From 3rd grade through 8th grade, I attended a small, private school that met at my church. Our gymnasium was a bit of a multi-purpose room, and one of those purposes inspired the builders to install wall-to-wall carpeting. (Actually, the carpeting ascends halfway up the walls; the idea of someone vacuuming the walls was the funniest thing in the world to eight-year-old me.) If you start imagining children playing sports like kickball and basketball and volleyball in this space, you should also start imagining a never-ending supply of rugburns.
That said, all nine of the students in my graduating class probably had physical reminders on their bodies of the work they put in during P.E. My scar is on the knuckle of the middle finger of my right hand, and I still carry it to this day. It was not, however, a gift of the carpet gods. It was the handiwork of an awkward young boy by the name of Aaron.
Aaron never really fit in with his peers, from what I can tell, which was mostly due to his ongoing fascination with bionic limbs. My clearest memory of him—aside from the incident with the scar—is from an art class, where he insisted on building the Mary figurine for a nativity scene as a macaroni yellow creature with a bionic leg.
Anyway, I was already predisposed to disliking Aaron when he drove his hockey stick into my knuckle as part of the most outlandish backswing in the history of floor hockey. From then on out, I hated him.
For years after that, I continued thinking poorly of him every time I saw the blemish on my previously beautiful hand. When I wrote in my journals, I would pause and stare and sigh. When I played piano, I would wince and stare and sigh. When I fell asleep, I would have recurring nightmares about Tyra Banks banning me from America's Next Top Model on account of my hideously deformed hands and my uncontrollable sighing.
But that all stopped two years ago when I found out that another guy from our class made it to the NHL. When I heard the news, I remember instinctively checking my hand for the scar. All at once, the smells and sounds of the gymnasium came rushing back to me. I was in sixth grade P.E. class all over again. Aaron did take a hole out of my finger with some illegal "high-sticking," but I went on to block every shot he tried to take. I also stopped every other guy from making almost every other shot. I was the only girl who could. In hockey and in soccer, I was Brick Wall Skirts. Nobody got through my defense, not even the punk who went on to the NHL.
So now I have a battle wound instead of a pity scar, and I absolutely love it. I also feel pretty crummy about all the bad vibes I was sending Aaron over the years, so this is my public apology along with the promise of a face-to-face apology with some cupcakes if I ever bump into him again. As for Hockeypants McPuckerson in the NHL? He's safe for now, but only because I've never been ice-skating and because I'm really attached to my teeth.