Even the Clean Ones are Unclean

It’s that time of summer:

when everyone’s everywhere doing everything

when days are longer, happinesses stronger

when the green grass looks like it’s been told I-love-you.

Six past six o’clock. Evening. The sun is effulgent, the wind mildly turbulent. At a field, around a neighborhood, in Berlin, on a sunny summer Sunday, three friends meet to play a game of football. Because it’s easier for them to chat as they play, and because one of them, Mustapha, has an injury, today they only do passes. They play for thirty minutes, then for forty more. For an hour, and then an hour more.

There are no goals, no strikes, no, just passes.

Mustapha got injured last week. Pretty badly. His fault. Futsal. Boy made a bad dribble and landed down on the concrete, twisting his ankle. Would have been much better today had he not heeded to Bosco’s ludicrous advice. Would have been much better today had he iced his injury, had he not listened, had he not kept on playing. 

He kept on playing, heeding to Bosco’s advice, displaying incredible sangfroid, although he was in deep pain. Damn Bosco! Mustapha should have known better. 

Who’s Bosco? Bosco is Mustapha’s friend who accompanied him to futsal. Bosco is his friend who told him ‘Don’t be an egg, harden up mate.’ 

His leg would get better if he kept on playing, Bosco had lied.

It didn’t, it got worse. 

Damn Bosco! 


The three friends, Mitch Mustapha Hillary, are all college freshmen now on summer break, have all gathered together, today, to play as a désœuvrement or something. And, because Hillary had told the boys that she had to, she needed to exercise. 

‘I’ve been so out of shape and my summer plan is to exercise a lot, at the gym, and here,’ she had said. Now, while juggling the football ball, she says, 

‘The weather is so nice today, this is so fun-freaking-tastic.’

As they pass the ball, Hillary tells the boys about the dozen dirty dishes she found in her apartment after returning from a weekend vacation in one of the Nordic countries, somewhere along the Kattegat strait. ‘When I left,’ she tells them, ‘there were a few dirty ones and plenty of clean ones.’ But when she got back, even the clean ones were unclean. 

Usually, they’d practice dribbling drills, play man in the middle, or, if the numbers were right, which they usually were, they’d play a fully-fledged game of football: seven aside; eleven aside. They’ve been playing a long time together, crafting different football techniques, playing at different football fields, cementing their esprit de corps. And they hope that they will always, always keep playing here, every year. 

For today though, Mitch’s injury means they only get to pass the ball, and listen to music, and the sun is hot, and so they’re sweaty, and they talk about life and stuff, and it is so fun-freaking-tastic.

Good—the pass, the weather, the day. 


A couple of weeks ago there was a graduation, a celebration, an evacuation: seniors graduated, everyone celebrated and almost everyone evacuated campus since almost everyone had to go home for summer break. The football friends—technically year-rounders—had said their goodbyes to their college friends during the grad- cele- evacua-tion. Their friends are scattered all over the globe by now: some flew back home, some flew to various vacation destinations, some flew to disaster: to San Antonio, to Buffalo, to D.C, to Uvalde, to Tulsa.

‘Pass the ball,’ Mustapha tells Hillary.

‘Pass it,’ Mitch tells Hillary, ‘to me, too.’

They pass the ball this way, and that way, in rhythmic patterns. And sometimes the ball goes off the pitch, sometimes to the flowers growing near the pitch (bluebells, calendulas, daffodils, roses, tulips), sometimes to the wall demarcating the pitch, to the patio of one of the buildings adjacent to the field, and sometimes on top of a tree. When it gets stuck up there, one of them, usually Mitch, clambers up the tree like a Moroccan goat to fetch it. 

And, boy are they glad. They are glad that there is no Econ, no Early Modern Science, no Plato—just play, though—no sophisticated philosophical studies about medieval love, no Aristotle, no.

Adjacent to the football field is a former-field of grass which no longer grows grass. It is pale brown and full of dirt, having undergone an ecological wipeout. Soon, it will host a new college office complex. A complex ‘state of the art building,’ a local newspaper said it will be. This morning, the football friends could hear the sounds of a dredger digging through the soil. They could hear the machine eradicating the green of the land. The noise of the machine competing with the voice of birds—birds singing on the trees surrounding the buildings, fighting for everyone’s attention, everyone within earshot. 

Image credit: Vala Schriefer

Seems like the new machine-made office complex will neighbor a residential building, adjacent to a public library, next to a shopping complex that is opposite another residential building. The surrounding is like a maze, buildings next to buildings, with the freshly mowed green football pitch at the center. The buildings are green too: powered by solar and wind, constructed with locally sourced recyclable materials, zero-carbon or almost zero-carbon with the possibility of being net-zero-carbon in future. So, although green grass no longer grows adjacent to the football field, its greenness is not lost.

As they pass the ball, they talk about the war in Ukraine, about how the globe has United to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, about how it has all taken so long. So freaking long, they say. They also say that they are angry with Russia’s unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine. Also, they say that they can’t help but point out the hypocrisy of some other renowned aggressors. They say, even the countries bashing Russia aren’t that clean. They say, some of these countries have done the very same things Russia is doing in Ukraine, in the past, in other countries, in the very same way, using the very same tactics, and have gotten away with it, more than once. Even the clean ones are unclean, they say.

‘Even the clean ones are unclean, bro’ Mitch says, ‘that’s why some of them ran away from the International Court of Justice.’ 

‘Look at Israel; look at the US,’ says Mustapha, ‘they hector others but they’re a bunch of hypocrites.’

‘I agree. But let’s not forget,’ Mitch says, ‘it is the ambitions and strategies of one man that led to this.’

‘Word, bro.’ Hillary says.

They then pass the ball some more. And, of course they bloviate about their summer-break plans, their favorite songs, upcoming football matches, their predictions. Their favorite football teams, and their favorite football players—Messi, Ronaldo, Benzema. 

‘Real Madrid won’t stand a chance against Liverpool,’ Mitch predicts. 

‘It will be a tough one for sure,’ Hillary intones. 

Mustapha thinks otherwise though. 

‘It’s pretty straightforward, Madrid will beat Liverpool,’ he says.

‘I’m not saying they won’t, I’m just not sure you know.’

‘I know.’


‘Sure I know or sure you don’t?’ 

‘I don’t know, I’m just not so sure you know. Madrid has pulled some unexpected maneuvers this season, you know.’

‘Well, we’ve gotta wait and see then.’



They blast music and keep on passing the ball and talking and then they blast the music some more—with all the complex sound-absorbing buildings closeby, with all the people-free construction sites nearby, they really aren’t bothering anyone, anyway.

They sometimes play to the rhythm of some songs, and dance a little, and laugh a little at themselves dancing, and the sun is hot so their bodies are sweating and sunburnt, so their bodies are sweating and sunburnt and enjoying the light breeze from the trees surrounding the football pitch. And they continue to talk about life and stuff. And it is so fun-freaking-tastic.

And boy are they happy together. And boy do they talk about politics. Love. Life. Capitalism. On capitalism, it is their bête noire, they detest it with passion, not to mention capitalists who they also hate, whose philosophy of effective altruism they find hard to agree with. ‘If ever there were people who deserved capital punishment!’ Hillary expresses her hatred, in her head. ‘They say that they have a solution to climate change. A problem they’ve caused. They call it going green,’ Mustapha thinks but does not say. Mitch says to himself, ‘everything is going green, even telephone texts are now going green. Is it for the culture or for the future?’ But he chases this thought away with: ‘honestly, never mind.’ They are skeptical of capitalists, these three. Very skeptical. No matter how good a capitalist is or how good a capitalist’s intentions are, they say, even the clean ones are unclean.

There’s a tiny summer breeze. Trees are swaying, nodding to whatever the mild wind is saying. The football friends are playing, perspiring, passing. The football ball, in excellent condition, is excellently passed. Bees and bumblebees are bumbling around the mottled colorful flowers surrounding the football field. Green-veined white butterflies pollinate the flowers’ stigmata, in style. Blue-birds majestically fly above the blue sky, like Lufthansa. Their chirping is so musical. So Lyrical. Hysterical. Melodic b…

‘The blue-birds are magical guys. Like the ethereal sight after taking E,’ Mitch says.

‘Or when on a mushroom trip, you bet,’ Mustapha adds.

Mustapha, Mitch, and Hillary are happy and they pass, pass, and pass.

Michael is a rising senior at BCB. He enjoys playing soccer, reading, and writing fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

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