Back in high school we played this vaguely baseball-like game with a big red rubber ball, the kind I have to assume was used in dodge ball before some poor kid got his teeth knocked out, ultimately replaced with dissatisfying foamy orbs that a few kids could still peg you with anyway.

I have two distinct memories of this game for whatever reason. The first is when some girl just absolutely nailed me in the face. Just watched it come straight at me, figured it would hurt but it really just left me dazed for a moment. There was that quiet gasp, and the poor girl apologized as if she was somehow at fault.

The one that left a bigger mark was when I heard you chatting with a new girl while waiting in line to bat. I was on defense, in the right range for me to hear you without you realizing that was the case.

You were always kind of a dick – the one other vivid memory I have of you is when you heard I was afraid of worms and decided to shove one in my face during dissection day – so I didn’t expect much from you when I flubbed an easy catch and the girl asked if I was, “like, retarded or something.”

But you corrected her – no, I was one of the smarter kids in our class, I just sucked at sports. And, god, I can’t put into words how that kind of validation feels. Nothing’s better than overhearing someone you hate defending you. Parental praise, that’s expected. Friends will sugar coat. The praise of an enemy, that’s how you know where you excel.

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