“I’m impressed,” Doctor Rollins commented. “You recovered from your accident quickly. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of a kid your age.”
Roger Fawkes smiled. “Thanks, Doc, when can I start running again?”
The Doctor smiled a sad smile. “I’m sorry, but the nature of your injury means that you won’t be able to do sports again. You’re lucky that you’re able to walk.”
Roger blinked. “What?”
The Doctor shook his head. “I’m sorry, Roger.”
Dad piped up. “Are you sure there isn’t some kind of physical therapy he can go through?”
The Doctor looked at Dad in the eyes. “The fact that your son can walk is a miracle, Mr. Fawkes, but the damage his nerves and hips took from that motorcycle means that any physical exertion will harm him not help.”
It felt like a significant piece of Roger had been cut from him. Cross-country was his sport. Nobody in the entire state could beat him, and he rocked the world at nationals last year by placing second when nobody expected him to. For this to happen to him was the worst curse anyone could have placed on them. The discussion happening between the Doctor and Dad in front of him faded into the background of his mind as he lost himself in fear and despair. What would he do now? The most important thing in the world to him was no longer something he could do.
Roger had spent a month recovering from a collision he had with a motorcycle on one of his runs. The injuries he sustained were mostly to his lower back, upper legs, and hips. The doctors were concerned he’d be a paraplegic for the rest of his life, but fortunately he escaped that fate. No more running. Training was supposed to start in two weeks, but now he can’t participate in that. Roger missed the marathon he was training for; a marathon that he was going to qualify for Boston with.
A question popped into Roger’s head. “What about cycling? Could I do that?”
The Doctor shook his head slowly. “I can’t even recommend you walk more than two or three miles a day. Any more than that and you may end up agitating your injury.”
Roger stood up. “I’m going to the car, Dad.”
Roger’s body ached as he made his way to the car. It took every ounce of control he had to keep from crying in public. As soon as he got into the passenger seat, he punched the dashboard a few times angrily and let out a few shouts. Shortly after, tears streamed down his face.
“What am I going to do now?” He sobbed.
Roger couldn’t even look at his father when he arrived to bring him home. The entire drive he stared out the window looking at the places he used to run. The places he’d never run again.
Once they made it home, Roger shuffled into his room. When dinner time came around, Roger declared his lack of an appetite. He spent the rest of the day lying in his bed, wallowing. When it came to be time to fall asleep, he didn’t. The entire night, his body ached and tightened and strained. The few times he came out of his room the next two weeks were to eat one meal a day, sometimes less, and go to the bathroom. Mom and Dad visited him and tried to console him; he asked to be alone. By the end of these two weeks, he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror.
By the end of summer, Roger felt a great emptiness move into his heart. He almost didn’t go to school the first day. Class blurred by as he hardly paid attention to the teacher or his peers. He didn’t interact with anyone until lunch happened. Out of habit, he sat with the cross country team and immediately felt unwelcome.
“What are you doing sitting here?” Chad Brunswick, the team’s co-captain demanded. “You aren’t on the team anymore. You skipped out on all the practices this summer, like some big shot.”
“Whoa,” Isaac Halla interjected. “Chad, haven’t you been paying attention to anything that happened this summer? Roger got put in the hospital by a motorbike.”
Roger hung his head and murmured. “I can’t run anymore, doctor’s orders.”
“Put in the hospital?” Chad stood up. “So you can’t even run anymore? What the hell man. The team can’t afford to lose you. Screw this.”
Chad stormed off; most of the team followed him. Roger felt even more pathetic and buried his face in his arms on the table.
Isaac patted him on the back. “I’m sorry, man.”
Roger stood up and began walking away. Away from people. Into the hallway. Somehow, he found himself in the counselor’s office on the other side of Salisborough High. He sat down at the large table in the center of the offices and buried his face again into his arms. Tears began flowing down his face uncontrollably.
“What do I do?” He sobbed.
“What do you do?” A voice on his right asked.
Roger looked to see a shoulder-length brown-haired woman in a beautiful and elegant black dress. He blinked away the tears. “I used to run.”
She sat down next to him, putting a couple binders onto the table in front of her. “What do you do now?”
Her brown eyes pierced into his soul. “What do you want to do?”
He turned his head away from her. “I don’t know. I want to run, but I can’t do that anymore. I can’t even walk to class without my body screaming bloody murder.”
“Why don’t you look for something new to do?”
He sighed. “I don’t even know where to look.”
“Maybe I can help you out with that. What do you like?”
Roger thought for a moment. “Running.”
She chuckled. “That’s it, eh?” She pulled out a sticky pad and wrote something on it. “If you think of anything more give me a call.”
She stuck the sticky note to Roger’s hand and got up and left the office with her stuff. Rachel Kent 555-4923. Don’t lose faith in yourself.
Roger came to his last class late, and the entire time he spent staring at the black ink on the yellow sticky note. Don’t lose faith. Is that what happened to him? Did he lose faith and just give up?
“What do I like?” He whispered to himself. The words stirred something in him; the feeling he couldn’t quite figure. “What do I like?”
The rest of the day he spent trying to think of things he liked. The thoughts continued into the next day. He decided to start writing down a list just to keep track. Roger sat at an empty table in the cafeteria at lunch.
“Hey,” A familiar voice caught his attention. “You never came back yesterday. I was worried about you, man.”
Isaac sat down next to him. “You OK?”
Roger looked at him. “Not really.”
Isaac tilted his head. “You going to be OK?”
Roger looked back at the notepad with the list, nodding. “I will be. I just need time. I didn’t think I’d ever be OK, but now I think I will be.”
“Do you want to talk?”
Roger closed the notepad; clinging precariously onto it: the sticky note with the number. “One second.”
Roger pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number. After two rings there was an answer. “Hello?”
He smiled, it was her voice. “Rachel? This is Roger; we talked yesterday a little bit. Can we meet?”
Her voice brightened up. “Sure, same place?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”
As Roger hung up, Isaac looked at him quizzically. “You want me to come along? Or should I have lunch alone again?”
Roger gave Isaac and odd look. “Do you even need to ask that? Of course you can have lunch alone, but only if you really want to.”
Isaac stood up after a good laugh. “Lead the way.”