Picked last. Again. I always get picked last. While it is sixth grade Physical Education kickball, it still seems unfair. I think my head was the largest part of me in sixth grade. I was thin. I was so thin that doctors had actually accused my mother of starving me. Couldn’t have been further from the truth. But I never seemed to gain an ounce, except to get taller. It stings to get picked last. At least in Scholastic bowl, I am one of the top performers. Why do I have to take this class that I am obviously not good at, anyway? Asthma ensures that I lose my wind faster than everyone else. It isn’t as though I am fat. I’m healthy. As usual, the other kids are plotting where I can be put so that I’ll do the least amount of damage. I hate them.

The hour is nearly over now. Good, after this, I can eat lunch. Then I’ll be back in class with a math book. I don’t like math, necessarily, but I am good at math. I’d prefer to do something I am at least good at. I’m waiting on the bench for my turn. Coach announces this is the last inning. This hell is almost over. Nobody ever calls the P.E. teacher a teacher. He’s the high school wrestling coach, Coach O’Connor. Coach O, for short, or just Coach, he’ll answer to any of the three. We’ve gotten to the bottom of the order. The jocks get to go first, then the wannabes. The eggheads, the slow, fat and lame get to go last. Always seemed odd to me. It seems like you’d want the guys who do the worst to be intermixed. At least then, if one of us did get one base, you’d be set up for a double, or a triple. Then again, it’s kickball. Or maybe they just figure if the wannabes strike out, at least we scored a few runs. Or the jocks just want to make sure they play.

Oh, I am almost up. Damn. I’ve been daydreaming. Let’s look around. Wow. Kevin is on second base and Chris is on first. Donnie is up to kick. I can hear the jocks behind me, resting from their mighty labors. From their conversation, I gather that Coach O has promised sodas to the winners. I must’ve missed that part. We’re a couple of runs down. The jocks tell me just to get a base hit, and Bret would get me home. Bret Green, The Jock, is after me, as I am last in the order. They’re expected either Donnie or I to strike out. Actually, they’re just playing the odds, but it does hurt, a little. I am not a cripple, after all. If Donnie and I both strike out, then we have no soda.

Donnie gets a base hit. He runs to first base, puffing. I’m up. The jocks have lost interest. If I strike out, then The Jock will rescue them. I have become insignificant. As I am coming up to the plate, one of the guys has lead off the base. Their jock notices. Kevin is out. Now I am it, the man to make a play. The jocks are interested again. I wonder if I should be flattered, but then decide that greed for soda would make them interested in the Elephant Man. Now there are two on base, and me up to the plate. We need three runs to win. I stop myself from figuring my “batting average”. “Base hit,” Bret tells me. Just a base hit is all we need.

I get up to kick. I’m relaxed. I’ve already told myself I do not care. In the long run, this will mean little to me. The ball comes over the plate, and I kick it. By some fluke of physics, I kick it square. I watch it sail to the other end of the gym, where there is a division of two colors on the wall. Above the line is an automatic home run. The ball hits above the line, way above the line. It nearly hits the electronic scoreboard. I have never kicked a ball like that. I run the bases in bewilderment. As I cross home plate, the jocks start running up to me. They actually pick me up on their shoulders and start chanting my name. Suddenly, I know. I know why they are jocks. I experience it for the first time. I get it. I know this taste will be all too brief, but I revel in their adulation. I will likely never be here again, so I might as well enjoy it. But the jocks are here all the time: this is where they live. Suddenly, I get it. I know. I never looked down upon them again. And I was picked second to last, from then on.

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Comment by Nightfall on May 28, 2010 at 3:02am
Ronin,
Sorry it has taken me a bit to get around to this again, but I have been busy.

There were a couple who treated me well, and I do remember them in a better light. High School was still some of the darkest times in my life. Not all from peers, but my parents, as well. Long stories.
It ia amazing what we remember years laters, though, isn't it?
Comment by Ronin on October 4, 2009 at 2:19am
Nightfall let me tell you. I was a jock. First squad and all that jazz. I hated that they picked on guys like you. Let me tell you a true story about high school. There was this guy Rob. He was something of a cipher to most people. He got picked on unmercifully. His clothes were "wrong", he was a mediocre athlete, not a brain. But he tried. Through all the abuse he tried. For some reason I kept and eye on him. Don't know why, I just did. I didn't go out of my way to be a friend but I did watch his back when they ganged up on him. Maybe that was my sense of fair play or something. I remember a specific incident when he got into a fight and a crowd gathered surrounding the participants. I could see that they were waiting for him to go down so that all could get in a shot. I made my way to the interior of the fracas and when a "second" would step forward I would give him the "fuck off" look and they would back off. Well, old Rob knocked the snot out of this guy. I didn't go up to him later. I don't even think he knew I was there. Throughout school we knew each other from sports but not much else. What I'm trying to say is that we weren't friends. He wasn't a bad guy he just wasn't in my circle of friends. A couple years later during a summer break from college I got a job as a security guard. A couple of months on the job and I was assigned to guard this office. Who shows up as a partner but Rob. We became close friends and have been ever since. This all happened about 25+ years ago. About 7 years ago he came to visit me and told me that one day in school all those years ago he was at his locker and apparently as i walked by I patted him on the shoulder and said "Hi Rob" and went on my way. He was so stunned that a guy like me even knew a guy like him existed. He told me that from that point on he felt a sense of worth and vowed to change his life. He joined the US Air Force worked himself up in rank and became someone of respect. Of all the people I knew in school he is the only person I talk to regularly. So, tell me do any of those jocks mean anything to you today? I had an epiphany the day Rob told me that story and I wonder if the shitheads I hung out with had any idea of the worth of the people around them and how taking a little time to get to know someone would give them a life long friend. Sorry if this sounds like a rant. I was a jock and know the high you get from winning. Glad you felt it. I'm sure you've felt it again when you succeeded at completing a project. I can no longer walk or even get myself out of bed without help but I get that high by watching my son grow to be a complete human being and know I did a good job.

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