THE AthleteLove, hope, faith, what do they mean? A better question is what don’t they mean? An even better question is that what does trust mean? Trust? That small word makes and breaks even the most dangerous of people. When asked what you want from somebody, that powerful word, TRUST, wiggles its way into the corridors of your mind. What’s the point of loving somebody if you don’t trust them? What if you gave away all your trust? You gave away all your trust long ago and it never actually returned. All you want is somebody to give you that trust back, without tearing a different piece of you off.
If you saw me from a distance you’d say, “She’s an athlete.” If you knew me you’d say, “She was the athlete.” They sound the same, huh? That’s because that is what I am. I’m an athlete, or at least I was. I’m the chic who won three hockey championships in the same year, being one of the two girls in the whole league. I was the ace pitcher of a baseball team, when I was only nine. My body is, well, athletic. Arm muscles, check, leg muscles, check, blisters from tough practices, double check. My whole appearance screams that I’m a sporty girl. But, I haven’t played an organized sport since I was ten. Life is just too difficult any more. Every time I stepped on the ice or field the fact that I’m a girl became a deadly sin instead of a cute show. Gender became the murderer of my athletic career. I guess now, I’m just a washed out could-of-been…Unfortunately, outsiders can’t see the walls I’ve built, brick by brick, around my actual thoughts. I’m scarred too deep to let sexism cut away at me too. Sometimes you have to walk away from the line of fire.
The bright sun glistens freely on the razor blue, green ocean. Low tide washes onto the shore with waves of pure white. It’s only early morning, but sweat beads on my forehead. The solid wood of the boardwalk is sizzling hot and burns the soles of my feet. Red and white “closed” signs hang in the windows of ocean side stores. The large carnival rides are silent, taking a rest from the long night of running. Only dedicated joggers and shell seeking tourists roam the tan sand. When the wind blows, even the slightest, my hair whips around my face in a tangled mess. The smell of the salty ocean water is addictive. Sea gulls sweep over the ocean and sand, cooing to tourists. I take a hesitant step toward the sand, and flinch when it torches my skin. The burning sensation does not match the powdery, pleasant look of the sand. I notice the guys looking at my feet and then my face. I’m used to the random stranger checking me out. I get it all the time in the city. Haven’t they ever seen an Italian athlete?
Jaz is my name, sorta. My real name is Jazeline Larsen. I live in New York City, the Big Apple, but during the summer I make my home San Diego County. I come to south Cali every single summer to stay with my amazing cousin Ted. Ted is around twenty-seven years old, six foot tall, thin, and very energetic. Right out of college he started in the sports equipment industry and he now helps manage an exclusive and secretive company. Ted is trying to help me accomplish my goals. When I graduate I want to go into a scientific sport field to analyze equipment gone wrong. I believe that given the technology and time I can change the way players in every sport are protected. Ted supplies me with the equipment and passes needed to get me inside and in on the action every summer. My sudden interest in this field sparked after my uncle, Don Larsen, told me about the miscues in baseball equipment. Yeah, Don Larsen, the World Series no-hitter guy. Have you ever heard of him? So, every summer I make my way down to the west coast and observe different sports teams, while getting some sun on beautiful Imperial Beach. Unfortunately, this summer a distraction gets me a little off track.
My feet stick in the sand, slowing my pace. The ocean’s appealing scent draws me in. I find myself unconsciously going closer and closer. The softness of the sand begins to firm and it oozes through my toes. The surf rolls in and water wraps around my legs. The sudden rush of semi-cold water makes my body stiff. When it retreats it sucks at me, trying to pull me in one last time. Out in the distance, dolphins call to each other softly in sing song sounds. I take a long, deep breath, breathing everything in. My eyes close and my limbs go numb.
“So, you’re a New Yorker?” A tall, tan guy flashes his perfectly white teeth at me in a heart-breaking smile. He wears black silk basketball shorts, running shoes, and a white cut off shirt which shows his hard-earned muscles. His white/green baseball cap is half faded from this everyday California heat. He looks like a male model.
“How do you know?” I stare at his light brown eyes in pure wonder.
“Well, the I love NYC shirt is first, second is the Yankees necklace, and then your light tan skin, which isn’t from the sun but from genetics.” He smiles and laughs smoothly. I look down at my white t-shirt, necklace, and skin. He’s right I look like a total New Yorker. My mom is Greek and my dad’s Italian, I’m tan year round.
“Oh, yeah, I’m from New York, why?”
“We don’t get too many New Yorkers around much. The Big Apple usually keeps them pretty busy.” He waits politely for a response but only receives my gazing eyes. “My name is Cameren, but my friends call me Cam. I live down the road. How are you?” Cameren puts his hand out in front of him and I wrap mine around his for a brief twenty seconds.
“Hey, my name is Jaz, sorry Jazeline. I’m staying with my cousin Ted for the summer. He lives just down the road, too.” Cameren breaks out an even wider grin.
“Good, I’d love to get to know you better.”
“Me too, you seem sweet.” Cam continues to smile uncontrollably, and sits down on the hot sand.
“Let’s start now. Come on, sit down.” He taps the spot beside him. The sun makes his eyes gain sparkles.
“Are you sure I’m not interrupting anything?” Before I can even finish my question, he shakes his head. Cam takes my hand and guides me politely to the ground.
“I’ve been doing my boardwalk run every morning since I was twelve. I think I can miss one.” Behind his smiles there seems to be a bitter edge to his voice. Something is kept hidden deep inside his light heartedness. As quickly as the anger arose, it vanishes twice as fast. “So, tell me ‘bout yourself.”
“Well, I live in an apartment building in New York City with my dad. I’m an only child, thank God. I’m a senior this September and want to go to college for sports technology. That’s basically it besides the fact I’m a die-hard Yankees fan. Now it’s your turn.” For the first time, I return the warm smile.
“Okay, I live in the suburbs of San Diego in a small beach house. I have a younger brother, Carter. I’m also going to be a senior, but we start in August. My future i---“
“Wait, it’s a Thursday, shouldn’t you be in school?” A laugh filled with lightness spills into the air.
“About that, I’m not exactly your perfect cookie cutter kid. I like to enjoy life a little more than others.” Cameren’s booming laugh flows in the air.
“Yeah, I’m an athlete, and athletes are golden down here. You’re talkin’ to San Diego County’s Sportsman of the Year, quarterback for the south Cali State Champs, and the starting pitcher in two different championship All-Star teams’ rotations. To these people I’m God. That’s why I’m looking for a future as a major leaguer.” Cameren’s eyes don’t meet mine, but instead drift off in the ocean like an abandoned lost sailboat.
“Wow, that’s amazing! That’s like every kid’s dream!”
“It is, but it’s all very…complicated. See, my last name is Berra. Yogi Berra is my uncle and everyone expects me to be so frikkin’ awesome at baseball. Unfortunately, I happen to play the game better than most kids my age.” I sit on the sand with a blank stare stretched across my face.
“My uncle was Don Larsen! Isn’t that so cool?” Cam looks at me, but not exactly at me? He stares into my eyes as if looking deep into my soul, trying to find a reason for our meeting.
“Whoa, no way! That’s so epic. Maybe it’s a sign?” Cameren still looks into my eyes, starring way past the walls I’ve tried to build up. His enthusiasm has washed out, but the childhood feel to his voice remains. I don’t respond with words but just smile.
The tide rushes in like it was shot out of cannon. Before the water can soak me, I’m whisked off the ground. The blue sea hugs Cameren’s legs, embracing him in water. I look at his face, which is the slightest shade of pink. His arms wrap around my body keeping me close to his chest. I can hear the soft thudding of his heart through his shirt. When the tide goes back to its home, he sets me back on my feet.
“I’m so sorry. I just didn’t want you to get wet.” Cameren tries to smile but embarrassment takes over.
“It’s fine. You’re really sweet.”
“Thanks, but I have to get to school though. I have a game tonight. Come by the field around five, I’d love to talk more. See you later.” With a flick of the wrist he waves goodbye and rushes off. His feet have no problem getting through the sand.