Mrs. Taylor once told me that as hard as it was to see in the moment, I was only at the beginning of my life. While most of those football heroes around Dillon were coming to the tail end of their own glory, starting to sputter like the sparks that leap before the ash, I had a whole world stretched out before me. I was going on to have a career that I loved, and women were going to flock to me.

"I'm right 100% of the time," Mrs. Taylor said to me in that high school library, between the walls of the only world I'd ever known, in a small town in the west end of Texas. "You can ask my husband."

Well, she was right, but she didn't exactly finish her sentence. Women have flocked to me. So the wise, hot counselor certainly got the what right. It was the why she left out.

I already have a six figure salary, and I'm on track to be a junior partner in my law firm by the time I'm thirty. And women, it turns out, are not repelled by money. It is not a repellent that repels them. In fact, it seems they kind of like it.

And Mrs. Taylor was right, I do love my career. I just don't love all the senior partners who are stuck in some kind of time warp and think all the new guys have to live and work like they always did, slugging away at longer hours than are necessary to get the work done, paying that outrageous ass-in-chair tax. They like that I win cases, and that the clients want me, but they don't like that it takes me only twenty hours to do the work they wanted to bill forty hours for, and they don't like it when the clock strikes five and I grab my briefcase and go practice with my band.

Hey, I'm not even thirty yet. It's not pathetic that I still play in a band. After my wife—whichever one of these lovely, wanna-be-upper-middle-class-suburban-soccer-moms I end up picking—pops out our second or third kid, I'll quit with the band crap. For now, though, I'm still tearing it up in the garage of my luxury townhouse. I've got a new sound, though. I've finally found my voice. Turns outs I'm not as alternative as I once thought. Turns out I'm country blues. Who knew? But then again, country blues is somewhat of an alternative here in Seattle.

Every now and then I go back to Dillon to see my parents, and I'm glad I've escaped. I see Tim Riggins living in that house he built with his own hands, working at a bar by night and assistant coaching the Panthers by day and trying to reclaim some small part of a glory that has slipped away. I see him drinking on his front porch, just watching the sunset. I see Tyra Collette leaving his front door in the morning, without the promise of anything more than a one-night stand, but coming back the next night, and the next. I see her down at Buddy's bar talking about her big plans and dreams, but snowed under by the student loans she accumulated in the seven years it took her to earn a B.A., living with her mother until she gets "back on her feet," as if she was ever on them to begin with. I see her looking through the want ads for Dallas and Austin and other big cities, editing her resume against the bar with a red pen, and sending it out into a dried-up job market, while she waitresses.

I see Smash Williams driving back for Christmas in the hummer that's going to be repossessed soon, because he lost his edge and didn't get his contract renewed and managed to squander all his NFL money, while, between the 401(k) and the brokerage and savings accounts, I bank 25% of my salary every year. His largest contract was for $1.1 million, but I have a higher net worth than he does. I see Vince Howard, all gloom and glower and thinly repressed anger, coming back to visit his mother in the Dillon County jail, because though he, like me, has escaped Dillon, she's gone back into her own dungeon, and he can't let go of his loyalty.

I see Billy Riggins working three jobs to keep his house from being foreclosed on and to pay for the therapy for the twins, because they're on that spectrum everyone talks about. I see Buddy Garrity, still trying to live vicariously through his old team, grumbling about the mismanagement of the Panthers, lamenting the day they ever let Coach Taylor go. I see Luke Cafferty coming home from a war zone to Becky Sproles, just as she pops out her third kid, which might or might not be his, and then leaving her again with nothing but his paltry paycheck and a hope that he'll come back alive.

I'm glad I've escaped, but I'm still not sure if what I've escaped to is what I want either. Some days I think maybe I just won't show up at work. What if I just got in my Mustang one day and drove all the way from coast to coast, showed up in Phili, knocked on Coach Taylor's front door, and said, "Need an assistant coach?"

And he'd say, "Lance, son, what the hell are you doing here?"

And I'd say, "You and your wife, you both sure know how to give a good motivational speech. You made me believe the world was my oyster. Well it isn't, but you tell such sweet lies, you two. Let me hang around you and listen to them until I believe them again."

And he'd say, "Damn, Lance, you can't have a mid-life crisis when you're only twenty-seven! Hell, I just started mine, son. Come on in and have a beer."

And I would.