It was ice-cold, and a cool breeze swept across the room, rattling the window shades. The mattress beneath me pierced my body as if I was lying on a mountain of jagged rock. I could hear the door creak from down the hall. The noise with which it shut was startling but I welcomed it as it managed to block out the persistent beeping that resonated throughout the entire room. I heard footsteps in the distance, pounding the floor with a rhythmic beat that never ceased until arriving at my room. The door opened, and I listened to the muted buzz of conversation from outside the door. The scent of perfume was intoxicating and, I could almost feel it drifting through the cool air. It was also unmistakable, a scent I had grown up with my entire life. The scent of my mother grew closer. It hovered over me and lingered over my face. She had returned, and thus I knew it was the start of another endless day.
The scorching sun blinded me, and my face was drenched in sweat, a mix of the heat and the intensity of the game. I wiggled my fingers around and rubbed them on the insides of my goalie gloves for they were hot and sticky. I dug my hot pink cleats into the turf and watched the heat waves travel up the field. Everything appeared partially blurred and I had to blink hard to clear my head. My heartbeat increased for I knew the time was ticking down. I could see the same overwhelming anxiety in the eyes of both teams as they stared up at the haunting scoreboard, which read 2-2.
The day never seemed to end. I listened to my mother talk with a man about the medication being given to me. The man informed her with great sympathy that I was in a deep coma and couldn’t see or hear, but of course I wasn’t. My mind worked perfectly. I listened painfully as my mother cried hysterically all afternoon and only stopped when the man came back to give me medicine. I wished with a burning desire to scream out and let someone know that I was in here and that I existed. I was living in a world of pure blackness– empty, hopeless, and lonely. I was the only one in that world of blackness in which color didn’t exist and movement was forbidden. I was frozen in time, and every day was the same besides the sounds that I could hear. The voices of my mother, and the man were my only access to the real world. Other than that I was stuck in the black loneliness, my barrier to life and any form of hope. I yearned with an inexplicable desire to run as fast as my legs could take me. I longed to feel the wind at my back as I sprinted forward, limitless and free. I wanted above all else to open my eyes and see the world around me, rich with color and liveliness. I wished to break free of this useless body, imprisoning both my future and me. But I was trapped in a body that refused to move and denied me the freedom to live my life. I couldn’t say any of this to anyone, not even my poor mother. For I, Annabel Brook, was paralyzed.
The time on the scoreboard was decreasing rapidly, and the pressure on the field intensifying. I bounced up and down on my toes anxiously, as the ball flew rapidly through the air. The sideline was overwhelmed with a feverish excitement and I fixed my eyes on my mom who was watching the game intently. I cursed under my breath as a girl on our team kicked the ball directly to the feet of the opposite opponent. The opposing girl, blood red in the face, kicked the ball with all her might. It soared with incredible speed through the open air, powerful and mighty. My heart rate sped up tremendously, and it felt as if my chest would soon break open. Their offensive player rushed forward with astounding speed, and it seemed as if her body could not keep up with her. I breathed heavily and held my arms in front, preparing myself for her kick.
I had been sleeping. Time no longer had meaning. I woke up to the same isolating, unforgiving blackness. My days were now measured by footsteps and the scent of people and food. Gone were all the pleasures of living– kicking a ball, laughing, reading, crying, screaming. My heart was more tired than ever, the only muscle in my body that was still moving. It was worn out from pure hopelessness, misery, and defeat. There was a rustling of paper coming from across the room, and I listened as my mother began to cry.
“ What are those?” the man asked with a soothing tone. My mother must have been trying to conceal her tears for she only sniffled like this when that was the case.
“ Nothing really. They’re just some old articles about Annabel. I’m fine, really.”
“May I see?” the man’s voice was filled with warmth and compassion.
“ Sure. I’ve put post-its on all the articles about her.” My mother sniffled again but this time she could not hold in her tears and broke out in sobs.
There were a few minutes of silence interrupted by the rustling of papers.
“ She really was a serious player,” the man muttered. The use of was in his sentence made me feel utterly meaningless and worthless, as if I were some sort of rock or dirt to be stepped on by people. The real Annabel Brook was gone, a legend of the past.
“There’s no question about that. The award that you’re reading about was given out once a month to the best athlete in all of Highland Park High school. Do you know how many kids are in that high school? 3,000. Can you believe that? 3,000 kids. And do you know how many times she received that honor? Six times. Six.”
My mother was hysterical now, overcome with grief and sorrow. I desperately needed to make them stop. They were torturing me, reminding me of a past that had been filled with immeasurable hope and light, not misery and blackness. I could have been on the soccer field right now, not lying absolutely frozen on a rock-hard bed, blinded and trapped by my very own body. Their conversation reminded me of the days in which my future was crystal clear and my possibilities in life were limitless and open. Now, imprisoned by my body, I didn’t know if I even had a future, and if I did, it would surely be filled with despair. I listened as the rustling of papers finally stopped, and the man said goodbye to my mother.
Everyone watching the game was standing now and the entire crowd was screaming with a mix of excitement and anxiety. The girl continued to dribble forward, passing all of our last defenders with incredible momentum. Her eyes were full of eagerness, and she was fueled by determination. My hands were out in front of me, and I adjusted my body positioning to best cut off all of her angles for a goal. I stared straight into her deep blue eyes as she pulled back her leg, and then struck the ball with great force. The ball flew through the air with breathtaking speed and headed straight towards the top, left corner of the goal, far above my head. The shot could not have been more perfectly placed. With adrenaline racing through every limb of my body, I threw myself high above the ground in hopes of blocking the ball. My fingertips skimmed the ball and managed to push it slightly in front of me. I then plummeted down as my head was thrown backwards, and shrieked before landing with tremendous force on my back. I lay there in agonizing pain, and both my hands were shaking violently. The field went blurry, and as my eyelids shut, the world went black.
The blackness was all I had to hold onto as I waited for the nothingness of each day. The blackness became normal, a dark sea of my thoughts and worn-down hopes from the past. I had become lost in the endless blackness but a small light within my heart still remained. That flickering light kept my hopes of the moving, talking, and walking alive and prevented me from being sucked into the dark blackness. Those hopes guided my days and kept me going through the empty, lonely world in which I lived. And so I waited patiently for the light to become a fire, so that one day I could move again.
Age 13, Grade 8