I was always the last kid chosen for teams.
I know, everybody thinks they were the last one… the kid who was left out, the kid who was different. But I really WAS the last kid, just standing there, wondering will someone pick me? Which team? Will I be last this time, or just second to last?
It didn’t help that our PE teacher actually once said those horrible, debilitating words: “Don’t throw like a girl.”
She was a mom of one of the boys in our class.
I wasn’t terrible at every sport. I was a fast runner. Really fast. I was often first in the Presidential Fitness tests. My dad was a runner, and that was one of our “things.” He was a Captain in the Marines, and was into Orienteering, too, so I even knew how to run through the woods navigating with a compass and map.
After he died, I started to get hives whenever I ran, whenever I was outside, whenever I was in a pool. Eventually, whenever I took a bath.
The hives got me out of PE.
I never went Orienteering again.
I remembered that last time he took me. I must have been ten. We went to a meet, and for the first time, he had me go into the woods by myself. We had done a practice run together, but then he set me loose.
I was so nervous. I’m sure I did fine–neither first nor last. But I was really disappointed in my performance. I was ashamed. I remember that sticky feeling in my mouth. I’d never experienced it before–must have been dehydration. I felt a little confused once I got into the woods, away from all the adults, away from my dad. How could I do this alone?
Somehow, I made it out. My time wasn’t too bad, looking back. But I was one of those kids for whom failure was anything less than perfect. I felt like I failed him.
Later, at home, he reassured me it was okay, it was my first time, I just wasn’t ready yet and we would practice. He was so comforting. He made me feel better.
We never had a chance to go Orienteering again; he died a few months later in a freak military accident.
I broke into hives whenever we went to the base.
For years, I looked back on that last run in the woods and thought about how I failed him. I thought about how many things we would never get to do together. I wondered if he was somewhere watching me, evaluating me, appreciating me.
I was different, alone, not like the other kids.