My family thought it was hilarious,
this French kid calling me Charlie.
I blamed the language barrier —
or my childhood stammer —
or the lack of a second chance
to introduce myself for the first time.
“It’s Ri-char, Ri-char, Ree-sharrrrrrrr!”
I protested: my face reflecting the post-box red
of my Liverpool strip. My finger jabbing his chest
beneath his Girondins de Bordeaux badge.
That clean smile, set in light olive skin replied
Tu joue au football, Charlie?
We kicked a flimsy, plastic beach ball across the campsite.
I studied the ground, judged the bounce, anything
to miss his eye and that innocuous grin mouthing Charlie.
With the score tied at twelve apiece,
he disappeared into a tent some yards away.
I never did catch his name.