I used to be more athletic. A lot more athletic. But I spent a few years treating my body in a fashion similar to curing an octopus — bashing it against a wall. Strange to call such an act of brutality “curing.” In fact, at the age of 21, during a particularly rough indoor coed soccer match, I was bashed against a wall. Head first. My skin split open just below the hairline, exposing my skull, which turned out not be white, but more the color of a pink seashell or old porcelain. Everyone crowded over me as I lay there looking up, blinking, their voices like passing cars in a tunnel, their mouths twisted or completely covered by a cupped hand. Six hours, one CAT scan and nine stitches later, I was released from Ball Memorial Hospital with nary a pamphlet on how to care for a traumatic head wound. That night, I went straight to bed, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep. The next morning, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to geology lab, the layers of gauze conveniently keeping the hair out of my eyes as I pedaled along.
Obviously, I was never a “star athlete.” But I was certainly a memorable one. The first varsity soccer game of my senior year, I started as left flank against Fort Wayne-Snyder. Twelve minutes into the match, I collided with a girl of beastly proportions. She was not fat, but made of solid muscle and probably granite. I lost consciousness, woke up a minute or so later from the shortest dream I’ve ever had in my life: a watermelon, a close-up of an ant, closer, closer until all sixty-nine of his eyeballs blinked and blinked and blinked and then — “Oy!” — the face of Graham, my British soccer coach, above me, his unshaven round chin wagging. “Oy!” he shouted again, “Wake up, Abs! You’ve had the consensus knocked out of ya’!”
My first conscious thought was, That’s not the right word, Graham. That doesn’t make sense.
Six hours, a CAT scan, and two — ok, maybe three, Loritabs later — I was home, settling into bed.
So, I’ve never been much of an athlete. I didn’t win medals or ribbons; I got “participation certificates.” While this bothered me as a young child, surrounded by so many friends with athletic abilities far more impressive than my own, I don’t harbor any self-hatred for each softball I let fly past me in the strike zone, each faulty chip-kick that landed the soccer ball in the bleachers or in the back of someone’s truck; I don’t keep a running mental tally of each and every one of my athletic failures or mishaps.
This is mostly because, for some reason, I honestly don’t remember them.