1 - Soccer
Flash back - Six years ago
POV – 10-year-old Simon
It’s Friday 5PM, and right on cue, the workers pack up, eager to go home and start their weekend. I can hear them chatter about the game this weekend. Just a few more weeks and the construction of the new soccer field behind our home will be finished.
The now desolate field looks majestic and it’s all to alluring, for me and my best friend Tyler not to take full advantage of it. We like nothing better than to play out the best goals and passes of our favorite players ‘Clint Dempsey’ and ‘Tim Howard’. Dressed up in the right outfits we sneak into the construction site to get to the field. It’s just after the strip of pine trees behind our houses. Tyler, my neighbor, he’s a year older than me and I’m all to happy that he’s into soccer too. We bonded over it a few years back when my family and I came to live here. We’ve been best friends ever since.
“Simon, come on hurry up, let’s get some moves practiced before it gets to dark.” Tyler encourages me to speed up. “You wait and see one of these days I’m going to run faster than you” I shoot back a bit annoyed at being the younger one and thus the lesser player of us two.
“You wish” Tyler laughs. “Yes, but I do pity you fool to mock me, I do, I do, cause my wishes always come true.” I smile smugly proud of my try at an incantation. “Just as the field will be finished soon, and we will train here with the team.” I continue dreamy.
“Yeah, that’s going to be awesome!” Tyler agrees. “Well, the latter at least.” Tyler says and dribbles the ball around me, keeping it just out of me reach. “It would take a miracle for you to get faster and better than me.” He adds high-hearted.
I ignore his teasing. I just need to bide me time, he’ll just have to wait and see. We continue showing off for a while. Until I remember my coach telling me to practice. “Tyler, could we do some long passes I could use the practice?” He nods and points to instruct me where to go.
My aim sucks, but Tyler isn’t doing too well either. I can’t help but smirk at his futile attempts to get out a perfect pass. Me gloating, it clearly bugs him, seeing how his skills aren’t superseding mine. He lets his frustration get the best of him, kicking harder, only to be even more of target. I run after his ‘homerun’ shot, I’m looking at the ball not my feet and I trip.
“Aaaaaw!” My ominous cry makes Tyler rush over to me. I don’t get up but roll over clenching my knee with both my hands. To my horror, tears start running down my cheeks and I hear myself still whaling. “Aaawee! ... Tyler, it hurts!”
“Stop, whining you little baby!” He yells back laughing at my childish display.
When he reaches me, he looks towards my clenched knee, and I see his smile fading. “What the ... hell?” I hold back on the ‘fuck’ remembering, my mom started making me pay when she catches me using profanity, …like real money. I might as well practice. Wait hell is also a four-letter word, is that profanity too? How am I supposed to know, I’m only ten? I hear those words used a hundred times each day, we are foul-mouthed family. Okay, I’m ranting, I think I’m panicking. Probably seeing Tyler turn ghostly pale has something to do with it.
“Tyler, what’s wrong, I know I’m bleeding, I feel the blood spilling through my fingers, but it can’t be that bad, ...right?” I ask my squeaky voice laced with fear. I see Tyler shaking and taking deep breaths.
“Sorry.” He huffs, apologizing with a shaky voice and still very pale features. “It’s going to be okay; it doesn’t look all that bad.”
“You’re kidding right” I yell, my anger and fear are fighting for the upper hand. “You look like my leg is going to fall off or something. What’s wrong!” I demand, not sur if I even want to know.
“Nothing, I swear, it’s not that bad.” I just look at him wide eyed, lifting my eyebrows. As to say ‘seriously’. He sighs, drops his eyes to the ground and whispers shamefully “I don’t do too well when there is blood involved.”
Then he quickly switched topics “What happened?” He asks to distract me, … and him. Not sure if he wanted to divert our attention away from my wound or his confession.
“I tripped over something hard...” I’m mortified as I hear my sobbing voice, I hadn’t realized tears were running down my cheeks.
“It’s gonna be okay, you fell on a metal profile sticking out the ground, I think this is where the goal will be.” Tyler tries to calm me, but I see the worry in his eyes. I feel embarrassed, I must look pitiful, my cheeks red and tear stricken. Tyler looks at me tenderly, caresses my cheek and wipes away my tears. The gesture seems to surprise him as much as it does me.
He clears his throat and says soft and caring voice. “Here just lay back and let me see.” He turns to investigate my wound, peeling my hands gently away from my knee. After a few moments he nods “Indeed the ‘X’ shape of the profile brook through your skin on your knee, rather deep, hence the profuse bleeding.” Who does he think he is right now? He sounds just like a doctor. Dr. Tyler Hill does have a nice ring to it.
He pauses, taking deep breaths again. “Are you squeamish again? Is the sight of my wound so horrid?” I ask mocking him. I couldn’t help snickering, earning myself a probably well-deserved glare. I was imagining Dr. Tyler fainting at the sight of blood.
“We will need to get you to your house and clean this up.” He states, nodding as if he’s convincing himself that’s the right approach.“Can you stand?”
I try to stand -bad idea apparently- as I immediately wince in pain.
“Shit! No stop! Putting weight on your leg increases the bleeding.” Tyler frowns and I can almost see his brain shifting through the different options. “Wrap your arms around my neck, I’ll carry you.” He finally says, surprising us both ... again.
“What like a girl? No way!” I shout out. “You can’t stand up, so you can’t jump on my back, so how the hell else do you suppose I carry you?” He looks at me both eyebrows lifted, challenging me to find a better solution. Which I can’t.
“Fine but we are not telling anybody about this, EVER!”
“You’re sure you’re up for this?” I ask because he’s still pale and looks like he’s about to keel over. He doesn’t answer. He seems fragile and ghostly, still his strong arms lift me up, like it’s nothing out of the ordinary, to carry me. I’m completely in awe of his strength. I must have a girly ‘My Hero’ expression plastered on my face, because he looks down at me quizzically. I don’t react and try to be cool about it.
I rest my head on his chest, making myself as compact as possible, so we get through the woods easy enough. I hear his strong, racing heartbeat. It sounds louder and much more powerful than Mom’s or Dad’s, so I’m thinking he must be superhuman or the less appealing version an alien. The odd thing being, none of that sounds nor feels strange. After all Tyler doesn’t have any trouble carrying me back to my house.It would be embarrassing, mortifying even if he drops me.
His hard torso feels warm and comforting. Odd, I hate it when Mom or Dad still tries to pick me up, so why does this feel so comfortable? Tyler puts me down on the sofa, a cold sofa, it makes me scrunch my face. “Did I hurt you?” The worry is eminent in his tone and on his face.
“No.” I feel blood rushing to my cheeks in embarrassment.
“Oh good, color is coming back to your face, you had me worried for a minute. Now, where can I find a towel, a cleaning cloth and the first aid kid?”
I was blushing Dr. Moron. I instantly hear my mom’s voice in my head ‘their it is already that obnoxious teen behavior’. The thought infuriates me enough to be a pain in the ass, I scowl and hear myself grumble “Why do you need all that stuff? I’m fine.”
Tyler picks up on my attitude and looks pissed at me, probably annoyed I’m throwing a fit right now. “No, you’re not! Our parents are at a townhall meeting, and your sister Jewels, the pestering brad, well, now she’s nowhere to be seen. So, you’re shit out of luck! You’ll need to rely on me to stop the bleeding.” He was sweaty, short of breath and shaking.
“Fine, you don’t need to get all worked up about it.” I say apologetically not understanding why he reacted so harsh. “Upstairs, bathroom, you’ll find a towel and a cleaning cloth, the first aid is in the second cabinet on the left, top shelve.” I rant giving him meticulous instructions. My eyes still wide in surprise at his threatening voice … like he would leave me to bleed to death or something.
He sighs “Sorry, I’m nervous. Remember I’m not a big fan of blood. I was already woozy from inspecting your wound at the field. If I faint in front of you or worse you laugh, I swear I’m going to kick your ass so hard you’re going to wish you died out there on the field. Got it!” I can tell he’s only half joking, as he goes upstairs to get all the stuff.
When he comes down the stairs I hear “Okay first things first!” his voice is shaky, trembling. So, I’m sure he is talking more to himself than to me. “I’ll take off your shoes and socks, the ones on your right side are covered in blood. Your shorts will need to go as well, they’re way to big and reaching down to your knees so their bloody as well.” His hands are unsteady at first and his eyes are cast down like he’s afraid to look at me.
It felt odd to have another boy undress me, weird, not uncomfortable, or unpleasant. There I was, naked feet, naked shins, naked thighs... and in my batman boxers. I flush red immediately. Tyler was staring, what was he doing ... why is he staring, is it my batman boxers or is it the blood that makes him uneasy?
“I’ll wash off the blood now” he says for no reason at all. Maybe to calm himself... Oh thank God it’s the blood, not my ridiculous childish boxers making him rethink our friendship. What if he’s a superman fan? Shit like that could be really bad for our friendship.
“You don’t look to good, you’re alright?” Tyler asks me.
I nod and a “Ehum” is all I can master, not to blurt out some ridiculous comment on my batman boxers. Tyler looks at me from the corner of his eye lifting an eyebrow, letting me know he doesn’t believe me at all.
He’s very gentle as he cleans my leg, slowly and carefully. Him cleaning my leg and touching me so intimately, oddly it doesn’t feel weird at all, but rather nice. I know there is something, it seems important, about what I’m feeling, I just don’t understand what. When my leg is clean and dry, Tyler looks at me and says with a crunched-up noose and squinting eyes, like he’s in pain “Be brave alright I need to disinfect the wound, it might hurt.”
I look at him with an attitude “Like I don’t know what is coming, I had wounds before you know. It I’ll be fine.” Tyler just shakes his head and sprays on the disinfectant, and I instantly loose it “Aaaaw, Fuck! You fucking... mother fucker, son of a bitch!”
Tyler pales and looks baffled. “Sorry.” He lets out with a nervous sigh and blows gently on my wound.
“No, I’m Sorry” that’s it for me practicing ‘not’ to say any curse words. It still hurts like hell and my breathing is unsteady “I heard my father say that when he hurt himself cleaning the outside grill” I say almost panting from the exhaustion of speaking through the pain.
Tyler starts laughing, “Wow, I wouldn’t have expected that kind of language from your dad, he always seems so serene.” Now I have to laugh as well. There’s absolutely nothing serene about my dad. He’s a first-class soccer coach. His job is literally yelling at people all day long. Tyler knows that, so he said it on purpose to distract me from the pain.“Good that you’re laughing cause here come the strips, we’ll count then down together okay” Tyler squeezes the first bar of the X cut together.
I yell out “Aaahg” and he laughs a devilish smile at me and puts the strip in place.
“One”... another one, and another and ...each time an “Aaahg” escapes from my lips ...
“Four! There done. This will hold for now. It seems to have stopped the bleeding as well. I’ll call our parents. You’ll need to go to a doctor, I pretty sure you’ll need real stitches.” Tyler caresses my cheek and his face lights up, he’s beaming, clearly proud of his newly acquired first aid skills. Dr. Tyler Hill it is.
I grab his hand “Thank you.” looking directly into his eyes, not really understanding why he’s being so caring towards me. He really went out of his way, he could just have called my parents. Tyler swallows hard, it doesn’t relief the lump in his throat, he still seems at a loss of words. Why? Is he surprised of what he did for me? He just nods, releases my hand, and looks down at the floor. “What’s wrong, why are you being so weird?”
“What? Weird, I’m not weird. Nothing’s wrong, everything’s normal.” Tyler, rushes out the words. Who’s he trying to convince me or him?
Thinking back this might be the budding moment. The day our friendship started having awkward moments. The day sleepovers became less and less common.
I didn’t know yet, but was it obvious to him? Was this the first time I scared him? Did his belief that something’s wrong with me grow from such a sweet and gentle moment?
Is he really beyond salvation?