Unlucky #19Growing up was…not fun. Having endured a fair amount of trauma, the details of which having no consequence to me now, I eventually became a very shy and distressed girl. By my first year in high school, I walked with eyes to the ground and a stiff back, hoping to give the impression that I was not approachable. It felt safe, to me. Except that, unfortunately, that also was the same year I developed my first crush.
He was a senior Varsity Football star and also my neighbor. I’ll just call him Hunka, because I’m not sure if I ever actually referred to him as anything else. Every day, going to school, I’d see him leaving his house and we would wave across the street to each other. As far as I was concerned, that was tantamount to going steady, or at least as close as I cared to get. I’d get warm in my cheeks and take the long quiet ride to school. By the time I was there, I’d forget all about it, pouring myself into studies, or music, or the library – anything that would keep me invisible. We never spoke, never met eyes at school…I’m fairly certain Hunka never knew my name either.
Just before I turned 16, I had a grand mal seizure. I was playing ping-pong with my little sister (I WAS winning, though she remembers the event differently), when I suddenly short-circuited and passed out still standing, unconscious before my skull connected with the concrete ground. I was driven to our family doctor, who, knowing my history, told my parents I was probably just exhausted and sent us home with orders for bed-rest.
By the next morning, I was vomiting so violently that we pulled over 6 times in the 3 mile drive to Emergency. I was admitted immediately, treated for severe concussion and a four inch crack in my skull, just behind my right ear. I spent the next two weeks being tested, examined and carried to the bathroom. Not allowed to walk, not permitted to turn over by myself. IVs, X-rays, MRIs, Blood Tests, Infusions... nobody could decide why this happened. It never had before or since.
But they took the injury very seriously. Sharing my wing was a man, t-t-t-Tom, with an identical injury who had lost hearing, vision and mobility on that side of his head. He was re-learning how to walk and talk, and had been a patient for 3 months. Apparently, I got lucky.
I was discharged during the rainiest part of winter. On my third day back to school (a certain Thursday I can't forget), students were crammed into the gym for lunch, since the courts outside were flooding. Tables were full, all seats were occupied. I had found space with my best friends, Sushi and BeeTee. Again, lucky, as I often was… standing-room-only was not my problem today.
BeeTee decided she needed something from the lunch line (probably a veggie, remembering her fondly just now), and asked if I would save her seat. Of course I will, bestie!!
I spot Hunka walking toward me. I look around…he must be headed for his teammates. Looking back…NO, it IS me. He’s locked eyes, and is navigating the crowd directly to ME! I was in utter panic like I am unable to describe in words, but it looks a lot like a deer in cross-hairs He steps straight up to me and the conversation went like this:
Him: Is this seat taken?
Me: Um, Uh….uuuuum, well-uh, hhhhuhhh, iiiiiuuuhh… (you get the picture, as I desperately glance from Hunka to BeeTee to Hunka to BeeTee, making myself dizzy)
Him: Oh! Hey! That’s okay (frowny face)! They told me about your brain damage. (Pats my head and walks away)
I silently broke up with the back of Hunka’s #19 Jersey.