Nonetheless, when I tripped and fell on my hands and knees on the asphalt, the anxious instinct from middle school P.E. kicked in. The only thing I felt was embarrassment. A few of the others stopped to help me up, asking if I was okay, but I brushed them off. Then I looked down and realized that I'd skinned both hands and knees, that they were bleeding and had pieces of gravel stuck in them, and that my left knee was basically pouring blood. Super casual-like, because #embarrassment, I trekked across the field to where the coach stood chatting with another of the coaches.
He waved as I approached. "You need a break?"
"Um," I said. I looked down at my legs and found that the blood had streamed down and my left sock was now home to a delightful pool of it.
"Oh dear," he said. "I thought you just needed to stop, you looked so calm. Come on, let's clean that up."
By now, I was definitely feeling the pain. As the coach set up in the medical room adjoining the gym, I braced myself for the shock that would ensue from having the wounds cleaned out. It did hurt, a ton, but he was gentle. I was most surprised about how little the left knee hurt when he cleaned it, compared to my expectation--and quite grateful.
When I took off the bandages later in the day to look at it, I realized there were still pieces of gravel ground into the large, raw wound. But I couldn't bear the thought of having them dug out, so I pretended they weren't there. I figured, the coach had disinfected it and maybe as it healed it would eject the gravel on its own.
Yeah, no. I ended up with a nasty, infected knee only a handful of days later. So my mom took me to the new Urgent Care enter, which we would patronize many times in the ensuing years. There was only one solution, the doctor said. He would have to numb my knee with multiple shots and then use a special brush to scrub out all the gravel and dead tissue. Which meant more blood and pus. Yay!
I was more nervous about the shots than the scrubbing, but I tolerated them well. Then I watched the grossness that ensued as the doctor scrubbed the wound out. Mostly, I was thinking about how weird it was to have that brush tearing my knee open and yet only be feeling the pressure of it, not the pain. Finally, the wound was fully clean. The doctor bandaged it up with special care instructions, wrapped my leg up with itchy, bright pink gauze, and told me to leave it on for a while.
Thus, my knee healed up, though the bandaging chafed and caused a lot of discomfort by the end. I liked showing off my bright pink bandages--not because I liked pink (I didn't), but because of the drama of it all. Many times in my life, I've been weirdly happy about misfortunes, I think because they give me more to draw from when I write. This was one of those times. I really do love stories.
After the injury healed, I had a circular red scar that covered my left knee. It's faded and shrunk in the years since then, but it lingers still today: dark, textured, and larger than a quarter. It's my most dramatic scar--and that is the story of how I got it.