Thursday, October 18, 2018

The curse of the volleyball

I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty good at volleyball. In fifth grade, I was on a volleyball team called 'The Purple Panthers.' We won a game and everything.

. . . and lost every other game . . . BUT STILL.

Anyway, I'm decent at volleyball. And as someone who isn't athletic and doesn't enjoy competitive sports, I'm pretty proud of how decent I am at volleyball.

I was on the "Purple Panthers" team with two of my best friends that year. One of the games, the ball soared over the net, hit my best friend in the top of the head, which went right back over the net and scored us a goal.

My friend just kind of stood dumbfounded by the whole thing. Like, what had just happened??

I thought it was hilarious and at school the next week, I told everyone about how my friend had scored us a goal after the ball had bopped her on the head. My friend got very embarrassed and yelled at me to stop telling people that story. I can't remember my reaction, but I'm sure I got embarrassed and retaliated by being mean back.

(I know some people who miss their childhood.

I am not one of those people.

I was a brat.)

Little did I know that this volleyball team would set the stage for the rest of my volleyball career.

The only time I didn't completely dread gym class was when volleyball season came, and we'd only play volleyball for, like, a week straight. And, in 7th grade, as someone who had been on a volleyball team two years prior? I was a valuable player and was often picked for teams.

And again, I was decent. It was a nice confidence boost.

So, when my high school required its students to sign up for an elective gym class? You can bet I signed up for volleyball class.

The class actually turned out to be a lot of fun because, not only was it a sport I genuinely enjoy, but I had friends in that class, too. If I remember correctly, we got to pick our own teams, so I got to play alongside my friends.

I could be remembering it wrong, but I DO remember this detail - which is crucial to the story: For this specific game, I was on the same team as my friends, and we were playing against a guy we all hated: Wilson.

Image result for wilson volleyball gif

Wilson was a pretty boy.
My friends and I were not.
He was a jock.
We were in band and/or theater.
(This sounds like the start of a certain Avril Lavigne song.)
So, we didn't really like him, and he didn't really like us. Or he ignored our existence.


My friends and I were on a team together and were playing against Wilson's team. I remember Wilson had two of his friends on his team as well, whom we didn't like. I don't remember their names, but their relationship reminded me of Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. Wilson being Malfoy, of course.

Wilson and his friends took volleyball wayyyy too seriously. I don't think we even kept score in these games. If we did, it didn't count towards anything. So I never understood why they - or anyone in the class, for that matter - took these games so seriously. He was known for spiking the ball any and every chance he got. You could tell he was very proud when he successfully spiked a ball.

And it was very annoying.

I was in the front row, on the far right of the court. I was right across from Wilson. Tall, arrogant, competitive Wilson. Our team was up to serve. I stepped to the side of the net as the person behind me - the server - hit the ball. It soared over the net, and the volley began.

It came to me, I bumped it over. It came back on our side, their side, our side, etc. I started to zone out, as the ball hadn't come to me much. I stood there, my arms in position and ready to hit in case it came towards me, but was just kind of in a trance watching the ball.

Then -


A sudden, intense pain hit the right side of my face.


Wilson had gotten the ball.
He had spiked it.
And it had hit me square in the face.
And it was not like when the ball bopped my friend in the head in fifth grade.

Oh, no.

It hurt.

The right side of my face felt completely numb. My right nostril started to drip a little bit of blood. And my eye? Well, my right eye was SOBBING. Tears were flowing endlessly. And my left eye? Completely dry. Not a thing.

I had bent over, turned around, and grasped my face with both hands when this had happened. After a few seconds, feeling started coming back to my face. It felt like a bunch of pins and needles on my skin. It was similar to the feeling you get when feeling comes back to you arm/leg after it fell asleep.

And I stood up straight, turned around, faced Wilson and yelled, with pure anger in my voice, "THAT. WASN'T. NECESSARY." 

Dead silence. He just stood there with zero emotion on his face. After a few more uncomfortably silent seconds, his shrugged and grumbled, "Sorry."


I turned away from him and looked at my team, and immediately felt awkward all over again. Everyone was standing there all stiff, staring at me, and not moving. Their facial expressions said that they all wondered if I was okay, but also didn't know what to do to help.

My eyes scanned over to Wilson's team. Aside from Wilson, Crabbe, and Goyle, they all had the same expression, too.

Truth is, I wasn't exactly okay. My face hurt, I was embarrassed, I was pissed off at Wilson, my right eye was crying uncontrollably, and I didn't even know what I needed. On the bright side, my nose wasn't bleeding.

I did what I do best when I'm embarrassed; I react a little . . . hostile.

"Well?!" I yelled at my team member who was serving. "Keep playing!"

She looked incredibly uncomfortable and said quietly, "It's their serve, sweetie."

I whipped around and stared at Wilson's team.

"It's okay," one of them said to us. "You guys can serve."

My friend nodded, everyone relaxed a little, and the game continued.

8 years later, I still tell this story. And I still harbor feelings of disgust towards Wilson.

One of the times I was telling this story took place while I was playing volleyball with my church congregation.

I was on the bench with two friends I grew up with. There was a spiker on the team we were playing against, and I laughed and shook my head, remembering this story.

I turned to my friends and said, "Okay, I fear people who spike balls, because in high school, I was in a volleyball class, right? And there was this kid I really didn't like, and we were playing against him, and he spiked the ball, and it hit me right in the face! And my right eye started to cry while my left eye was totally fine!"

They laughed, then it was my turn to play.

Our team was two points away from winning. But, as what has always happened with our team, we began to lose because we felt under pressure. I was determined to win, and I was excited.

We rotated a few times, and I was on the front row on the far right.

Right . . . across . . . from the spiker.

The opposing team was quickly catching up. If we didn't get our act together, we would lose again.

I was squatting slightly, my arms ready to hit the ball whenever it came near me.

And then,



The spiker had spiked the ball, and it hit me right in the eye.

It had happened again.

On the same side of my face.

While I was standing in the exact same place.

"HOLY MOTHER OF A SWEAR WORD!" I yelled. I thought about yelling "that wasn't neccessary," but I didn't hate the kid who spiked the ball into my face, and he was already apologizing profusely. 

I stood up straight.

"I'm so sorry, are you okay? I'm so sorry!" the kid repeated.

"No - I'm not okay. But . . . I . . ."

I looked around. The same stillness that had happened 8 years earlier had returned. Everyone stood there staring at me, making sure I was okay, wanting to help, but also not knowing what to do to help.

Once again, I wasn't okay, but didn't want to make a big deal out of it, and didn't know what I needed anyway.

I was also disappointed that my eye wasn't tearing up.

I made some lame joke that made people laugh and eased the tension slightly . . . and then the awkward silence returned.

"Just . . . someone take my place!" I yelled, and ran away from the awkwardness and into to the bathroom.

I got a paper towel wet with cold water and placed it on my eye to let it soak. It hurt. A few people came in to check on me, and I said I was okay. Cause . . . I was . . . I was also just in pain. But . . . what else was I supposed to do? I didn't want to make a big deal out of it.

My friend came into the bathroom, chuckling slightly.

"Just like high school all over again, right?" she said.

"THE SAME SIDE AND EVERYTHING!" I replied, laughing at the irony.

A few minutes later, I walked out and back to the court. I jumped the next opening (reluctantly. To be honest, my friend was like 'no you got this and I don't want to go - go do it. You got this.') and began to try to play.

I was virtually useless, though, because every time the ball came towards me, I flinched away.

I did manage to score us a goal, though!

. . . oh, and our team lost.

Two days later, my eye and my forehead right above my eyebrow ache, and all I have to show for my battle is a single, small bruise on my eyelid.

I'll take it, I guess.

But never fear; I shall return to the volleyball court. Will I wear protective goggles? Who knows! Will I wear a catchers mask? Who knows! But I will return, and I will do my right eye proud and keep scoring goals, no matter the cost.

Okay, maybe not no matter the cost . . . but . . . you get it.

Have an awkward day, everyone!

(Just because this is my favorite gif)

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