Doors Open

June 1, 2011
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I twitched my finger, and like a racer when the starting gun is fired, I took off, flying down the runway. Furiously pumping my arms, I focused ahead of me, on the blue fuzz of the carpet, the approaching springboard, and my goal, the vault. I timed my round-off just right so that I pushed off the springboard with as much force as I could muster. I watched the world spin around as I forced my body to twist in the air. As I fell back towards Earth, my right foot bent, and for a moment I thought I would fall. I gritted my teeth and tightened my entire body. After three pounding heartbeats a smile crept upon my face. I stood straight and saluted first the judges then the cheering crowd.

I all but sprinted over to my coach and teammates. I got a face-full of hair as they all tried to hug me at once. Their squeals of delight inflated me till I was practically floating. Coach Linda pulled me so close I could smell her lavender shampoo and whispered the words I lived to hear, “Great job.”

At the awards ceremony, a worried frown replaced my smile, as all the girls' patience was tested. The announcer's pause between names seemed to last hours, but I listened intently. I wrung my hands and re-adjusted my sitting position every couple of seconds. Finally I heard the name I'd been waiting for. I'd won! I leaped onto the podium, the smile broader this time, my mother frantically taking pictures.

I sighed as the first place medal was placed around my neck. The moment felt so right, so perfect. This is where I belonged, this was my passion.

When our coach finally got us to quiet down and the popcorn to stop being thrown across the hotel room, she furrowed her eyebrows and closed her eyes. What she said next shocked us all.

“My husband I have been talking recently about how much time we spend at the gym, and how we would like to spend more time with our family. We have come to a very hard decision.” She paused and looked at each of us, tears threatening to spill out of her eyes, “We're closing the gym.”

All the girls did a quick intake of breath as one. We all seemed to hold it as we tried to process the words. We'd grown up at that gym, practically lived there. My teammates and coaches, I considered my extended family. As I looked around at my friends my tears were mirrored on their faces. Gymnastics was my life, without it, how was I supposed to live?

“But I don't feel like it,” I whined as my mom pulled up to the soccer fields.

“You're part of the team and your going,” my mother said sternly.

I groaned as I pushed open the door and ran onto the field to join the rest of my team. I moped around the field, just staring down at the dirt-patched grass imagining I was still at the gym. In the weeks following the closing of my second home I had spent so much time buried in the couch with a bowl of popcorn and Jane Eyre that I'd thought I'd grown into a permanent fixture of it.

I was surprised to see the soccer ball roll in front of my feet.

“Go!” my soccer coach screamed, “Go!”

I looked up dazed, when suddenly a defender from the other team rammed into me and stole the ball. How dare she! Does she not realize that my life is basically over! I was filled with a sudden burst of rage and power. I saw red as I kicked the ball away from her and dribbled towards the goal. I placed my left foot beside the ball and twisted my body back. I put all my frustration and anger into kicking the ball into the top left corner of the net, just outside the goalie's reach. Take that!

As I watched the ball sink into the back of the net I thought, It isn't gymnastics, but I can live with it. Then I heard the cheers of the crowd. I smiled as my teammates dog-piled me, Oh yeah, I could live with it.

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