Pale bare legs stretch off into the distance, painted white toes touching the multicolored sky. Kaliedescoped images explode before her eyes as she tilts her heavy head this way and that. One direction and then all the others show grass rippling out like an ocean of green strands, only bound by the border of orange rubber that appears to move up and down like a writhing worm.
A giggle warms the otherwise frigid air around her mouth, but it quickly fades, swallowed by the abyss of empty space surrounding her. It presses on her, pushing her chest down, down, down, til she lies flat on her back in order to retain the ability to breathe. Like a ball of mirrors coming to rest, her vision settles, finally allowing her mind a full, albeit foggy, picture of where she was.
Endless rows of bleachers march towards the pink clouds and orange brick harshly boxes her in, while the cool touch of what she only now realizes is fake grass coaxes her to simply melt into the field of little black bits beneath her. But there was still that ring, not like the one she wore on her right ring finger, the one she took off a while ago to surpress the feeling of it cutting off circulation. No, this ring was longer, like a hair tie stretched taut between thumb and forefinger, and sketched over with dizzying white lines. It circled closer and closer, until she could see it around her very eyeballs, the orange burning like fire in her sight.
She closed her eyelids at last, once she registered where she was. She could only laugh and laugh and laugh, her brain barely understanding the absurdity behind her addled presence in this place. When her mind started to pirouette in nauseating directions, she again opened her eyes to find another pair staring down at her.
She tried to find her mouth in order to say something, a word that entered her head upon seeing those glimmering pools of green, but she couldn't tell the difference between her lips and legs, and apparently moved the latter as the solid mass above her elicited a perturbed oof.
She giggled again, enough that she started rolling on the turf, like a crazed crackhead, the naughty simile only making her laugh harder. She lifted what she thought was her hand to her face, if only to hoard the joy to herself, but found her arms were too heavy, too long. Suddenly, her fingers, then her palm, impacted something soft and warm; but it wasn't her skin that they had found.
Despite her obvious mirth, and the clumsy hand now latched to their face, no chuckle reflected her own. Their grave almost annoyed aura blatantly deflected the laughter coming from her mouth, like a stone parting the waves of a river, and she immediately stopped giggling.
She managed to pull her unruly hand back but was hindered from reclaiming it fully when another intercepted it, wrapping strong fingers around her wrist.
After a moment, she decided she didn't like that and tugged harder, but the constricting hold remained. She went to use her other hand to force her arm back, but then registered a brown bottle was clenched in it.
She blinked when she saw it, surprise blanketing her features, her rediscovered lips forming an oh. The mess of her reality made sense at last: why her body felt disconnected from her head and why the person with emerald eyes wasn't happy.
Wasn't happy at all, as they snatched the drink, peered at its empty contents and tossed it away, the faint echo of it landing plinking in her ears. Their intense gaze swiveled back to her and their lips moved, the sound reaching her a moment later: Tina.
What, she wanted to drawl back, but couldn't locate her voice to do so. Instead, she closed her eyes again, pinching her brows together, as if to block out the inevitable future descending upon her. One where she was roughly forced to her feet and led out to the parking lot in order to spend the night at her home alone in her cold, cold room.
In the dark, almost without her consent, her mind began playing memories, popping through them, like flipping channels on a television screen. But she knew what would eventually settle against the backdrop of her eyelids, something that could never have surfaced without riding upon inane levels of cheap beer. Something that she never would've faced if she wasn't here, at Bedford stadium, in the middle of the turf football field.
It was at the second her body lost consciousness, the moment when it finally gave in to the toxic liquid roiling in her stomach and shut off, that the memories stopped and landed on the one she knew was coming all along.
She could still recall what it felt like to have those thin scraps of shoes tied around her feet. To have those metal spikes scrape, scrape against everything and anything they touched. What they looked like, bright green and reflective orange, with hints of blue.
And she could still recall that adrenaline, the one that sparked from that green line through all 7 laps. Til she reached the last one and didn't think she could make it; didn't think she could reach her coach screaming at the far end. But then, she knew she couldn't bear to let her down, couldn't bear to let her parents down, let her teammates down. And so, she pushed; she saw that white finish line like a banner, shouting, bellowing, YOU CAN DO IT. And she did it- she pushed until the very end, and then some. She could barely move after the race and lied on the grass beside the track, her arm thrown over her eyes. She dared to hope, dared to believe that she had improved, had grown in some small amount, and almost cried when she heard her coach start talking. Start saying those words that would forever remain in her heart, forever rebound through her mind.
"You did really good! You got a 12:21!"
A minute less than last time. A minute off the school record. Hope bloomed that day, in herself, in her coaches, in her future. She could still smell its sweet essence, feel the light aroma lifting her up and up, closer to where she thought she'd be. Thought she belonged.
But then the next year came, and a lot had changed. She was bigger, there was no doubt about that. She had become lax about her training, had thought there was no way she could get worse, only better. And, probably the most serious development, the largest nail in the coffin, was that her dermatologist had prescribed a medicine called isotretinoin. It was simply to fix the acne ravaging pockmarks on her face, that was all. The doctor promised she'd monitor all side-effects, promised to do her best to make sure the entire five months would go as smoothly as slippery sweet butter. But, of course, the woman lied straight through her too-perfect teeth.
At first, it started as simple shin splints; the same she had been experiencing since cross country season. Then it started poking at her knees, cracking and popping and all sorts of pinching. Next, it moved up her thigh, continuously flaring her glute no matter how she massaged it. Then, with no small mercy, it erupted in her hips, but gradually, like an ever-tightening boa constrictor circling closer and closer. Suddenly, she couldn't stretch her hips, suddenly she couldn't lie down without temporary pain, couldn't sit, couldn't bend over, couldn't run… Couldn't run without pain in her back, legs, knees, ankles, calves, heart. Pain in her heart whenever she looked in her coach's eyes and saw how far from her hopeful future she'd strayed. Looked at the times and slowly saw them increase, from 13 all the way to 14. She found herself always last, always dragging her stupid metal spikes along the ground, disappointment bearing too heavy upon her body to try and lift. She cried after every race, lost the feeling of hope after ever run, the scent erased from her mind like it was just a dream. An idiotic, fool's dream. Isotretinoin became her enemy, the name never uttered without hatred and grief. And what was worse, what was so much worse, was that she kept running, kept forcing herself to move through the pain, kept chasing that stupid, stupid hope.
Now, 2 years later, after suffering through two more seasons of disappointing her track team with every pitiful race she performed, there she lied on that same field. The track was even still the same orange color, the bricks still the same tint, the entire stadium still the exact same. She didn't quite remember, though, how she ended up here. She could barely remember anything beyond what she just had. You did really good! You got 12:21! It was torture, recalling that race, and the events afterward. One she revisited only when she got too wasted, though, not that often, as she was only 19. But it did happen, and now was no different.
She couldn't wait to wake up; couldn't wait to forget tonight ever took place. On that wishful thought, her mind drifted off, scattering in all directions, and finally succumbed to the dark lure of sleep.