The first time I mangled my ankle was when I was in fourth grade, attempting to water-ski for the first time and wearing these under-sized planks that were from maybe back when water-skiing was first invented. The rubber on the boot-part was crusty-stiff, so when I caught an edge I didn't pop out like you're supposed to.
This was a high school event and everybody was watching and I already felt like a goober, so the whole popping-bending-mangling-swelling thing made me feel like a pretty serious dork.
The second time I mangled my ankle was in college. I was on this beach by a clear-water mountain river with my then-girlfriend, and I thought I'd be cool and pick her up over my shoulder and chuck her in.
So she's up there giggling and yelling at me to put her down and I'm feeling macho and cool and pretty much the king of the world as I tell her sure, yeah, I'll put you down. But what I don't see is the vein of rocks snaking out into the water from downstream, and my foot goes down sideways between two of those rocks and POP goes the dork-bell as the girlfriend slips awkwardly off my shoulder into knee-high water onto rocks, mad as a wet hen. Meanwhile I'm lying back, soaking in my dorkiness and trying desperately not to cry.
This was followed by a long succession of soccer injuries that were never, ever cool.
The most notable being a few years ago. I was in Columbia, SC visiting my friend Matt, who is actually really good at the game and happens to have a whole bunch of friends who were like soccer-athlete-studs their whole lives and maybe played for maybe the Guyana national team or something. So there I was, desperately outclassed and running myself ragged trying not to get humiliated by the undoubtedly-formerly-professional girl-player who was having so much fun humiliating me when all of the sudden... out in the middle of the field with no one around me... POP.
That thing just BALLOONED. It was incredible. A real Popeye-the-Sailor forearm, right there on my ankle. I was in one of those air-walking-cast things for a month, and I didn't play soccer again for nearly a year.
When I did start playing again, I was super-careful.
The field I usually play on is pretty mangled, so you really do have to be careful and I tended to just go out and play until I started to feel tired. It was sort of my thing. No more writhing on the ground in dorkish agony because I got tired and stopped paying attention to where I was putting my feet for me. No sir. Uh-uh.
"Where you going, Josh?" people would ask.
And I'd say, "Quittin' while I'm still healthy. Don't have insurance so I can't afford to get hurt."
I've been feeling better, though. Back up to full strength.
So two weeks ago my older brother was here and he's a lot more into soccer than I am, and we ended up staying late and playing 'til pretty much after dark.
I didn't feel tired, and I didn't get hurt.
Then came yesterday.
Yesterday was cold and wet. It didn't rain much while we played, but the ground was soggy-wet and everybody was sliding all over. I felt weird, too. My heart was palpitating in this crazy staccato and I felt light-headed for some reason, like maybe I was gonna be one of those people who for some reason have a heart attack even though they're super-young and mostly healthy.
I didn't have a heart attack, though.
Also it's a new year, and as of last Thursday I have health insurance (because Obamacare).
I scored a goal. Then another.
I started to get a bit of a second wind.
The ball came at me from behind and to my right. Hard. I planted my left foot. I saw an opening through to the goal. I was off balance. I was falling. I didn't care. I struck with my right. BOOM! I knew it was good. I knew I...
POP! went the ankle.
I lay on the ground, soaked and muddy all up my left side - a little bit of dirt gritting between my teeth. I clutched at handfuls of grass, my eyes screwed tight as weird, striating light-patterns wavered across the blackness, fireworks popping in my brain and on my corneas.
Somebody leaped over me. Celebrating. I could hear cheers from my team. It was a goal.
I had done it.
I had mangled myself cool.
- - -
post script: sprained, not broken (I think). hanging out today with my leg in the air as my scrumptious womanfriend (who's currently on break from school) makes it all worthwhile with the pampering and the backrubbing and the baking of the fresh bread for me to eat. Life is good.