I stand at the track, waiting to be handed my hip number. I’m surrounded by faster, skinner girls in my age division. My heart races, thoughts of inadequacy dart through my mind. She knows I’m slow. She’s not giving me a number in hopes I won’t waste everyone’s time showing up at the start line. Just give up.
I recognize the lies.
I see the middle school basketball team sitting on the bleachers – awaiting their coach’s recognition. One by one, he calls their name into the microphone, celebrating them in front of the school.
First the starting 5.
Then the second string.
Finally the beach warmers – its almost my time.
I remain seated as he moves on to the stats keeper and team manager.
He finishes up the assembly.
I sit alone.
The one not called.
The one not chosen.
Yet somehow fearful that everyone has notice.
That no one will forget.
That moment – in being overlooked, I felt the gaze of the school upon me.
What I don’t see, what I don’t hear, is my mother’s conversation afterward. The words of anger flowing freely from her lips. The love she feels for me overcoming any shyness in her body. She must protect me, stand up for me.
Long after the shine of the trophies fade, the uniforms are discarded, and the team is disbanded, it is that moment – my mother’s love, devotion, and protection of me – calling me to stand.