Results have come and passed, back to good old normal me, right? Please tell me that’s right.
Walking around school I feel empty, like a cicada shell. It makes me wonder when was the last time I had a strong, stable friendship. Someone I could depend on and have fun with, and never fear them leaving or distancing themselves from me. Probably in primary school. Most people smile at me and act friendly, saying hi. Even the occasional conversation. But it never lasts more than that, and even then I know I’m not really a good friend, just the bloke that everybody sort of knows. It dawns on me that I was always that person. Everyone I formed friendships with became just another friend at a moment’s notice, groups of people shifting around me like days on a calendar.
In year 9, I joined the rugby team and happened to be quite good at it. After that, I became closer and closer to the people on the team, and some even looked up to me as a player. I learned the language and colloquialisms of my group and finally thought I was in a place where I could stay.
A year passed and I was happy. But my insurmountable ego and self-righteousness got in the way. My friends happened to be extremely smart, and within an academic school, this meant that a hierarchy was formed. I was among the least academically proficient in the group, but fortunately due to my athleticism and decent reputation, I was spared from being the butt of their jokes. However one of my friends wasn’t as fortunate, and he was routinely picked on. In fairness, he was quite despicable in his actions, often littering and swearing, somewhat deserving the treatment. But as days became weeks I truly felt sorry for him, and defended him. This put me on slightly worser terms with another one of my friends, let’s call him Paul.
Seeing my friends as extremely smart, knowledgeable individuals with sporting prowess made me idolise them. I looked up to them, but I not only wanted to BE them, I wanted to BEAT them. I studied hard, and watched as my marks inched up, slowly but surely. In my mind I crawled up the ladder of the hierarchy, establishing myself as someone who would be so intelligent and successful, he could never be the source of a joke.
However Paul was so much better than me, in everything. He won scholarships worth thousands of dollars to be taught at educational institutions. He was one of the best players in the rugby team. He was respected by everyone for his knowledge. He was consistently a top performer in academic competitions and ranked at the top of my school. Everything about him seemed surreal. He was very clever in his arguments, choosing to speak only about things he knew he every little fact about, and was one hundred percent certain of being correct.
One day I somehow earned the nickname of being stubborn. It was completely friendly and said jokingly, but it stuck. During an argument with Paul, he brought it up. I was infuriated, angry that someone could tarnish my reputation after I had spent so long building it up. I stopped laughing at his jokes, I stopped being so friendly towards him, and he sensed my anger. Slowly but surely we grew more and more distant. I tried reaching out to him and he did as well but in our self-righteousness we always came apart the next day, unable to forget our disputes. We tried being nice and gave compliments to each other but they were never accepted in earnest.
During a tryout for the state rugby team, I injured the ligament in my left knee. Myself and two others, including Paul, progressed to the next round of tryouts, but I was unable to play rugby at all. The same year Paul made the school first grade team, while I was unable to play, nursing my knee. Just like that I floated away from another group of friends. Without the sport that held us together, I was an outcast in the rugby group.
However I refused to accept this. I was not about to lose my last group of friends so easily. I worked intensely on my leg to return to full physical health in time for the next year’s first grade tryout. I went running in my local park, I went to the gym two times a week, and trained at home with plyometric and weight-bearing exercises. It was working and I was back on my feet in time for pre-season rugby.
As the season progressed I worked harder and harder, both at training and at home. I found I was still faster than the majority of my teammates and was once again considered one of the better players. I was in the friendship group again, and though there was still an uneasy tension between Paul and I, I didn’t care for anything else. The team went on three day camps, trained together and supported each other through hard times.
But just as the official games were commencing, I tore my ligament completely in a collision at training. I lay on the ground screaming for a minute before I clenched my mouth shut so I wouldn’t appear helpless and in utter pain. As the hurt in my leg subsided, I smiled at my teammates to show them I was alright, but inside I felt more pain than ever. The friendships that I had formed over the past two months would once again evaporate, and this time I couldn’t recover, not with a completely torn ligament. Every training session that I would be absent from, I would be forgotten more and more. In the group huddles. At the games. At the camps. On the bus. I lost my sporting prowess, and with it, I lost my friends.
Artist – Unknown, Artwork – Unknown