I first met Maulid in a hallway outside the cafeteria at Lewiston High School, halfway through a day of following Coach McGraw around as part of my research for ONE GOAL. Coach introduced us, and I told Maulid I wanted to talk to him, that I was writing a book about the team, and that I knew he was an important character. He said “sure” as he walked off, and I wondered when – if – it would happen.
I didn’t have long to wait. Maulid showed up at the end of the school day in McGraw’s classroom.
“You ready?” he asked.
“You said you wanted to talk to me,” he answered, flashing a grin that I would come to know very well.
I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have my lists of questions with me, or my notes, or really much of anything. But I knew I couldn’t let this chance go. I took some quick snapshots of him holding a game ball, and then took out my voice recorder, which I’d learned to never be without. We sat down across from one another at a lab table and started chatting, McGraw bidding us good-bye as he walked out the door and headed for his car.
Maulid and I talked for so long it felt like we were the last ones in the building. Some moments we sat so still, our voices so quiet, that the lights – motion triggered – went out. He talked and talked, telling me about growing up in Kenyan refugee camps, family life, how it felt to come to the United States, and what it was like to learn English and finally understand the things people shouted at him as they drove by.
And we talked about soccer, how it makes him feel, and how he doesn’t have any memories before it.
The next time I saw Maulid, it was in the parking lot behind the high school where the team gathered before a summer league game. I wasn’t sure he remembered me, and I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of his teammates. The game was against Mt Ararat High School in Topsham, about half an hour away. There’s no school bus for summer games; the team is pretty much on its own. I told Coach I could take some with me, having no idea if that was proper or not. He bellowed to the team that some could go with me. Maulid walked over.
“Shotgun,” he said, that grin returning to his face. Suddenly three others stood behind him, willing to take a chance on me.
Now a Lewiston High School graduate, Maulid is doing a postgraduate year of study at Hyde Academy, a boarding school in Maine. He keeps me updated via text and photos. Classes are going well. He's scored 18 goals across 11 games. Some of them are pretty cool -- check them out. Especially the one where he.....nah. I'm not going to even try to describe it. You have to see it to believe it.