Juneteenth

January 14, 2018

It all started on Tuesday, April 25 when I was at a teen program. I was playing a game outside the community center, with my friends. The game was called scatter dodge and it was basically dodge ball but there were no teams. A friend of mine, Arthur, explained the rules.

“Aye, let me explain! Alright man. When you get out, by getting hit with the ball, you sit down and wait for whoever got you out, to get out. When that happens you are back in. If somebody throws the ball and you catch it then the person that threw the ball is out--”

“Blah, blah, blah. We get it-- you can shut up now,” said James, Arthur’s twin brother.

Arthur closed his eyes and breathed in and out slowly, trying to ignore James’ rude remark.

After everyone understood the game, we began to play. We all ran around the field, throwing, catching, and sometimes getting hit by the ball. Throughout the beginning of the game I never got out.

As I was running down the field, Myree, who had the ball, spotted me. He threw the ball my way. The quickest thing for me to do was to try to catch the ball. As the ball touched my hands, they froze. The ball dropped to the ground. I was so shocked and angry that I was now out. I was trying to remain calm so I forced a fake smile on my face and slowly sat down on the grass.

As I sat in the green annoyance beneath me, waiting to get back into the game, I got distracted. With the itchiness from the grass and the bugs flying around, I couldn’t focus on the game. Before I knew what was happening, James and Jaylen were running towards me with the ball. Apparently, I was back in the game. Both of them had evil grins on their faces, so I jumped to my feet as fast as I could and sprinted away from them. When I stopped and turned around, Jaylen and James were right there with the ball ready to beam my way. When the ball released from James’ hands I jumped high in the air, trying to avoid the ball. Unfortunately, I didn’t jump high enough and the ball hit my legs, causing them to twist. I smacked against the concrete ground with my right knee. I couldn’t hear a single thing, for a moment, but I felt a tear from inside my knee and it began to burn. Before I knew it I was laying on the ground crying, rolling around, and squeezing my knee for dear life.

Everybody ran over to me saying,“Oh my God! Are you okay?”

I didn’t respond to anyone at first. The pain was unbearable. My knee felt like it had been ripped off. It felt as if I was shot in the knee. It felt like someone stomped my knee in, making it bend the opposite way. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life.

Eventually, I responded, “I think I’m fine. I have just been having knee pain lately and I think a nerve was just aggravated.”

That was a lie. I knew it wasn’t just knee pain. The truth is, I didn’t want James or Jaylen to feel extremely bad because they were some of my best friends and I know they didn’t mean for that to happen. I also didn't know what had happened to my knee.

I laid on the ground for what felt like forever. I bit my bottom lip trying to not scream bloody murder. I just wanted the pain to go away.

After a while I decided to get up, even though my knee still felt like there was 14 knives in it. I slowly rose standing on only my left leg. I tried to take a step with my right leg and immediately regretted it as I began to fall back to the ground. One of my friends came and helped me catch my balance. I then realized I still had to walk up a big hill to get inside the center. My friend helped me limp up the hill. With every step came sharp pains.

Eventually, I made it into the community center and sat down in a uncomfortable black chair.

As Mrs. Nehanda handed me an ice pack she said, “Are you going to be okay? Where does it exactly hurt? What can I do to help?”

I sniffled and said, “I think I’m okay but there is still a lot of pain. The pain is inside my knee, and you can’t do anything to help but thank you.”

Later that afternoon, I walked home. When I got in the house I told my parents about my knee, but they didn’t really care. I mean, they cared and checked if I was alright, but they still made me do my chores which sucked. Of course my chores that day included taking the trash and recycling out, which meant more walking. I guess I didn't explain to them how bad the pain was.

I awoke the next morning in the haze of a different dimension. I began to stretch my body as I realized something was wrong. My right leg would not move. I tried to straighten it. Nothing happened. I tried to bend it. Nothing happened. I started freaking out because I really wanted to stretch out my leg.

I placed both of my hands on my right knee. I started to slowly push down on it but I immediately removed my hands because of the pain. After multiple tries to straighten my knee I gave up.

I carefully got dressed, making sure not to hurt my knee then began to try to walk down the stairs. I hopped down one step then realized it would be easier to go down the stairs on my butt, using my hands and left leg.

When I got down the stairs I told my dad about my leg. I grabbed the crutches that we already had and he took me to the hospital. My doctor took a look at my knee and said that there was a seventy-five percent chance that I tore my ACL. I was devastated. Tearing an acl is a big deal especially since I'm a dancer and athletic.

After the doctor's visit, I tried to stay off my knee as much as possible. I also always wore a knee brace to help with stability. Staying off my knee was extremely hard for me because I always dance no matter what.

After some time, my knee became stable enough for me to carefully walk without my crutches. From there I began to dance and even play some sports around the neighborhood. I shouldn't have been doing this much physical activity because I still hadn't had my surgery.

About a month after my injury there was a big holiday coming up. Juneteenth is on June 19th and is the day that the last remaining enslaved people in the United States were emancipated. I celebrate this because I am part African American and I am proud to be African American.

The teen program I go to signed us up to do an eight minute presentation at a Juneteenth banquet. During some of those eight minutes, me and some friends decided to perform a dance. Even though I wasn't supposed to be dancing because of my knee, I did it anyway. I choreographed most of the dance and made sure we were ready for the performance.

The day of the banquet came and I was excited but nervous at the same time. When we first arrived we had time before it actually started so we practiced the dance. Soon enough, the banquet started.

Our presentation was in the middle of the list of people to go. When it was our turn to present, we weren't ready. The dance was ready but the video we prepared would not play, therefore we asked to be move to the bottom of the list.

After everyone on the list did their presentations, we were up. The video still would not play so we decided to just perform the dance.

Everybody from the teen program walked up to the stage and introduced ourselves. Then we got in positions and the music started to play. The beginning choreography was going great until the second kick. I jumped in the air with my left leg up and landed with my right leg. As soon as I landed, my knee gave out and I crashed onto the floor. The pain was unbearable and almost as painful as when I first injured it, but I would not give up that easily. As I sat on the floor everybody stared at me and gasped, even my friends that were dancing with me.

I quickly told them, “Keep going. I’m fine.”

I quickly stood up babying my knee. I continued to do the rest of the choreography to the best of my ability, working through the pain.

At the end of the dance I had a big smile on my face. The crowd was clapping loudly as I felt happiness.

We started to walk off the stage as reality came back to me, shooting pains exploded in my knee. I limped to the side of the room and tears ran down my cheeks.

Mrs. Nehanda grabbed a chair for me while somebody else grabbed an ice pack. I sat there trying to stop the tears but waterfalls burst from my eyes at the thought of the performance. The only thoughts that came to my mind was that is was my fault. I shouldn't have put that kick in the choreography knowing I was injured. Me falling messed up everything. I messed up the everything.

Later, when I was at home thinking about the day, I realized something. I didn't mess up everything. When I was performing I got back up and continued to dance. I didn't give up. If I would have given up that would have messed up everything. All the hard work I putting into trying to recover, a little bit, before surgery and all the hard work I put into the choreography wasn't totally ruined. I realized that you should never give up. Work hard for what you want. Have fun and don't care about what people think or say. When I fell, I wasn't embarrassed. I just wanted to dance. Dancing makes me happy and that's all that matters.


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