It hurts to think, let alone write, about this one. The pain I endured, both physical pain and emotional pain, in a few seemingly endless days was more than enough for an entire childhood.
I used to play basketball (though not very well), and as a second-string member of our high school's junior-varsity basket ball team I relished the rare occasion I was put into a game. This usually only happened when we were winning big (rare), losing by a whole hell of a lot (more common) or had several injured players and simply needed more bodies on the floor (the most common). This particular game found me on the court in the latter scenario.
Energetic and uncoordinated and wearing my pristine, never-been-sweat-in uniform, I took to the hardwood doubting my every ability to successfully contribute to our team's well being, what with the intense level of the tied competition. A real nail-biter, in the sense that any match can possibly be when it's just a big collection of below-average to downright-awful players. We were a sporting crime scene of short, white teens who haphazardly threw an orange ball toward a towering basket (we're talking season-high scorers with a whopping 15 points, games where two teams collectively could not break the 30-point mark and MVP candidates pretty much wrapped up by the end of the first practice). So it should come as no surprise that what happened during my 30-second stint in the game rendered me the next injured teen - my primed body, my blossoming spirit - on the (end of our) bench.
After a missed free-throw by the opposing team, I threw myself into the key for the rebound, along with seven other pimply kids. I had clear sight of the ball, and behind it, my own teammate coming toward it with outstretched arms. We both missed it (shocking!), but where I retracted my arms he did not, and I now had clear sight of the tip of his dirty index finger coming right into my eye as if he were ringing a doorbell. Blinking is a reflex that's done pretty quickly, and I didn't even have time to do it before he was fingering my cornea, then my iris, then my pupil, as an optometrist would later theorize.
So off the court and onto the bench for medical attention, where I loathed for my scraggly self and pondered some of life's greatest questions: like if I would be kicked off the team for doing so poorly or if the dozens of girls I had crushes on who were in attendance would ever talk to me in class again (further analysis concluded they were actually not in attendance after all, and were likely out doing something much cooler).
My right eye. It was broken. It/I/eye couldn't see anything, and I had trouble walking and making out faces. Here's the kicker: our family was going on a skiing trip the very next day, and we were to fly out of Detroit into Salt Lake City. For those unfamiliar with the snow sport, it's one that requires functioning eyes to have any shot at being preformed safely and successfully. A visit to the emergency room saw me into the night donning a humongous, makeshift eye patch. They were fresh out of the cool pirate ones, I guess.
I had white gauze running diagonally around my head, and a thick foam pad over my eye (some cotton balls in there, too). Fastening the patch to my face were two pieces of tape, laid across each other in a giant X. My head resembled that of a mummy. And I was expected to get on a plane the next morning? Come on...
I pretended I wasn't keeping track of (19) or wasn't noticing or didn't care all that much about the stares and finger-pointing and giggles and mockery (hand covering right eye, walking like a mummy) I garnered at the airport. Try it sometime. Or don't. Pure humiliation. I couldn't even look at (not able to/didn't want to even if I could) napkins, tissues or toilet paper. We landed in Utah, where a second optometrist rid me of my cursed mummy wrap, trading me it for a pair of those cool ultraviolet (UV) sunglasses that are popular among senior citizens and persons with cataracts. I looked great on the slopes with those boxy beauties.
High school was the best.