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A Different Life
“600 Meters to go, Anna. Push through, you’re almost there. You can catch this girl. Give it everything you’ve got. This is you’re last chance Anna, you’ve got this!”
Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Just keep it up, don’t let this girl pass you Anna, you can do it. 400 hundred to go, just stay in front of her. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Go a little faster, you can do it. Do it for your father. Think about him. 200 to go. In through the nose, out through the mouth. 100 more, you’re so close. Your dad would be so proud. Nice job Anna, you’re right there! In through the nose, out through the mouth.
I never saw it coming. It was just a small push to the side, not even foul worthy. But I lost it. My footing was gone. The root on the ground seemed to jump at me. I heard Coach Z. scream. After that, all I remember is the pain.
“It looks like we’ve got a fractured fibula. Most likely caused by trauma to the lower leg, such as that spill Anna had earlier today. Good news is that what she has is not an open break, so we don’t have to worry about infection. Bad news, though, is that she’s not walking for at least six weeks at best.”
I could hear coach’s chair screech as he leapt out of it, his voice booming.
“A broken ankle? Six weeks? The state meet is in three, doc. Can’t you do anything to make it heal faster? Are you sure you looked at the right x-rays? I mean, she just tripped!”
The doctor stepped back, his whole body seemingly smaller.
“I’m sorry coach, but there’s not much I can do. There could have been previous stress fractures that made the bone less stable and then tripping over that root just put her over the edge.”
Feeling groggy from all the pain meds the doctor had me on I could barely comprehend what they were saying. I prayed that the outcome of my injury was not as bad as it felt, but I could tell from my coaches’ tone of voice that my prayers were not being answered.
“Anna are you okay?” Coach said after I tried to get comfortable, but failed.
“Yea, I’m getting there,” I mumbled. “How am I coach? Will I be able to compete at state?”
“I’m sorry, Anna. It doesn’t look good. The doc says that you’re going to be out for six weeks, you’re out for the rest of the season; especially if you still want to compete in college.”
My eyes popped open. I tried to sit up, but had to lay right back down because of the massive head rush that I got.
“But coach! It’s my senior year! Isn’t there anything you can do? I heal fast, don’t you remember last year?”
“Anna there’s nothing that can be done,” Coach interrupted “What happened last year was damn near a miracle! I am not going to take any chances. You need to recover. I’ll bring you home and you can get some rest, there is no way that I will let this hurt your career. You need this for your future.”
“And that’s exactly why I need to get back, Coach. There is no way that I can get away from home if I don’t do well this season,” I could taste the salt on my lips as tears ran down my face. I flipped over and closed my eyes tightly, trying to pretend none of this ever happened.
“Oh my God. Why are you on crutches? What happened to you? And why don’t I already know about it? You know, as a best friend, that’s kind of the thing you do. You tell me when something this tragic happens to you. You don’t just spring it on me when we get to school! Come on, are you going to talk to me!”
“Well I would if you would let me get a word in! Slow down Iz. I broke my ankle at my meet this weekend. And I tried to call you but you never answered! I don’t suppose some guy named Andrew would have something to do with that?” I replied sarcastically.
“If you must know, I was visiting my sister in Great Falls,” Izzy responded quickly.
“Oh, really?” I looked at her knowingly.
“And maybe Andrew came along, but that has nothing to do with this!” Izzy said, seemingly defeated. “But for real, what are you going to do? I mean, cross country is practically your life. Do you just have to stop now?”
“Thank you. I can’t go five minutes without remembering how badly that girl screwed my life over.”
“Well I didn’t mean to upset you; it’s just that running was everything to you before. What are you going to do with your life now? Or at least for however long it takes for you to recover. I mean, I know you, you can’t just sit at home and do nothing.”
“Yea I know. I just don’t know what I am going to do. I mean, what would you do without basketball?” I wondered
“I have no idea, but knowing you, you’ll find something.”
That’s when Izzy saw the poster on the wall. I never paid attention to the advertising around school before because as a matter of fact, I never cared. But now that I didn’t have running to focus on apparently I needed to find something else, and according to Iz, that poster was the answer.
I went to the Key Club meeting feeling skeptical. The officers, most of which I barely even recognized, talked about so many things that they put on throughout the year. I knew Izzy, mostly meaning I knew that there was no waiting when it came to becoming a part of something. So of course, she already had us signed up to go to some soup kitchen that night. Izzy signed us up for everything she could possibly find.
“You need to get out and do something new!” was her excuse.
On Saturday I had to go to Top Soccer, on Halloween she signed us up for the Halloween party, then, there was Quarry Quest which was that weekend. To say the least, I was less than thrilled to be a part of her newfound activities.
At three forty-five Izzy pulled into my driveway. I hobbled out the door and got into Izzy’s Ford Taurus greeting her with a nervous smile on my face. I was nervous enough to have joined Key Club but something about going to help and communicate with people that are less fortunate than me that made me feel almost sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what I was going to be doing or who I was going to be with. With cross country everything was always set, nothing ever changed. I went to school, went to practice, ran one of the four or five familiar routes, stretched, cooled down, lifted, ice bathed, and then I went home to do my homework and then go to bed and do the same thing the next day. That was the way I liked it, a routine that never changed.
Once we got to the soup kitchen there was a lot that was to be done before we could even start considering serving the food. First we had to make sure our hair was up and out of our faces. Izzy forgot to bring a hat, so she was forced into dish duty. I had to go serve food with all of these people I didn’t know and had no desire to meet. As we put on our aprons, washed our hands, and put gloves on everyone around me was joking around. I could barely stay focused enough to keep my head on straight, much less start a conversation with someone I didn’t know. After we got everything on, we then had to go and clean out the entire soup kitchen and take out the nasty old garbages. The only reason we had to do that was because the health inspector was coming the next day. Like they couldn’t just keep up their place like any normal business would. After cleaning out the whole kitchen we had to start preparing the food. This part, though, was not quite as difficult seeing as it was all canned goods and items that pretty much all that needed to be done with them was a quick heat up in the microwave. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the people who were coming to eat this, because they must be in a bad situation if they’re settling for this kind of food.
All throughout the night I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I was missing out on in cross country. I knew that today was a hard day, 800 tempos probably. And that almost killed me inside because even a hard workout was a good one for me. Even hard days were better than days like this one. I can’t wait until I can start running again. Six weeks seems like an eternity and I just can’t get it out of my head that even after that I won’t be the same as I was before. I was good, better than good, my dad would have been so proud of me. And now there is nothing that I can do about it. All I can do is wait, and I’ve never been good at waiting. Ever.
“Annaaa? Is anyone home in there?” Izzy tapped me on the shoulder.
“Yea, sorry Iz. Just daydreaming,” I replied
“Well get with it, everyone is going to be coming in 5 minutes and we can’t have you sitting here daydreaming all night. I know you’re having a rough time between what happened with your dad and now losing cross country, but thats why you’re here Anna, just try and stay focused, okay?” Izzy begged.
“Izzy I’m doing the best I can. You don’t know the first thing about what I’m going through right now. I know you’re just trying to help but I really don’t need this right now. It’s just too much for me. All I need is some time to think about everything, straighten it all out,” I bellowed.
“Whatever you need. I’ll call someone else if thats what you want. I’m sure someone can give you a ride home, one of the shifts ends when we start serving the food, you can get out of here then,” Izzy said, sounding tired and defeated.
“I don’t need anyone to do anything for me. I’ll walk home. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said coldly.
Walking home, I felt disgusted by the changing of the trees. At the sight of anything that one day might have made me happy. I wanted to slam my fist into a table, blood rushing into my face. I heard the pounding of feet coming up behind me. A person running, breathing obnoxiously. All of a sudden, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt the need to scream. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, to God for never answering my prayers, to my dad for leaving me alone with my mom and my little brother. To my mom, who changed so much since the cancer took him away and her now being oblivious to everything around her. At Izzy, for being so right and trying to help me but instead letting me push her away. But mostly, I wanted to yell at myself, for never taking the time to try and put my family back together before it all happened, and for using running as an excuse to let my problems boil under the surface of the hot pan that was my life. Before I knew it I was sitting on the ground, sobbing, curled up in a ball. It felt like I had been laying there for hours when I felt two arms wrap around me tightly.
“It’s okay honey. Just calm down. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Everything is going to be okay.”