I still think about it.
I think about it when I see shades of blue – that’s the color of a Bellevue Wolverines jersey. One of the equipment managers tosses one in my general direction, which I gingerly catch with my hands. I run across the gold lines that straighten itself up across the shoulders, just to make sure that it was clean and new. Only varsity players wear these jerseys, so even getting one was an official recognition that I made it. I almost tore the damn thing in half trying to wear it so quickly. Just another moment where everything moves really fast and slow so that you can remember every detail but can’t describe. It’s not that big of an achievement. But as a sophomore in high school that wasn’t athletic or strong or worthwhile, when you accomplish something you’d never expect to do in your life, even if it was as small or as inconsequential as this…well, you remember. You always remember. How can you not?
I think about it when I see shades of black. That’s the color of the forty-five pound plates placed along the ends of a barbell. I’m sitting up, eyes closed as my teammates hushed behind me. Truthfully, I was scared – clearing 225 pounds is a big milestone for any football player. I didn’t dare to voice out my concerns to the strength and conditioning coach, especially when he’s already staring at my bench. It’s too late to back out now. On the count of three my spotter and I gently cradle the entire thing onto my chest, and suddenly I’m clenching my arms and legs and chest and eyes so I can move the bar up, and I’m doing my best to ignore the encouragements and obscenities and rap music in the background because it’s so hard to breath, and the black weights hangs up in mid-air, slowly but surely inching towards a full extension, and holy crap, can I actually do this…?
I think it about it when I see white. I’m wearing the brand new white jerseys Nike had recently sponsored us with. We’re playing at Lake Washington High School. I’m looking up at the white field lights with my white gloves pointing towards the sky, celebrating my first quarterback sack as my teammates in white uniforms bear hugs me off the field, the exhilaration that electrified into the air…nothing but white. One of the parents managed to take a picture. I don’t think that smile would ever fade away. How happy must I’ve been to even acknowledge the cheers that erupted from the crowd that night? I still hear them. I see that smile and I see those waves of white.
I think about it when I see brown. I’m trying hard to not look at the coach’s eyes as we’re talking in his office five weeks before my senior season starts. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen this way or maybe it was, but he didn’t seemed angry at all. I said I’m leaving the team. Did he understand? I reckon he did. I’d always imagine a scenario where I’d stop myself just before I’d say those words and keep my childhood dream alive. Instead, silence. And I took everything down with me.
I think about it when I see gray. That’s the color of the road as I’m driving along the highway when it’d hit me that I miss football. It took me the entire afternoon to realize I was not dreaming, not caught in some alternate universe where I took a wrong turn. When the moment finally passed, it only escalated into asking myself questions I thought I knew the answer to. How hypocritical must I have been to denounce a fellow teammate for leaving only to find myself in the same shoes. Denial, I was in denial, loathing myself on my own abundance of selfishness and anger and stupidity.
For the next two hours, I drove on the interstate. I’m not kidding. Two hours on the road, just thinking in silence. Crossed the bridge to Seattle, made my way back across the Puget Sound so I can turn around again. Rinse, lather, repeat. Just a 17-year-old kid looking for an answer. All I found was gray. You can make yourself crazy thinking about it. And you know what? I almost did.
I still think about it.