Belly of the Beast
I want, I really really want, to play little league football, to the amusement of my parents. "You want to what?" They ask, with little smiles. They're not anti-football; they just know me, and know too damn well that I haven't the faintest desire to engage in that silly bullshit, and am only feeling pressured by my friends to do what is, after all, normal...And even questioning that fact brings you into question.
So back to Dr. Chuck, and my balls. He is, of course, about to ask me to turn my head and cough. Searching for the elusive hernia. However, in the middle of doing his completely normal duty, he pauses, and really gives my equipment the twice-over.
"What, is that swelling?" Dr. Chuck says. Everybody, it seems, is briefly considering my sack. I have no idea what to say, having really only seen my own and having no idea how they should or should not appear.
"No, no...You just have abnormally large testicles..." he said, shaking his head with a little bit of relief, and I swear that the middle aged men in the room gave each other a bit of an approving head-nod at this: kid's got big balls.
This did not translate on the playing field, so much. Mind you, I wasn't half the wuss that Dr. Chuck's kid was. I had-well, that kid didn't know anything. Yes, he was the one who taught me the word 'vagina', but someone would have, eventually...In fact, he kept spelling it, over and over again, until I finally convinced him that I still had no idea what he was talking about, and would he please stop spelling this alien word that seemed so dirty to him, as we were completely alone, and what word in the English language could possibly be spelled B-A-J-Y-N-A, anyway? Weren't there rules?
Not long before this, he and I had been chatting. He and I had always been intellectually arrayed against each other in this sick competition by our parents. Army buddy to army buddy: my kid's smarter than yours'. This led to uncomfortable conversations like the one we had that day. He was saying exactly the following words to me: "I'm a genius!"
With my limited vocabulary and socialization skills, I was unable to explain to him exactly why I thought that it was a disastrously bad idea to say shit like that in public. I believe I made the main point that it would give the other kids the no doubt mistaken impression that he was conceited, or something. I also knew that this wasn't his overactive ego talking: his fucking parents had told him this. On that day I felt sorry for him.
As I say, I quickly came to find the smell of knee pads and polyester (developed by a coach of the Florida Gators, I needn't remind you) sweat to be the smell of desperation, and was no good at this enterprise. "Look at those shoulders!" my coach would scream. "You should be a hell of a lineman!" He wasn't expressing hope, but displeasure. I was not a hell of a lineman, and everybody knew it. Despite my broad shoulders, I was still proportioned like an attractive teenaged girl, and frankly should not have been playing (that's right) tight end at all. (On defense, I was 'defensive end', natch.) But, the kid had big balls, and...
One particularly freezing-the-fuck-cold eastern Oregon day in November, I was standing out there, and the big, fat LSU grad football dad who harrassed the coaches incessantly screamed the word "BLOOD!", and ran over to me. It seemed that my arm was bleeding from a wound that I didn't remember receiving, as my extremities were numb. It was remarked upon at length that I hadn't complained about this, and I saw again that head-nodding thing that middle-aged men do, when congratulating young men on things that are not their doing. I was confused.
"Just like to see that you're coagulatin'," one of them said, another word I wasn't familiar with. It was clear I'd made their simple asses proud, though, and rode it out. The fatass football dad, of course, made it clear to his son that if he was half the team player that I was, he'd...Etcetera.
In fact, the constant pressure of the football dads was a source of early anthropological wonder to me. The fat one kept on using these really uncomfortably homoerotic euphemisms that even then, I wondered about. "Eat their lunch", and "Smell their shorts" were bandied about as positive metaphors for victory. Even worse was the wiry, fidgety little guy who was the sire of Derek, the worst player on the team. He would (entirely unbidden to do so by the actual coaching staff) gather all us boys in a huddle, give us a weird, directionless pep talk, then turn it entirely personal; directed right at Derek. Right in the middle of telling us all exactly what he'd learned about the mystical strategics of football, he'd turn and say, "And Derek, you know that I know your mom's gonna be up there in the stands watchin', and if you let her down,you'll..." Break her heart, and become a homosexual, yes, yes we know.
When the time came for actual games, I knew that my ruse was soon to be found out. In the first game, against the team that most of my friends were on-the ringers, in fact: the son of the high-school football coach amongst them-I was quickly intimitdated by their superior resources of training and indeed, lineup.
However, on that team also, as some sort of sympathy gesture, was my friend Brett. He stood less than four feet tall, by my estimation, but was obsessed with sports and was the next-door neighbor of said football coach's son. In the middle of getting murdered that evening, I saw opportunity come skittering out of the crowd.
Everybody else is looking for someone much larger to be carrying the ball, but they were wise, the other guys, and had given the ball to the tiniest person on the field, sure to be undetected. Now, here is my friend, my little tiny friend, wearing a helmet and mesh jersey, streaking away from a tangle of pointlessly clashing fools, and only I see him. I see my chance, though I am afraid of hurting him.
I run over to him, and pick him up, cradling him gently, as I spin us both around, landing with a great deal more trauma to me than to him. For a moment, I'm a hero.
We spend the rest of the game getting our asses handed to us, of course, but me, ever the politician, I keep on saying to Coach Utter, "Didja see me? Yup! I got 'im! Just went over there and picked 'im up and..." Coach wasn't paying attention to me at this point. He was psychopathic with rage, watching us lose. The only game 'we' ever won, of course, was the one I couldn't make it to. Imagine my shame.
The second Dr. Chuck was a school psychologist. He had been referred to my case by the school district, as I was one of the few success stories of that district, and they didn't want me to morph into some little Hitler. Well, more like I was already pretty damn good at teaching myself things, and they wanted to take all the credit for it, and were busily calling me a genius, something my parents never would do, though they too exaggerated the scope of my abilities.
Dr. Chuck, though a nice man, is entirely transparent. He asks me (he thinks) these seemingly harmless questions like, "If you had some money, and had the choice of giving it to a charitable organization or a street beggar, who would you give it to?"
I would say, "The charitable organization."
He would then ask, "Why, Richie?"
Then I would say exactly what he wanted me to say, about how at least with a charitable org., I could be assured no doubt that my money would go to something worthwhile, and helpful. I didn't say, 'Because that is so clearly what you want me to say, and these questions are tiresome, and I just want that piece of candy you will give me, if I answer correctly.' Then he'd give me a piece of candy.
Good thing we don't have to lie to each other any more, no? Now that we're grown-ups and hold our destinies, gently, in the palms of our hands, yes? Yes, of course.
Labels: my personals