I looked up to them. I don't know why I looked up to them, but I did. Despite their incessant hazing in high school cross country practices—throwing me into a pond full of duck shit, shutting me up in a locker and emptying can after can after can of shaving cream into it, tying me to a bench and wailing open-palmed on my stomach for what seemed like hours—I looked up to them.
They were older than me, too. Neighborhood guys, all of us, and I was 16 playing a year up on their under-18 club soccer team. They needed an outside midfielder who could run, and I could run all day.
We traveled a lot that summer all over Georgia. Columbus and Albany and Rome. We went to Carrolton for a game, and in Carrolton I received the nickname.
I can't even remember the final score, and I guess it's not so important. Our team was trash. Just awful. But we could run, and so I found myself sprinting down the left sideline deep in the other team's end.
This asshole cannot clear this ball outta here, I thought. It was late in the second half, and we needed to score. Keep the ball on this side of midfield.
He sure as shit tried to clear it. And I sure as shit jumped in the way of his clearing it. And the ball sure as shit did not make it out of their end on that play.
He was a big fucker. A mean-ass center back who earlier in the game had launched a 30-yard rope over our goal on a free kick. So I was unsurprised at just how fucking incredibly painful it was when his clearing shot rocketed straight into my balls. Just POW right in the stones.
Every color of the rainbow and every smell and taste and sound of pain blasted into my kidneys, my stomach and chest. I hit the floor and just rolled in agony. I am going to die right now, clutching my shattered nutsack and groaning like dog. This is how it ends.
Writhing there in pain, just unable to even exist, my God no no no no no no no no no. Rolling over and over, unhearing to my coach and teammates asking after my boys.
And thus, for the next year of my life, until those older assholes graduated, I was known as "Floppy."