Thanks to School Photo Day, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time going through some old photos. As I was flipping through my 10th Grade yearbook, I started reading the words of wisdom from my classmates, words intended to memorialize them in my mind forever.
In high school, we actually got our yearbooks early the following year, in order to include pictures from graduation. Half the day would be canceled and we would pour out into the quad for a schoolwide signing party.
Reading over my friends’ words, this refrain kept cropping up: “Don’t run into anything this year! Haha!” Son of a…
I should probably set the scene up for you.
I was a sophomore. It was toward the end of our Spring soccer season. We had a handful of games left until the playoffs.
I was, and am, incapacitatingly clumsy. Don’t look so surprised. Hubs says it’s because my feet are so tiny. But I’d like to argue that maybe I’m just like John Nash, minus the crazy hallucinations and inventing people, add a little internal imbalance, divided by unearthly brilliance and an otherwise occupied mind, square the root of bruises on my shins, which equals I run into things a lot.
Back to that fateful day in 1999, and no, I’m not talking about Y2K.
There are very few things that were going for me that day.
For one, the boys’ soccer team had the afternoon off. I don’t know if you know this, but soccer players have the best bods. This information is indisputably based on the infallible opinion of high school girls everywhere. And I dare you to argue with high school girls. (But for the record, the basketball player gets the girl.)
So no cute boys who also loved soccer were around as witnesses, except for one who, for some reason, decided to practice with us anyway. He might have been girl-crazy. I mean, can you blame him?
And secondly, well. That’s about it.
They say there’s only two seasons in Alabama: summer, and football. So as we were nearing the end of the (soccer) season, it was already hot. Our coach was convinced we would be the team that would make it to the State Championship, so practices were intense. To avoid a lawsuit, we had to take multiple water breaks.
It was the water break that did me in.
I don’t know why I was walking around during this particular water break. I don’t know why I thought it perfectly safe to be guzzling water from my huge water jug while walking around. I don’t know why watching the inside of my huge water jug was more important than watching where I was going, as it obscured my entire view. I don’t know who put that bench there, but I found it. With the only part of my right shin not protected by my shin guard.
It clanged. We, I should say, clanged. I probably cried out an expletive, set my jug down, and turned back to the field, thinking that was most definitely going to leave a bruise.
It was the cute guy, a mighty senior, the lone wolf that wouldn’t be tamed, who pointed it out. Only two-thirds of that sentence is accurate.
I looked down. My knees gave out when I saw blood pouring from my leg, already pooling into the cotton of my soccer sock, and I crumpled to the ground dramatically and not at all awkwardly, says my steel-trap memory. Cute Senior hurried over to me, yelled for my coach, and propped my leg up on the metal bench. He either took off his tee-shirt, or grabbed one from his soccer bag, and wrapped it around the wound, applying pressure, just like we had learned in Anatomy class. I remember this, because I made sure to wash his blood-stained tee-shirt multiple times, in bleach, before returning it to him later. I don’t, however, remember if he was half-naked when he tended to my injury. (Did I say steel-trap? Maybe I meant steel coriander, [or colander, I’ve heard it both ways], which is a silly metaphor anyway, so let’s just carry on, shall we?)
My soccer team huddled around me as I lay on the grass. When someone removed the makeshift bandage to assess the damage, one girl yelled, “Oh, my god, I can see her bone!” I felt woozy again. I had just sliced my leg clean down to the bone.
My mom arrived after my soccer coach called her, saying, “I don’t want you to freak out, but…” and took me to the ER. I ended up with six stitches, a prescription for painkillers, and instructions not to play soccer until they were removed. The stitches, not the painkillers.
Later that afternoon, almost my entire soccer team called to see if I was okay, and to find out how many stitches I had gotten. But my favorite call came from one of my good friends who was on the softball team. She asked me what happened, because she, and her entire team, had heard the clang. From the softball fields.
I ended up sitting out a couple games, decided that sucked, then wrapped my leg in gauze and bandages to keep the seam from splitting open, and played anyway.
We made it to the playoffs that year, but lost our first game.
An entire life of playing soccer, and I have one battle scar to show for it.
A two-inch-long battle scar received from running into a bench on a water break.
A few days later, I noticed there were rubber caps on the ends of those benches.
That’s right. You’re welcome, future soccer players with clumsy tendencies and giant water jugs.