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As You Go

They call it "ramp." 

It is more than a noun.

They march down an incline.  At the bottom of the incline is the north endzone. 

They pass through the endzone, this Technicolor fake greenery where very real things occur, and onto the field and into the daylight.  They mark time.  There is suspension: the drums, the knees, the noise. 

One doesn't march.  He sprints.

There's a lot of down going on here; down the ramp, down the field, down the line. Last week, due to muddied timing and pure blessing, I was looking up.

On my way to the sidelines, one of the ushers motions me before the main flagpole of Ohio Stadium.  He positions me at the feet of the stadium cameramen.  "Don't move to either side," he says.  I nod and sink to the ground.

What I see is this entire book in about fifteen yards of concrete: They're above and I'm below and desperately, desperately trying not to be in their way.  The Ohio State University Marching Band stands in a block embrace, moving one thread one centimeter for uniform perfection, clutching drumsticks and holding horns at immaculate parallels. 

And Jason The Ridiculously Awesome Drum Major, hat and baton a natural part of his body, straddling the snares and gazing out at I do not know what-- at the field, at the crowd, at the goalpost in the distance, at his final ramp entrance in two weeks.  I have no idea if he or any of them saw me there, head tipped up, legs folded and dashing away tears before they ever blew or tapped a note. 

It is ramp.  It is more than a noun.  It is one big verb.  It is the single voice of the drums, the heralds, the heartbeat.  It is the first flowing rows of the effers and the trumpets, the left hands striking the center of the chest.  I can see what others cannot:  Their faces, all of them, two by two, all straining with effort and smothered smiles.  As I contract as best I can, this Band expands, striking out of the tunnel, their rigid footfalls just inches past me but utterly unheard over the gathering storm in the bleachers above.  The silhouette of Jason is all that remains, arms bending once, twice into position at the hips.  His plume is still.  The Band is not.  There's a whistle. 

He passes inches to my left, and the only way I know he's safely past is by the rush of air in his wake; I don't dare to uncoil, even to turn my head.  I miss the strutting, the toe touch salute, the backbend.  The crowd sees it, the Band knows it's there through the horn bells and the screaming students and the ragged correctional cries of the squad leaders. 

By the time I've swung myself around the flagpole, there is chairstepping and the clang of the entrance gate as the ushers slam it closed.  Ramp becomes pregame, they're still moving, and I'm just... moved.

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