October 17, 2007

"Look At That Kid. He's Not Crying!"

My father was and still is a highly athletic person. When I was growing up he was a successful semi-professional runner and cyclist with numerous trophies and medals all over the house and a massive collection of race t-shirts that I would kill to have now, although I'd wear them ironically. My dad was a bit elusive and hard to pin down when I was younger. I felt like I hardly knew him. He works as a contract estimator which means that he's always traveling to his next job and leaving one company for another one. I didn't get to see as much of him as I would have liked when I was a kid and growing up I tried really hard to impress him.

So once time when I was around eight or nine I decided to run a race with my dad. Most of his races usually also had 5K "fun runs" that kids and old people would do. I figured I'd run the 5K and really impress him. I pulled my socks up. I got some short running shorts. I stretched, or what I thought stretching was from seeing my dad do it before races. I even had a secret plan - I would, once the gun went off, start running as fast as I could and maybe even win the race. That would really impress him. This was it. I was ready.

Once the gun went off I started running as fast as I could. I was in the front of the pack. I smiled. I was so proud. I looked back and saw my dad purposefully running slow so I could beat him. I never felt so proud before. I really felt amazing.

And then I tripped. I fell hard on my right knee. A second later someone tripped on me. My knee was stinging like hell. I straightened my glasses and looked down as my knee. It was covered in blood and dripping down my leg. I started crying like mad.

My dad caught up to me but since he was on my left side with people running past he didn't see my knee. I'm crying and bleeding but he thinks I just fell and now I'm crying. He gets angry at me and yells at me to stop crying and get up. He calls me a crybaby. I tried to tell him about my knee but I'm crying and hyperventilating, so it all comes out in unintelligible screeches. He says to stand up and keep running or he'll run without me. I try and tell him but I'm still crying too much. So my dad just took off running, leaving me and my bloody knee there on the floor.

I wanted to impress my dad so much though that even though I was in extreme pain and my right leg was covered in blood and I couldn't see thru all the tears, I stood up and limp ran my way through the rest of race. I remember passing my mom on the way and she made this angry face like she was pissed off and ashamed and she wanted me to stop crying. I pointed at my leg and all the blood. She just made this shocked face. I probably should have stopped. Fuck, I probably shouldn't have stood up at all. But I wanted to impress my dad and so I kept on running until I finished the race. I did it, though. that's one thing I can say. I finished the damn race.

Someone saw me at the finish line and rushed me to the first aid tent. They had me lay down on a cot and told me they'd soon make the pain go away. But then I guess they took off to help other people outside of the tent because they just left me there. They took off and I was all alone for a very long time, just me and my heavily bleeding leg. Eventually I stopped crying and got scared, wondering where my parents were, wishing they'd walk in and take me home. But I was eight years old so there was a part of me that actually thought they were ashamed of me for falling and crying and hurting myself. That word, crybaby, just echoed in my head. Maybe they were ashamed of me and left me here. Maybe I had no parents anymore.

Another person came in escorting a hyperventilating overweight teenage woman. She could hardly breath and she was crying like crazy. She kept sobbing that she didn't finish the race and her dad was going to kill her. The woman who had escorted her pointed at me and said "Stop crying. Don't be a crybaby. Look at that kid. HE's not crying?" That made me feel like the worst person in the world.

Eventually my parents found me and the first aid people wrapped my knee up. My mom tried to change the subject and put a bright spin on things by taking a picture of my brother and I, the two successful joggers. I still have the photo. Joe looks like he doesn't care where he is and I look exactly like you'd expect me to look. And my right knee is covered in gauze. I'll occasionally find it lying around the house. I'll look at it and I'll remember how bad it felt, my dad leaving me there with my leg covered in blood.

And to this day there's still a part of my right knee that's slightly darker than the rest.