For the most part, it goes unnoticed.
This noise of mine is often blurred by the surrounding crowd’s loud, stale consolation they offer after witnessing an unfortunate scene. Which, in this case, is a favorable result because my clapping when the other team scores is an unprecedented taboo, and I would have liked it to stay unnoticed.
Inevitably, however, my idiosyncrasy would be caught by someone, and though I cannot remember the first time someone gave me a peculiar look upon hearing my applause, I will share an encounter that has never slipped from my memory.
Our defense had, at long last, buckled. An ancient edifice that had stayed up so well for so long was finally crumbling. And suddenly, a feeling of worry fell over the bleachers.
“Hit me wide!” The declaration of our foe rendered a certain vitality in her teammate’s eyes. She oozed of concentration as she received the ball, her cleats laced with precision. Fright, in the form of a sickly syrup, rose to the top of my throat.
Predictably, the strike she made sailed in. Our opponent scored. The audience grumbled. The goalie drooped in shame. And I clapped.
It was an instant movement done without thought. I looked around as I applauded, echoing the sounds coming from the opposite side of the soccer field, where the visitors sat. No one seemed to be paying attention, and as my hands relaxed to my sides so did my mind.
However, the man next to me, with a remarkable beard, proved otherwise.
“Really like Sycamore, don’t ya?” His voice sounded as if he was raising an eyebrow. This was not the first time someone had reacted to my quirk, although the first of its nature.
“Me? Sycamore?” I paused, mostly because I was taken aback. “No. No, no, no. I’m part of Comet country through and through!” I scoffed and pretended like the comment was one I could brush aside with ease.
“So you just applaud the other team because you don’t like them? I didn’t know that’s why people clapped.” The gray-white hairs on his chin moved with his words. It was an uneasy contrast to the green vibrancy of his eyes.
“No. I, just. I don’t know. It’s just something I do.” It was a meek attempt at persuasion, if one could even call it that.
“Just something you do?” he said.
“Yeah, it’s not supposed to make sense.” Again, my statement could be marked by its severe lack of conviction.
“All right, then.” He turned back to the game. After a couple a seconds, a period of time that usually prompted the end of a conversation, he piped up one last time. “Listen, lots of things don’t make sense, and I don’t think that what you do is one of those things.”
I contemplated in silence for a couple moments and then-
Maybe he’s right. Is clapping for the other team not a pointless habit? Is it habit for a reason? Do I, at times, participate in this act unconsciously, but with a purpose? Did I decide to do this when I was young, a distant memory when the traditions and regulations of society had not yet affected me and now, cannot stop me?
It must have been long ago then, I concluded.
These questions came at me far too fast, in one throbbing rush, and it was difficult keeping track of them all. When perfectionists turn and twist at night, it is this that appears in their nightmares, an unorganized and frayed cobweb of thought.
It continues: is this how it is? To connect winning with happiness and losing with sorrow? In that sense, are we selfish? Is this something innate? Or is this behavior something we are taught and only then does it become second nature? Have I been fed something rare or simply not fed something common?
The cries of the crowd snapped me out of my reverie. I was more perplexed than before. I had left myself with more questions than answers. But questions were answerable. You cannot answer what is not there. And so, I was satisfied.
I smiled and continued my scrutiny of the game.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.