I was a Sophomore and one of the best players on my JV Lacrosse team. I played Attack, primarily behind and around the Goalie. This was called the crease. This was all before the Goalie essentially got expelled and I was forced to play every position.
I didn’t have the greatest ball skills. In fact, I tended to over think every move I made. This made me doubt myself and in turn made me screw up during precision drills. What made me good was my anger. I’d hit people viciously and that alone overrode any deficiencies when it came to stick handling.
My real issue was running. I hated it, still do. I found any excuse to slow down for the long distance drills. It wasn’t because I was out of shape. I was a workout fiend. It was simply laziness. Hell, I ran sprints and would come in first to fifth place every time My rationale was, the quicker I did them the sooner it’d be over.
The worst part of practice was the end. The head coach would always make us run long distance to finish off the day. This meant a mile or two of fast paced jogging. There were a few heavy set people on the team who would actually jog it. So if they caught up to you, this meant your ass. A fast jog was good enough. It might as well have been torture for me.
“Dude, let’s just hide behind those bushes,” I suggested to the Goalie who was keeping pace with me.
He laughed. “What? You mean beneath the scoreboard?”
I smirked back at him. I wasn’t serious at first but suddenly the idea seemed sound. “Yea, fuck it. I’ll do it if you do it.” I slowed down my pace and he took the lead.
The Goalie kept laughing. He looked back at the two coaches and then towards the bushes. We were at the opposite end of the track while they were in front of the far off bleachers. The bushes would conceal us entirely. The Goalie kept laughing as we both jogged past the bushes.
“Fuck it,” I stated.
I threw my stick down next to some flowers. They were on an elevated mound right past the bushes. I sat down and realized I was barely visible. The Goalie turned around and kept back pedaling around the track while laughing hysterically. This fed my intentions and I decided to lay down.
The rest of the team jogged past me. I waved to a few of my friends. They laughed in disbelief. I noticed the heavier joggers finally catching up. That was as good a time as any to get up. I wouldn’t be able to sneak back into the pack if they finished in front of me.
I stood up from the flower bed. I looked over to the coaches. The head coach was talking to one of my teammates. I noticed the assistant coach, the one that had never played lacrosse in his life, was speaking with the Goalie. It was obvious he was asking him where I was.
I saw the Goalie look over to me. The assistant immediately spotted me. I instinctively began jogging on the track again. I slowed down as the assistant started power walking over to me. It quickly dawned on me how angry he was. In truth, he was probably just excited. I’d just given him the only opportunity he’d have to coach a lacrosse player. Disciplining me was the only thing he could offer.
“Get the fuck off my field!” He shouted.
I didn’t make eye contact with him and just drooped my head. I let him continue as I slowed to a walk. The rest of the team was already headed to the locker room.
“Think about handing in your pads!” He added.
I knew I was in deep trouble. It wasn’t with the actual head coach. He’d have just had me run double what he’d originally asked. No, the assistant coach had spotted me first. This meant he was in control and he wasn’t going to relinquish it. Like I said, he had very little to do with the actual team. He got paid to stand around and hold a stick. It’s probably why he threatened to take my pads and equipment even though Lacrosse gear is all private and personally owned. I laughed at the idea of handing them in. This coach was an asshole, I thought.
I met the coach in his office. I did my best to express a look of guilt. I went up to the head coach. We were friendly and joked around all the time. I thought of him as a cool guy and I knew I could reason with him.
“I just felt sick coach,” I stated. I watched him shake his head and spin his stick on the ground. “I figured I’d catch my breath but I know it was wrong. I’ll run three miles right now if you want me to.”
He shook his head again. “I already talked to him.” He was referring to the assistant. “He says you’re benched for tomorrow’s game.”
I closed my eyes and grit my teeth. We were most likely thinking the same thing. Fuck. What an idiot. “Come on Coach,” I asked again. “Can’t you just have me run 5 miles even?”
“Can’t. He already made the decision. You fucked up and now you put me in a bad spot.”
“Will I get to play at all tomorrow?”
“We’ll see.” The Coach opened his door and I walked out of the room. His eyes widened sarcastically. “How about you try thinking about not being an asshole in the meantime?”
I ended up dressing up for the game, the second of our season. Everyone scored, even the players who rarely saw the field. These were the guys who I laughed at for barely being able to hold a ball. The team lit up the scoreboard. I never was given an opportunity to play. Instead, we had our team picture taken on the field. My pissed off countenance was obvious in our yearbook. I ended up second leading scored that year by just one goal.
I got my revenge on the assistant later on. He made me run a mile as punishment in practice. When I finished, he told me to get down and do twenty push ups. As soon as I got up I was ordered to run another mile. He watched me finish my second and ordered more push ups. Rinse and repeat. The hate I had for him fed my adrenaline. Another round of running and push ups. I could barely contain my grin as I mowed through each task. I found it funny that he thought he could break me when working out was all I did. But like I said, he wasn’t much of a coach. If he had been, he’d have realized that there were better ways to deal with an asshole like me. You don’t go for the body. You go for the heart.
I was sitting on her couch still playing with the yellow rubber lacrosse ball. I couldn’t figure out why I had been so nervous before. I was talking to Kyle & Jessica and nothing seemed to be that big a deal anymore. I was even able to crack a few jokes. I began to think I could handle the situation.
Then Natalie walked back into the room. I immediately lost my composure. At least I had the lacrosse ball in my hands. It didn’t take my mind off things, which was redlining, but at least it gave my hands something to do. I began to toss it back and forth in my hands while carefully calculating each breath I took.
Natalie walked over to the couch I was sitting on. She had a new shirt on. “I changed my shirt!” She exclaimed. “Do you like it?”
She then leaned over in front of me and I noticed how the collared shirt was baggy in the front. She flashed everything inside her shirt while she leaned over to me. I caught a glimpse of her bra and immediately looked away. I was sure that my face was bright red.
I shrugged. “I guess,” I answered. I cleared my throat while trying to act normal. I didn’t dare look over to her again. I didn’t know if she had meant to give me such a revealing look.
“Did you notice the number?” She asked.
She pointed to the badge on her shirt as she knelt down on the couch beside me. “21!” She stated. “Our favorite number.”
“Oh!” I blurted. “Yea…” I didn’t have much else to say. I was still red from accidentally looking down her shirt and I couldn’t keep up with her. I was simply outmatched.
The subject changed. Natalie seemed disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm in her shirt. She turned on the television in the corner of the room. She ended up putting on a cooking channel. Everyone in the room seemed to enjoy it. I was never one to watch channels like that. As a result, I continued to have little to say.
I was able to contribute sporadically to the conversation. I wasn’t funny, but I managed to get in a few quirky remarks or comments. Things seemed to be going alright, even when I dropped the lacrosse ball. I simply leaned forward and picked it up again before it had a chance to roll away. Then I continued my private game of catch.
Natalie decided it was time to invite more people to her house. The first person she called was my prom date. I had just asked her to prom a few days prior. Natalie knew about this and had the girl’s number. She thought it was a great idea to invite her over.
“I hate her,” I explained. “Asking her was a mistake.”
“Yea, she’s terrible,” Kyle added. Jessica laughed because she knew my prom date was infatuated with Kyle.
“We have to make you guys friends!” Natalie proclaimed.
“No. No we don’t.” I answered.
The girls laughed. Natalie typed in the girl’s number and called her. She ended up stopping by for about 10-15 minutes. It was painfully awkward as I did my best not to look at her. Jessica did her best not to laugh while Kyle remained rigid and steadfast in not acknowledging my prom date.
Afterwards, it was the four of us again. It would have been five if you counted the cooking channel. Six, if you factored in the lacrosse ball. I still had my hands on it. I kept tossing it between my hands as if it were an involuntary action. I must have taken my eyes off of it for a second, because I dropped it for a second time.
The ball quickly rolled underneath the glass table between the couches. My eyes widened as I saw my friend escape my reach. I gave a half hearted attempt at stopping it with my foot, but it was hopeless. The ball was gone.
“Do you want me to get your ball?” Jessica asked.
I turned red again. I wondered, had they discovered my secret? Did they see through me? Did they know how incredibly nervous I was? My only answer was to refuse the ball. I didn’t need its help. “No. No. I’m good.” My hands screamed at me.
Natalie’s parents came home as Kyle & I decided to go. We stopped to talk to them in the kitchen. They seemed every bit as funny and outrageous as their daughter. I was surprised and oddly at ease. At the same time, I needed to escape. I needed to breathe. I carefully eyed the fruit basket full of lacrosse balls. If only I could hold one in my hands, I thought.
Kyle opened the door leading outside first. He walked out and I said, “Good night” while waving to everyone. I held the door open and felt the cool Spring weather hit my skin. I instantly felt a splash of comfort and my tense body go back to its relaxed state.
I spent the drive home talking to Kyle. I couldn’t stop. It was as if I was making up for everything I didn’t say inside Natalie’s house. We laughed about how random the night had been. I mentioned how Natalie had flashed me and how weird it was to see my prom date. I told Kyle everything I was thinking. I left out the lacrosse ball.
It was senior year and we had nothing to do. We had our licenses, so the best thing Kyle and I could come up with was driving around town. The idea was that something would find us. It usually did. That particular night was no different. In some ways, I wish it had been.
I was stopped at a red light. At the time I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Kyle was in the passenger seat. We were talking about these boxes of noisemakers that I had gotten. I had about four boxes and we had been throwing them at people walking down the street. It was then that I turned to my left and saw Natalie & her best friend Jessica. They too were stopped at the red.
I stiffened up and jerked my face back towards Kyle. “Oh shit! Dude, that’s Natalie & Jessica!”
“Really?” Kyle asked while leaning forward.
“Yea,” I answered. Then it suddenly hit me. It would have been insanely creepy to just look over and say hi. “Don’t say anything!” I demanded of Kyle. I turned red. I wasn’t cool enough to pull this off.
“I know what to do…” Kyle explained. He went through the box of noisemakers and pulled a few out. I prayed for the light to turn green. I wasn’t ready to talk to Natalie again. Then I heard the noisemakers explode as they hit their car.
I was now forced to turn and face the girls. Kyle laughed hysterically. Jessica, who was in the passenger seat, turned to face me. She then smiled and seemed to be shouting my name from behind her closed window. She quickly put it down.
“Hey!” She shouted.
“What are you guys doing?” Natalie asked as she leaned over Jessica’s lap. My car was considerably taller than hers so they had to look up to talk to me.
I fumbled for words. “I-I,” I always dreaded the possibility of stuttering in front of girls. “We’re just driving around.” They didn’t realize that Kyle had nailed her car with noisemakers. They probably thought it was a random noise from outside.
The light turned green. I started to creep forward. My car moved forward and stopped. Natalie’s did the same. There were cars behind us but it seemed as if we both weren’t finished talking.
“Follow me,” Natalie stated.
She went past me and turned right. I followed from behind as Kyle said, “No fucking way.” He started laughing again. “I think I scared Jessica with the noisemakers.”
“Yea, maybe. She looked surprised.”
I followed Natalie’s car as we drove through town. The streets were empty and I had no idea what I was doing. I felt as if I was being strung along by the girl of my dreams. I needed to take control. I thought, I needed to do something cool. We eventually were on a two lane road. That was when I decided to get in the lane going against traffic. If that wasn’t enough, I turned my lights off. Kyle laughed. I hoped that Natalie would too. I felt childish afterwards.
A few minutes later, I pulled up into Natalie’s driveway. I couldn’t believe I was at her house. I remembered her inviting me over during Freshman year. I always said that I couldn’t make it. I don’t know why. I really don’t. Things were different now and I couldn’t believe what was going on.
Kyle and I walked into her house through the kitchen. I rigidly walked past a bowl of fruits filled with lacrosse balls. I had no idea what to do with my hands. I could barely control my body I was so nervous. So I grabbed a lacrosse ball. It was my lifesaver.
I held the ball and played catch with myself as we all sat down. Kyle sat down on the couch opposite the one I had chosen. He had previously dated Jessica and knew her well. He was at complete ease. I, on the other hand, had an unsafe heartbeat pulsing in my chest. I felt like I was going to explode at any second. I was painstakingly aware of everything that was going on.
“I’ll be right back,” Natalie said. She then walked out of the room and gave me a chance to breathe.