[big][b][i]The Happiest/Saddest Night of my Life: Part 2[/i][/b][/big]
[i]This is Part 2. I recommend you read the previous part, if you haven't, on my profile. It's featured.[/i]
[b][i][u]End of the Year - Freshman Year[/u][/i][/b] [b][i]Basketball[/i][/b] Another thing people would do during lunch is play sports at the gym or around grassy fields in our school. Unlike most high schools around our area, it wasn't just one big building. It was more like a miniature university, a collection of buildings and grassy plains.
I never really ate lunch. The lunch lines would be packed, students would be sitting and eating at every table throughout the school... it was just far too loud. And it'd make me uncomfortable. I usually took walks around the more quieter areas of the school for 40 minutes. It was the only way to pass the time. But after the game of Ultimate Ball, I was determined to better myself. Not just for to be noticed by other students, but to be noticed by Cassidy. So one day, during lunch, I headed to the school gym to play basket ball.
There were a couple groups playing at the gym. One of those groups had my Physical Education coach. He was a real friendly guy, so I asked him if I could play. He was fine with it but I was on the opposing team. It was a 3 vs 3 game. All players were athletic juniors and seniors, plus the school coach. I was the odd one out. The game didn't go too well, from the get-go.
[b][i]The Wall and The Door[/i][/b] I knew the rules of the game, but I wasn't too confident in my skills. But I didn't expect to do well, I only wanted to improve. When a teammate passed me the ball, I felt oddly uncomfortable. An opposing player was already in front of me. And he was a tall one. Should I pass immediately? Do I try to get around him? Where do I go? Should I fake a shot? So I made the simplest choice: I only passed. I didn't know what else to do, but pass the moment I'd get the ball. We weren't scoring many points. The opposing team was.
There was one moment where the tallest player completely screened me. I wasn't paying attention, but I ran right into him, crashed, and fell to the floor. He didn't even budge an inch. He was a black 6'4" - 6'5" (193 - 195.5 centimeters), muscular player. I never got his name, so for the purpose of this story, I'll name him after what he felt like at that instance: The Wall. I looked up at him, from the ground, and I remember him turning back towards the action, nonchalantly. I immediately felt the difference in our abilities.
One of my teammates ran up to me and lent me his hand to help me back up. I really respected him for doing that. He helped me up, asking "You good?" "Yeah, thanks". As the game went on, a player on the opposing team went to take the shot. I was exhausted. I was in front of him, but couldn't bring myself to jump and try to block it. I wanted to jump, but my body didn't. He made the shot. The other teammate of mine, asked "Why didn't you block the ball?" I was out of breath. I didn't want to tell him that I didn't jump simply because I was tired... that would sound absolutely terrible. I told him the only thing that came to mind: "I can't jump".
He was not happy. "You can't jump?" he questioned. My teammate that had helped me off the ground earlier, stepped in saying, "It's cool, man. Let's keep it going." I wanted to stop. I was tired and ashamed. The angry teammate walked back to position, but I heard him say under his breath, "The dude can't f**king jump..." Another player asked if he could play, but it would make the game uneven. He was also a senior. I took that moment to exit the game. "I'm pretty tired, thanks for having me. He can take my spot." My coach came up to me and said, "Alright man, thanks for playing" and slapped me on the back.
What hurt me wasn't the lack of experience I had for playing sports... but the anger I caused my teammate. I thought a sport was supposed to be fun, but that experience made it really uncomfortable. I never wanted to anger anyone. And I felt I was just holding everyone else back from a fun time. Like I was ruining their game. So I went out the door, not wanting to ever return.
[b][i]P.E. Finals[/i][/b] For our P.E. Final, each student had to excel in a number of exercises. The score would be based on your performance on the P.E. Midterm. All you had to do was beat or tie your score from the Midterm exercises to pass the Final with an A. In other words, you were competing with your past self. But the only exercise important for this story, was the Mile Run. The fire station we would all work out at was in the center of a circular road, that would also branch off into the exit of the fire station. That circular road was about 1,320ft long (1/4 of a mile). And so, we had to run 4 laps around it. We did this every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on the 2nd half of the semester. And this would be our last time doing it.
We all stood at the start line, in rows of 5. Coach would blow the whistle and the first row of students would started running. Then the next row of students would move forward to the start line. After about 10 seconds, Coach would blow the whistle again and the next row would start running. By the end of each student's 4 laps, he would record each their progress on a table he created for himself, detailing each student's past record. Despite my lack of regular exercise, I've always been a fast runner. My stamina, however, wasn't anything to brag about.
I think I was in the second row of students, at the time. The first row had already started and my row walked up to the starting line. Coach blew the whistle and we ran off. It was around the middle of my 2nd lap that I was beginning to drastically slow down and not feel too optimistic about my performance. I was feeling more exhausted than usual, at around this time. Could it have been due to nervousness? I slowed down to a jog and quickly realized that I wouldn't beat my previous score like this. I needed to go faster.
[b][i]One Last Time[/i][/b] [i]Faster. Much faster.[/i]
I convinced myself that this was the last bit of exercise I would get this year. It was a happy thought, not a sad one. I hated exercise. But if this was the last bit I'd get, I may as well put everything I had into it.
[i]Keep running. Even if it hurts. This will be the last time. Just one last time. Leave your absolute best here, where it matters.[/i]
I started running faster. My legs were killing me, but I couldn't bring myself to a light jog. I had to keep running. But I still had a little over 2,640 ft. to cover.
I was thinking back at the game of Ultimate Ball and Basketball. I never amounted to much in sports. Neither went well. But this exercise would only be scored based on my capabilities. If I wanted to prove to myself that I could, in fact, improve... then this was the moment to do so. Hell, it was the whole point of the Final, to begin with. I didn't have to go against the athletes in my class. I didn't have to go against The Wall in basketball. I only had to go against myself. I should, at the very least, be able to do this much. My legs were absolutely burning and I was completely out of breath. I couldn't keep up my speed, so I naturally started to slow down.
[i]Don't jog. Keep running. Keep moving.[/i]
[b][i]Hope[/i][/b] I was near the end of the 2nd lap when I started thinking about Cassidy. She was the stereotypical perfect girl: Beautiful, intelligent, and always made me laugh. I felt she was leagues above me. And to be honest, I never really thought she saw me as boyfriend material. I knew I was fighting an uphill battle. Girls like her would date the top guy, probably a jock. Why wouldn't she? Someone handsome, intelligent, and who had her weird sense of humor. I wasn't that. I was average and lazy in school. All I had was her humor. It was probably the only reason we got along well. I accepted this as a fact. If she deserved the best, then I had to [b]BE[/b] the best. If I wasn't my best, then I [b]DIDN'T[/b] deserve her. And although I didn't have much confidence in myself, I never believed I couldn't change. I pushed forward with everything I had.
[i]Faster... Faster... Run much faster.[/i]
I reached around halfway into the 3rd lap, when the most incredible thing happened, something that I would speak to the coach about after the test. My legs stopped hurting. I started to catch my breath... And all of this was happening as I was running at maximum speed. As of that moment, I felt like I had infinite stamina. My heart was pumping quick, but it stayed consistent. The pain in my chest had disappeared. No exhaustion, no pain, max speed. I started to wonder if I somehow became numb to the pain, but that wouldn't explain why I was able to catch my breath, so well. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I noticed one thing: This was setting up for a comeback grade.
I kept running as fast as I could, without slowing down for even an instant. I blazed through the the end of the 3rd lap and the final lap. But upon reaching my coach, at the finish line, I didn't slow down, but yelled, "I'm gonna keep going!" He marked my time and I kept on. I felt optimistic about my score. And I felt in complete control of my body.
[b][i]Fight or Flight[/i][/b] I wanted to explore this feeling. An entire lap at maximum speed, going on to the next, and I still didn't feel the slightest bit like slowing down. Not tired, in the slightest. It was addicting. How far could I go? When would I start feeling a limit? When would I feel muscular fatigue? It wasn't approaching... I wanted to know the trigger that got me this way. I wanted to tap into it.
Right as I was closing in on the end of that lap, I convinced myself to stop at the finish line. Even if I was feeling perfectly fine, anyone running as fast as they could for so long would probably feel the effects. Maybe it was dangerous to keep going without rest. As I began to slow down, I had almost tripped over myself.
My legs were shaking uncontrollably, as if they thought they were still running. I was trying to balance myself just standing. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't freaking out. I slowly moved towards a patch of grass and collapsed onto the floor, turning my back to the grass. I laid out my legs. They were still trembling like mad. But after some time, they weren't shaking as much. I can't remember what everyone else was doing. My mind was completely occupied with what just occurred. I slowly stood up and walked over to my coach. "Hey, coach... How did I do on that run?"
He looked so excited, I thought he was getting an A, rather than me. "You shaved off an entire minute and a half! That's absolutely insane!" I had beaten my record by over 90 seconds! Even though I started my run much worse than all of my previous runs, this one still came out on top, at the very end, by a landslide! I told him, "Right as I was reaching the last lap, I didn't feel tired or any pain. Do you know what that could have been?"
Now... my coach liked to talk using advanced anatomical terms, so I'll just tell you the gist of what I understood. He believed I experienced a "fight or flight" response. I believe most readers have heard of this. It's the moment our mind realizes we are under a lot of stress and prepares our body to deal with the problem. Adrenaline is released and can have a number of effects such as the expansion of the air passages to your lungs, can cause the brain to not receive "pain signals", etc. But such greater effects mostly occur in emergency situations. So apparently, I got unusually and SIGNIFICANTLY desperate for an A in the final. Or maybe for Cassidy. Or for myself. Maybe all 3.
I was happy. But my legs were still shaking, but not as bad as before. All of this meant something. It meant there was still hope for me. Even if the only reason I passed was because of a physiological defense mechanism, I still did it. I was determined to reach Cassidy. And for once, I started feeling confident in myself.
[b][i]Summer with Cassidy: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not[/i][/b] The school year had ended and Cassidy and I spoke almost everyday with each other, on FaceBook. She was a fast message-er. We spoke about everything. Our life at home, people we thought were cool in school, those we disliked, why we felt the way we did about them, etc. We'd be the annoying people who put happy faces, frowning faces, laughing faces, ALL CAPS, random letters (ashiohasgiohspoighspo, <- that was mostly her) and exclamation marks after every sentence. But I loved it. I'd go along with it all. And every morning I'd wake up with only one thing in mind. Cassidy.
Cassidy was a dancer. She loved it and I loved hearing her talk about it. At times, she would share with me her favorite dance videos from So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Got Talent videos, etc. I watched them all. I didn't see it as just some random video on YouTube. I saw it as a part of Cassidy. Each video was just a minor reflection of who she was and what she liked and I just wanted to take it all in. I loved dance because I loved her.
There wasn't a doubt in my mind that she appreciated me as a friend. But I didn't think she saw me as boyfriend material. That was until... some miscommunication. I'm sure most people reading this has heard a friend, or even themselves, tell someone "I love you" because of a kind or funny gesture.
Example: [c=#BF0000]Person A: "I took your work shift so you can go to that concert you wanted to go see" Person B: "Oh my god, thank you! I love you!"[/c]
It doesn't really mean that that person loves you. But when Cassidy told me that, I hadn't known. I never had friends that spoke to me in that way. She was the first one. My definition of "I love you" was just that: I love you. My heart jumped when I heard her say those words to me. I wasn't entirely sure how I should interpret it. Was she playing around? Or did she mean it? I couldn't help but let the desperate part of me question that.
[b][i]Summer with Cassidy: Undeserving[/i][/b] There was a night where I felt down. I can't remember exactly what it was about, but I was speaking to Cassidy about it. She consoled me. And when I felt a bit better, she started cracking weird jokes to help me feel better. There was a time where we ran into a silent awkward moment in a conversation, online, and she randomly sent me this:
I couldn't help but crack up at the randomness of it. It completely raised my spirits. I laughed so much harder than I was supposed to. It was getting late and we were about ready to go to sleep. I wanted to get something off my chest. "Y'know", I started, "you always say you don't deserve a friend like me, but you make me feel better, too."
"Yeah, but you still help me way more than I help you. I still don't know what I did to deserve you." There it was again. That response. I didn't know what to say to it. She'd used it well over 10 times by then. And she would be using it a lot more regularly when things take a turn for the worst, starting Sophomore Year.