I can still feel the morning dew as it seeped into my navy basketball shorts that Friday morning in October. I couldn’t have been dressed out in my P.E. uniform for more than thirty minutes before I found myself laying out on the field that was in the center of my middle school’s track.
It was football week, which meant highly competitive boys were refreshing the skills they picked up on their flag football team while they show what they’ve got before all of us head to high school next year. We weren’t running plays––they were just chucking the ball to see how far it could get and hoping there was a teammate of theirs on the other side.
We all wore the same navy pants and gray T-shirts that had our last names marked on the front and back with a black sharpie. I don’t even remember what team I was on, but I wanted to catch a ball. Growing up, I lived a reasonably competitive lifestyle with the sports I spent my weeks playing. Up until that point, I had played soccer, dance, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse. I was used to playing with a team, but that never loosened the competitive drive I had when it came to giving the sport my ultimate best.
I remember lunging in the air, reaching my fingertips through the sky, while the ball spiraled through space above me. A boy, Jacob, jumped for that exact ball, and we collided. Our ribs smacked into one another, throwing our momentum off balance and having us both plummeting back down to the field beneath us.
As I landed, it was like the earth below me gave way. Pop, pop, pop.
There was no pain for a matter of moments, just a sound knuckles cracking, or a piece of fabric ripping. Either I landed on Jacob, or he landed on me, but I remember the moment I tried to stand up and fell back to the ground beneath me.
My footing was uneasy, and I looked down to see something was wrong.
My ankle swelled to three times its average size within moments.
Classmates from across the field could see me holding my calf up as my foot dangled. A group of them rushing towards the two of us, Jacob, was, however, standing beside me talking about how bummed it was not to have cathed the ball. Our teacher came running over, took one look at my leg, and ushered a group of students to get the golf cart from the other field in the distance.
She asked if I could stand, I said no.
I never knew what the tenth of October would mean for my life. How I would miss those moments when the pain was slowly rising to my level of consciousness because it has been eleven long years since I could say I am pain-free. The trauma surrounding this incident manifest and swarmed me into complete darkness nearly impossible to ever feel like you would find your way out.
During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 anniversary, I was still dealing with the repercussions of this day. For a while, I thought I had beaten it, nearly forgetting what day it actually was until 2014 when a stumble down uneven grass had me reversing all the progress I had made in the prior year.
Because of this day, I have scars I can, but won’t cover-up. Screws and wires are lingering inside, holding everything in place. My bones have been drilled into, my skin has been carved, and my body has been repaired.
Most October’s, I forget about this day, but the aches are still there most morning as I wake up wondering what it would be like to just not jump for that damn ball.