[This is a fictional entry!]
In grade school, they had races. It was just for an hour after school. If you didn’t want to participate, you didn’t have to, but everyone did. (So what if it was a small school?) “Races” is a good enough word as any to describe it, I suppose, but at that age, they were more than just a typical race: they were a chance to run and stretch, be free and alive, and prove to everyone else that there was more to you than just another face in a classroom. In hindsight, it’s silly, but at the time, the races mattered.
Every Tuesday, every student in the school knew to wear grippy socks that wouldn’t slide down the calf and end up in a bunch above the tennis shoes. That, too, in retrospect, sounds ridiculous, yet we were all there with knee-highs and colorful laces and anything else that marked the momentous (weekly) occasion.
“It was a Tuesday like any other…” I’m almost glad that I can’t write something as cliche as that about that Tuesday. In reality, I’d twisted my ankle the day before playing tag with some of the boys from my class. Even with an injured ankle, though, I showed up to school that Tuesday with knee-highs and colorful laces. My parents had said (and the doctor and teachers had confirmed) that I wouldn’t be able to run in the race, but that didn’t stop me from dressing up for the event. Just because I couldn’t join didn’t mean that I couldn’t watch! It would be my first ever week just sitting there as a spectator. It was almost exciting to think of it – cheering on my friends instead of running against them. Alongside them…
It wasn’t until the races were finished (and I had been quite finished with watching by that point) that I felt the full depth of loneliness. One week. One day. One hour. That’s all I had to sit out. I couldn’t run.
Just at the normal time when the crowds of kids would start to disperse, I heard a voice beside me calling, “One more race!” My eyes shot to the side to see Jimmy Amordie with his hand on the back of the classroom chair that had been brought out just for me. “This time you’re joining,” he said in a quieter voice for just me.
“You know I can’t run this week,” I pouted, trying to be angry but only hearing regret.
Jimmy didn’t respond. Instead, he grabbed me by the arm and steered me toward the starting line. All the kids lined up and I felt the heat in my face burn my skin like fire. It was going to be so embarrassing! I wasn’t able to run. Why would he make me race? Better yet, why in the goodness sake was I going along with it?!
The whistle blew and all of the kids flew off ahead of me as I took one shaky step forward.
Ahead of us…
Next to me, Jimmy was walking, watching my every step. A couple kids turned around to see where we were and noticed him. They slowed. Others noticed and then the rest and suddenly, everyone was walking. Slowly. Really slowly. Slow enough for me to catch up and walk along side them toward the finish line.
That was the one race in all of the school’s history (that I witnessed) that the outcome was every student coming to a tie.
At the time, I was just happy that I got to race with them.
Now, looking back at all of the stupid meanings that we connected with those races, I think that’s the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me.