You ran like the wind that day. Your moment of glory, at the age of seventeen, as you ran passed the goal line to score the winning touchdown. Your young girlfriend runs onto the field, jumps into your arms in a frenzy of victorious excitement.
(more) Thirty years later, you stare at your jersey now hanging in a shadow box. Number 81, staring back at you. It whispers, "You are great." Just as she did when she jumped into your arms, wrapping her legs around your waist.
You pick at the label on the bottle you hold. The memory of that day floods back. You smell the sweat of the other players as they dance around you. You hear her words and feel her hot breath on your neck.
"You are great."
How could that memory be so crisp? It is as if you were still caught in that moment.
You are still caught.
That was it? That was all you had to offer life? A touchdown for a high-school football team? You honor the representative of that moment by hanging it on the wall under glass?
"You are great."
One last swig. It goes down hard and burns in your chest. You are alone in your filthy room.
There are no young legs to wrap around your waist. No hot breath on your neck. Nothing but you, this bottle and that sweat stained jersey.
The jersey mocks you now. The laughter is almost audible.
You hurl the bottle across the room. The glass shatters and the frame hangs crooked on the nail. Now the number 81 folds into the fabric hanging limp its broken frame.
You hang your head, face in hands. "You were great." You whisper.
I didn't really know you at all, and the things that I found out were mostly from your cousin. But I did see you sometimes, coming home from practice, carrying a jersey covered in sweat. I went to a game once; you were good. College potential, I would think,(more) even if I know nothing about it. You wrenched out your shoulder. I try to imagine this happening. Did you cry? Was the pain too much to keep conscious? They took you to the hospital. The doctor told you to always sit on the bench. Going out to the field just meant more pain for you. But I guess sitting on the bench was agony, because the next game I went to, you played. Maybe not to your former glory, but you did it. I often wonder, why couldn't you have just stayed on that bench? I am worried about you. The doctor said no wrestling, either, but I hear from your cousin that you're still on the team. You don't get paid for pain, so why participate?(less)