directly at me now. He smiles and says, "Hey, man, you're like the nicest guy I've met since moving here."
    "Thanks," I say, and move so that we are walking away from the soccer players.
    "No problem, man." He holds his arms out wide and brings me into a friendly embrace. Then he walks away, swaying a little to the beat of the Djembe and a tambourine.