The Game of Life
Things Do Get WorseOnce again I turn up my iPod trying to drown out the noise of my Friends Not Really Friends’ voices. And once again I ask myself why I was really here, and I still hate my answer. Unable to drown out my Friends Not Really Friends’ voices I get up; pushing myself off the ground I drop my iPod into one pocket of my sweat pants and my phone into the other, and head to get something to drink. I walk past the courts buzzing with excitement and intensity. It practically radiates off the players, not to mention the parents. I’m not sure why I still love to play volleyball, but for some reason I just kept coming back. Back to this world where there are so many courts your eyes get lost somewhere over the horizon, where yells and blinding lights overwhelm you. Where coaches scream in your face that you’re never good enough for them, even though you’re pretty sure that the only reason they coach is because somewhere along the way they were told they weren’t good enough and they were taking that long held anger out on you. Oh and not to mention the players with their fake smiles plastered to their faces to make it seem like everything was Fine Just Fine. I head towards the concession booth pulling a crumpled five from the inside of my phone- if you could master the Slide Hide as my friend Blake called it you keep a ton of money, not to mention movie tickets inside your phone. This was proven the day he had thought he lost his movie ticket and went to call our other friend Dri to come get us when he found it ripped inside his phone. The line for drinks is slim and the lady behind the counter moves sluggishly as if the thought of actually getting to the soda machine in less than five minutes worries her. The lady in front of me groans as the other woman hands her a drink with no lid; I guess they had run out of lids. They always did. It’s like they want to watch you get hit by a ball out of nowhere and spill your drink all over yourself. Trust me it happens frequently. Just this morning a row of people were sipping their coffees peacefully-with lids I might add- and a ball flew down the out-line taking four peoples lids and half their coffee with it. Anyways, back to the woman behind the counter. I order my drink –red passion fruit tea like always- and begin the long walk back to our court. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pull it out and keep walking while I sip my tea. I read the text, roll my eyes to nothing in particular, and barely have the chance to put my phone back into my pocket when I feel something slam into me and the cold spread of my tea go down the front of my jersey. I feel the icy chill before it even registers in my head. I look up with stormy eyes to see who ran into me. I see a boy, probably my age or so –fifteen- staring down at my chest. In any other situation I would have slapped him and told him not to stare down a girl’s shirt, but when I glance down at my all white jersey I realize that probably isn’t what he’s looking at. My jersey is soaked all the way through with red tea. I had so not chosen a good day to wear a neon sports bra. The only thing that crossed my mind was a nice long string of curse words that I would not be proud to tell you. The boy stands there in front of me and without thinking about it, I throw what’s left of my drink in his face and storm off. Halfway down the string of courts to the bathroom a hand grabs my arm and swings me around. I turn, glaring up at the boy again, and he’s staring down at me with blazing eyes, his pale blond hair stained light red. “What the hell?” He says throwing his arms up into the air for emphasis. A few girls from another team glance our way and look the boy up and down. “You idiot! You ran into me.” I shoot back at him. “You weren’t paying any attention to where you were going.” He yells, and a few of the parents glance over at us. I look over his shoulder and see one of my teammates headed in our direction. I grab him by the sleeve and yank him after me towards the bathrooms. I let him go when we get there and give him a shove to show him that I am really pissed now. “Look I only have one jersey and I cannot go back out there like this.” I say my voice low so we won’t attract any more attention, deciding better of it I open the door to one of those family bathrooms -which no one ever uses because they know that’s where the parents go to change their kid’s diapers and they always stink- and pull him in after me. I flip the latch on the door to lock it and turn to face him. “Wash it off.” He says simply leaning against the wall as if his earlier anger had never been there. “Its tea. Red tea. It will never come out.” “Try it.” He says motioning to the small bathroom sink. “Give me your shirt.” I say to him. “Don’t pretend it’s a big deal I can see another shirt underneath it.” “I can already see your pink bra.” He says as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be talking about my bra. I cross my arms over my chest, “Your point?” “Come on it’s not a big deal.” “Not a big deal?” I say incredulously. “I don’t even know you.” “So if you did know me then you would?” He asks raising an eyebrow. “No!” I say alarmed by his relaxed expression. “Whatever just get this s*** outta my hair, I smell like a girl's deodorant.” He says walking over to the sink and turning on the faucet. He leans down and sticks his head under the faucet. I watch him rub his hair as the red runs out and into the sink. Satisfied he takes his head from under the sink and shakes his hair out sending water all over my already wet jersey. “How am I going to get this out? I have like one hour, if I wash it out it’ll never dry and they won’t let me play if I’m soaking wet. I don’t know why, so don’t ask it’s just one of those stupid rules okay?” I say mostly talking to myself. I know I probably sound stupid rambling on about how I’m going to get the tea out especially when I’m not even doing anything to progress the situation. “What’s your name anyways?” He says as if it had just occurred to him that he was locked in a bathroom with a girl, and somehow along the way he had forgotten that he didn’t even know her name. “Sam.” I say and stop pacing back and forth in the small space, I lean against the wall, sliding down. I can feel the back of my jersey ride up, but honestly, I don’t care. The wall feels cool against my back. I had been running a fever all day, and it had only been getting worse. “What’s yours?” “Payton.” He says as he un-buttons his shirt and uses it as a towel to dry off his hair. “So you use your shirt as a towel but won’t let me borrow it for like, five minutes?” I ask him and he holds the shirt out and turns around to the corner of the bathroom. “One, two, three, four…” He starts as if we were playing hide and seek. I wait a few seconds to make sure he isn’t joking and would turn around, but he doesn’t. I peel off my wet jersey and slip on his button up shirt. I quickly do the buttons up as he says, “Ready or not, here I come.” I smirk at him, “Real funny kid.” “You’re calling me a kid when you’re whining about how tea got all over your jersey. Hey that shirt looks pretty good on you.” He says abruptly. I can feel the cotton against my sports bra which just happened to also get wet, though not near as bad as my jersey. I wrap my arms around my waist and face him. “You think this is so funny, don’t you?” I say in his face. “You have no idea how much it costs just to be on this team, I bet this jersey alone was around fifty dollars. I don’t even get fifty dollars on my birthday. You know why? Because I’m stupid enough to want to be here instead of anywhere else with my real friends.” “Whoa there.” He says running a hand through his blond hair. “Calm down, look I know how we can get that out of your jersey.” I eye him skeptically wondering if he’s going to make a joke out of this also. “Look,” He says calmly taking my jersey from my hands. “My mom always carries this stain remover in her purse. She’s a clean freak like that; I can take it and whalla! Your jersey’s fine.” I roll my eyes at him, but follow him back out of the bathroom. A team of girls give us looks when we pass by, Payton ignores them. I realize he’s leading me back towards the court I play on, or more specifically where I would run into my team, who in turn would wonder why I was with this stranger and more importantly why I was wearing his shirt. I tug his sleeve lightly to get his attention. “Can we go another way?” I ask him pleadingly. “What don’t wanna run into your teammates?” “Yeah,” I say and he turns grabbing my wrist and keeps walking in the same direction. We near our court and I can see our libero Kourtney next to Tasha talking and gesturing crazily. Payton slows down in front of them and I turn away as if I didn’t notice where we were, hoping that in his shirt they wouldn’t recognize me. “Hey are you guys the Alpha’s?” He says walking up to Kourtney. “Sam here wanted to come find you in case any of you were looking for her. See I spilt a bunch of tea on her jersey and so she dragged me into the bathroom to help her get it out. She was worried that yal wouldn’t be able to find her if your game started early. I’m on court 78 with Marvel VBC. She’ll be with me.” Kourtney raises her eyebrows, and Tasha sticks out her nonexistent chest and shakes her mostly nonexistent boobs. Another one of my teammates- Maria- goes, “Sammy!” and slaps my butt when we walk by. Jennifer whistles at me and our coaches go, “Don’t do anything stupid kid!” I’d never dealt well with attention, or guys. Put them together and you get a nice warm bowl of awkwardness served up especially for me. Payton on the other hand seems completely at ease in the situation. He pulls me over to court 78 and walks me right up to his mom. They step away, exchange a few words and glances at me and then she pulls out one of those small as hell to go detergent sticks. He saunters back towards me and grabs my hand. His palm is warm, but not sweaty. I hope mine aren’t. As we walk I realize the small stares-and the fact that he is still holding my hand- and quiet murmurs to friends, that occur when Payton walks past. Two girls lying on the floor talking stop and follow him with their eyes as he goes by, before exchanging glances and laughing. He’s not that good looking…okay maybe a little bit. But still, after today the odds of ever seeing him again are cero- zero. His head bobs slightly up and down as if he was listening to music in his head. “So…” I began trying to start up conversation. “Huh?” He says as if I was interrupting his talk with the imaginary voices in his head, or maybe the imaginary music. “You play any sports?” I ask loudly because suddenly there is a deafening voice ringing through the convention center. “Yeah.” He says, I raise my eyebrows prompting him to continue, “I swim, and play soccer.” “What is with kids and playing soccer when they’re little?” I ask mostly rhetorically. “It’s like a rite of passage,” He says, “All kids have to play it.” “I never played it.” I say to him, which may or may not be true. I really don’t remember anything before first grade. I don’t even remember what it was I ate this morning. This could very well mean I forgot to eat, or that in reality my mother didn’t care enough to remind me on the way out of the house that morning. Probably snuggled up close with her newest boyfriend. Not that this was new. Every few weeks a new one would show up. It always went the same way, ‘Oh but Sammie, my girl, this one is different, I just know that he is the one.’ During these phases her and her boyfriend of the week would be occupied from dinner to breakfast, and maybe even lunch, all snuggled up with not a care in the world. Not even I could break her from her spell. It wasn’t until after she had realized that, ‘truly, my girl, he was not the one for me,’ that she went back to being motherly. These phases could last from a couple of days to months on end. But they always ended the same way, a brokenhearted boy leaving our house and my mother staring up our daily jogs-in which she stared at every man that passed until she saw one that ‘dazzled.’ How this ‘dazzling’ person has been determined is still a mystery to me. I’d never met anyone that ‘dazzled.’ And I’m pretty sure when guys look at me, dazzled is not the thing they think- I’m just a few inches over five foot, with long auburn hair that reaches halfway down my back, accompanied with deep almond shaped brown eyes…in other words I look like more than half the rest of the American population- then again, who am I to be an expert on guyology? I hadn’t even truly kissed a guy. Well unless you count the time in eighth grade, when my friend Camille dared me to. And that had been disgusting. His mouth was sloppy and his lips were wet with spit. I remember kissing him and then wiping my mouth, which then brought on a fierce round of questions as to whether or not I liked his kissing. Which I most certainly did not. I wonder what it would feel like to kiss someone, I mean really kiss them? What it would be like to kiss Payton. I stumble in my mind, wondering where the sudden hunger for being wanted, for being wanted by someone like Payton, had come from. I shake my head to myself. “What’s with you?” Payton asks jerking me from my internal voices. “Hmm? Oh, nothing.” I say. “Liar.” He says, and playfully nudges me. I nudge him back, and he holds a hand to his chest as if he was hurt. He smiles, showing dimples I hadn’t seen earlier. What I also have seemed to miss were his bright blue eyes, and a smattering of freckles across his pale skin. He stares at me, his brow furrowing slightly. Like staring at a hard math problem. His head tilts ever so slightly to the side before his smile comes back full force. His smile could power the whole convention center, and maybe even New York. I like to believe that this smile was something only he and I shared. But with boys like him, well, he had probably flashed that million watt smile at every girl he met. You just never knew. With that thought I break his gaze and pick up my speed heading back to the bathroom. After we reach the bathroom-the family one once again- he grabs my arm and swings me around to face him. Major déjà vu. He gives me the difficult math problem look again and then shakes his shaggy hair and takes my jersey from my hands. I wonder at what it would be like just to be held by someone like Payton. Then I remember what my mom told me after her last boyfriend, ‘sweetum’s you just gotta know that that feeling of love and feeling like you belong to someone just never lasts. It doesn’t pay the bills, or do the laundry. I’m not saying you shouldn’t want to find love, all I’m saying is you can’t let yourself be anchored down by someone. You always want what you can’t have.’ And with that she tapped my nose and clicked from the room in her brand new, navy blue stilettos. “Thanks,” I say as Payton pops the lid off the small detergent stick. He lies my jersey on the floor-the only other option was the toilet and I we both opt not- and proceeds by starting at the middle of the stain and swirls the detergent stick in circles as if he was coloring a coloring page. He reaches the edges of the stain and traces them. He picks up my jersey and puts it into the sink, turning the water on to high. “Thanks,” I say again. “Why do you keep saying that?” He asks, not rudely but more of as if he were making fun of me. “I’m just, not used to anyone doing anything for me, I guess.” I say. “Rhetorical question.” He says to me. I half-smile at him, and he picks up my jersey from the sink. It’s completely pink now. “Did it get worse?” I ask astonished. “Um, I didn’t think that could happen.” “Is it really pink?” I ask stupidly. His eyes are wider than usual as he answers, “Yep.” “S***.” I whisper. “S***.” He says to me. “I guess, it won’t matter that much?” I say in a questionable tone. “Um…now its pink and soaking wet.” “F***.” This is not what I had planned to come out of my mouth, I had been thinking more of holyf*ingmotherofs***…but then again we could just keep it simple. “F*** to you too, my friend.” He says. I can’t think of anything to say so I simply state, “And hey kid,” He looks over towards me, “girl’s deodorant smells pretty damn good.” And with that I sniff my pit and offer a small smirk in his direction to show that I really don’t care about the jersey situation we had gotten ourselves into anymore. Then again, I don’t quite remember a time when I had particularly cared about any one thing much.