It seems cliche to say the ball took a bad hop, but it did. Regardless of whether or not it was truly spinning, it hopped right into Ayn's nose and she immediately cupped her hands around her face, clearly crying over the matter.
"Are you crying because of the pain?" my coach asked, innocently. Ayn shook her head and my coach gazed at her with a tighter grimace, leaning over, utterly confused.
"She's crying because she broke her nose," I explained without even seeing the damage or hearing the prognosis. Ayn shook her head in agreement and my coach looked even more confused. I remember understanding it all clearly though; she could have very well ended up with a crooked nose, a knobby bump, or a blocked passageway--all terrifying outcomes for a young, single girl.
For that reason, it seemed odd to me that breaking my nose--and my orbital bone for that matter--did not put me on the sideline for good. Sure, it was scary to look at words and not be able to make meaning out of them. And it was embarrassing to ride in an ambulance from Berliner Softball field to Grant Hospital, only to then explain to the x-ray tech that, "no, I did not collide with a teammate during district finals" because "I [was] 28 years-old," but surgery eventually repaired the damage to my face, and time eventually healed the trauma to my brain. I never set foot on a softball field again, but not all competitive games were off the table.
After all, a co-worker asked me to play kickball. He offered me the chance to pitch--as hard as I could possibly throw the ball--and the meathead in me emerged. I saw the promise of a new chapter, and I grew far more excited than I ever should have grown.
Having learned something from my softball collision though, I decided I wouldn't dive or slide, and if a ball required me to chart out-of-play territory, I would certainly let it go without exerting the effort of a 30-year old fool. On the other hand, I would run as hard as I could around the bases--no holding back, toes and all, cutting my turns on the inside of the bag, pushing for the extra base whenever possible. And I would pitch with all of the fervor I could muster, committing myself to learning the art of unpredictable bounces, whilst maintaining proper velocity changes and spins where appropriate.
Unfortunately, I didn't get very much time to hone my craft. Sadly, during warmups one fateful day halfway through the season, I reared back, braced the force of my pivot against a foot planted 90 degrees in front of me---and...
I've never actually been a victim of a gunshot and I don't mean to--in any way--minimize the agony those victims endure, but when I pulled my piriformis, the thrush of pain it ignited stirred the heart of my imagination--it felt exactly as I always imagined a metal bullet might feel as it penetrated something important.
I wish I could tell you that I handled it gracefully or courageously. In reality, some terrible noise emerged from my gut and I wrapped my fingers around the area that hurt. Sqeezing it, pushing on it, trying to do something to stop the onslaught of pain, I looked like a fool as I groped my own butt in the middle of a crowded park.
I suppose I should have let go long before I ever arrived at that pathetic moment. I suppose I had clues along the way, clues that I obviously ignored, clues that involved four knee surgeries, nursing sore ribs for weeks after spending a January afternoon diving for fly balls, enduring surgery to repair my broken face after I collided with a man who didn't call me off, straining my thumb attempting to barehand a line-drive up the middle, and acknowledging the pathetic embarrassment of realizing I tossed a fist pump and bellowed "yeeeeeeeessss" after I--as a first-year teacher--knocked someone out in the championship game of a dodgeball tournament played out in front of the entire student body. Yes, these were all clues, and yes, they all came well after my twenty-fifth birthday.
But I didn't notice their weight until I played kickball. I just kept pressing my boundaries until I reached my limit, and apparently that limit didn't involve a broken nose, surgery or blurry eye sight. Apparently, that limit took root in the very body part I've spent years of my life cursing--and in the end, it won. My blasted butt won. It wasn't enough that he prevents me from fitting into many pairs of pants, or that he causes issues with shift dresses and bathing suits. Nope, he had to take sports away from me too. He had to scream loudly and decidedly. He had to stomp his feet and throw a wild temper-tantrum. He had to remember my weak spot, punishing me still every time I turn the wrong way. To be fair though, I'm not sure I would have listened to anything less.