’72 Skylark, 13

“Oh?” she says.

It must be past midnight, but as long as I’m starting, I’ll finish.

“It was an MCL sprain,” I say. “A minor one. Recovery should have been six weeks, give or take, and it happened in September, so I should have been able to play again that year.” Suddenly my bones ache for another beer, to have the foam collapse against my tongue. “Just some light rehab, they said, and wear your brace. You know what I did? Nothing. I sat around and drank in my dad’s house until he hated me. Dropped out of school by Halloween. Never answered my phone. Saw myself in local news stories, the reporters asking where I’d gone.”

“Why?” Miriam asks. “Hadn’t you been injured before?”

I shook my head. “Not like that. I hadn’t realized I could be hurt like that.” I wish I had another drink. I was a stupid, coddled child. “My parents never kicked me out into the world; they let me choose to hide.” And I suffered for it, and so did they. “Once I took that hit and felt that pain, all I could think was, I never want to hurt like that again. No determination in me except avoidance. I was a coward then, and I stayed coward. I threw everything away.”

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