I don’t remember for sure what grade I was in. Second? Third? All I know was that I was once again standing alone outside at recess, shivering in the cold, watching everyone else play with their friends. I had wanted to play soccer but as they were choosing teams no one picked me. I was left behind at the edge of the field trying to pretend that I didn’t care.
There was nothing else I could do by myself so I stayed to watch with the familiar lump sticking in my throat.
Don’t let them see you cry.
One of the boys left the field and came over to me. I had never really paid much attention to him. Boys had cooties, you see. He was nondescript. Perhaps a bit stocky. Brown hair. Freckles. These things I remember only vaguely. I am not sure we had ever actually spoken directly to each other before.
“You know why they don’t pick you?”
“Because they think you don’t know how to play. Do you know how?”
I started to nod my head yes then decided to be honest. “No.”
“I will teach you, then.”
And he did. Over the course of the next few recesses, he taught me the rules, how to kick, head butt… everything.
He did it in spite of being made fun of by everyone else. He was playing with a girl.
He was playing with that girl.
They still didn’t pick me for teams. They still all made my life miserable. But now I knew how to play soccer because Craig Mercer taught me. That made me somebody.
I don’t think we ever really played or talked much together again after that and I don’t remember if I ever said thank you. I have no idea where he is or what his life is like now but I will always, always remember his name.