Sunday, October 4, 2015
1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Jacobs
Name: Elisa Jacobs
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: A Better Shape
If I closed my eyes, I could still hear it, loud and clear. It was a popping sound, like the crack of a knuckle, or the snap of a rubber band. I would be eating lunch, or brushing my teeth, when all of a sudden: POP. In a way, the sound was worse than the pain that followed. I could deal with the pain, and if it became unbearable, there were pills I could take. But there was nothing I could do to drown out the popping sound that echoed in my head.
When I mentioned this to my psychologist, Dr. Levy, she said that I was still processing the memories related to my so-called traumatic experience.
“What is there even left to process at this point?” I asked as I sank into the taupe couch in her office. Everything in her office was beige except for the magenta orchid on her desk. I couldn't decide if the lack of color was calming or depressing. “We’ve already rehashed what happened, and the story never changes.” The score was tied. I was running down the field with the ball when a player from the opposing team slide tackled me. I heard my ACL pop, and my knee quickly gave out from under me. The next thing I knew, I was lying facedown on the cold, spiky grass. “My body failed me. End of story.”
Dr. Levy studied me as she adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses. “It’s not about changing the story, Hannah, it’s about changing your emotional response to it.”
Even though I had been seeing Dr. Levy for almost a month, I still didn’t understand how talking about my feelings was supposed to help my rehabilitation. Someone hadn’t bullied me, a 140-pound girl had tackled me.
Dr. Levy gazed down at her yellow notepad. “You mentioned that your body failed you. Do you feel like a failure, Hannah?”
I shrugged. It was kind of hard not to feel like a failure. Back in October, a school in San Diego had made me a verbal offer to join its Division I team, which I had readily accepted. A couple schools had shown interest in me, but I had wanted San Diego from the get-go and they had wanted me. It was perfect. Until it wasn’t. A week after I tore my ACL, San Diego reneged on its offer, citing “concern over my recovery.” When I found out, I couldn’t get out of bed for two days.
“You know, Hannah, it’s not uncommon for athletes to become depressed after experiencing a significant injury.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “I am not depressed. Not being able to play soccer has just been...” I paused, struggling to find the right words, “an adjustment.” I started playing soccer when I was five. My mom had initially signed me up for ballet lessons, but when it became clear that I couldn’t stand still long enough to plié, she exchanged my ballet slippers for cleats, and signed me up for youth soccer. After I scored my first goal, I was hooked.
Dr. Levy nodded. “Do you still feel like your friends don’t understand what you’re going through?”
I glanced down at the floor. “I guess,” I muttered. I had met my two best friends playing soccer. Hayley Johnson and I were on the Killer Bees when we were in second grade, and a year later, Emily Garcia and I both played for the Shooting Stars. Granted, the three of us didn’t become best friends until a few years later, but I liked to think that soccer that had brought us together.
In the days following my surgery, Em and Hayley came over daily to play stupid board games and watch bad reality TV with me. But after a while, I started to resent their attempts to buoy me up. I didn’t want to hear Hayley drone on about the “drama” surrounding the school play, and I didn’t want to hear Em’s take on the latest student government scandal. So I began making up excuses when they asked if they could come over. I’d tell them that I was tired, or that I had a doctor’s appointment.
Dr. Levy looked out the window and thought for a moment. “You know, Hannah, I’ve been thinking that you might benefit from group therapy sessions.”
I sat up. “Like with other injured athletes?”
“Well, no, you’d be joining a group of other teens who are struggling with various issues, like depression or anxiety.”
I pictured myself sitting in a circle with the types of kids you see on the covers of those “Troubled Teen” pamphlets. I frowned. “I already told you that I’m not depressed, and now you want me to hang out with a bunch of cutters, drug addicts, and anorexics?”
She pursed her lips together and let out a sigh. “You’d be surprised, Hannah. Group therapy can be very helpful for people who feel isolated. It can be hard when you feel like your friends and family don’t fully understand what you’re struggling with.”
I gazed down at the robotic, hinged knee brace that hugged my leg. I already had my own sob story to contend with, I didn’t need to hear a bunch of strangers tell theirs. One was more than enough. “Thanks,” I said, “but I think I’ll pass.”
That night at dinner, my mom asked me if I wanted ice cream for dessert. Whenever my mom suggested that we eat ice cream, it was a sign that she wanted to “talk.” I first noticed this when my parents split up. When my mom told me that she and my dad were going to couples therapy, she took out a pint of mint chocolate chip. When my parents told me that they had decided to separate, there was a half-gallon container of cherry vanilla on the table. And when they announced that they were getting a divorce, I was halfway through a bowl of butter pecan.
I guess my mom thought that ice cream would soften the blow or something. At this point, I was surprised I could still eat the stuff.
As my mom took a carton of Rocky Road out of the freezer, I wondered what it would be this time. Hopefully she wasn’t planning on telling me that she’d “met someone.” My mom hadn’t dated since my parents’ divorce, and I was more than okay with it.
She took two bowls out of the cabinet and placed them on the kitchen table. “So, how are you doing?”'
I shrugged my shoulders. “I’m fine.”'
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” my mom asked as she passed me a bowl of ice cream and a spoon. Rocky Road had been my favorite when I was a kid, and I hadn’t had the heart to tell her that I now preferred coffee almond fudge.
I looked down at our kitchen table and traced the familiar knots and grains of the wood with my finger. “No, not really.”
My mom knit her eyebrows. “Are you sure? Because you’ve been through a lot recently, and talking about it can help.”
I picked up my spoon and poked the marshmallows that dotted my ice cream and sighed. I was tired of talking. I looked up at my mom. “I talk all the time. I talk with Dr. Levy. I talk to Hayley and Em. I talk to you.”