(Inspired by Moby-Dick by Herman Melville)
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little to no choice in the matter, my family decided it was best to move from our inland home to that of the sea-kissing town of Nantucket, Massachusetts. It was to be my junior year of high school. As a transfer, I thought it best to try out for the school’s football team. Whenever I find myself feeling sullen and lethargic in my limbs, I go outside to revel in the adrenaline of exercise and sports. There is nothing surprising in this, and I think that every person, to some degree, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards activity with me.
It was upon the time of pre-season try-outs that I met the large, friendly figure of Quenton. He acted the linebacker to my corner back, me being the small type and he the absurdly large. We both made it on to the varsity squad of our pride-driven school, a great honor and nothing to scoff at. Smiling broadly he offered to accompany me to that night’s celebratory party for the newly selected members of the Pequods. I woke up the next day, head full of endless pain and smothered within a foreign bed next to the body of my fine friend. Later I was informed that there had been no beds left in the house of Spouter, as he was nicknamed, so Quenton and I had decided to share, for fear the other would be uncomfortable. I again say I remember nothing of that night, but we had never brought it up in conversation hereafter.
All the while during try-outs, I nor any of my teammates had actually seen the captain, Ahmed. The vice co-captains Starbuck and Stubb, one nicknamed for his affinity for feminine-sounding white mocha frappuchino despite his frosty demeanor and the other for some anatomical anomaly that no one could positively confirm, respectively, had only said he had recently suffered an injury and would be joining us later. Flask, in-between offensive plays, attributed it to Ahbed’s party habits; comical concerning his alcoholic tendencies alluded to by his name.
It was only once the pre-season has ended and the official school year had begun did we see the cause. Ahmed looked like a man marked by years of too many sports injuries. A scar ran down his arm where an elbow surgery had been required last year, a small bald spot where he had knocked his head too hard as a child and the hair just never grew back. The freshest injury was that of his leg, encased within a black boot and running up past calf and knee to his husky thigh. He refused a wheelchair, and when he could he would leave crutches purposely behind him. He refused to lean on anything. Furthermore, Ahbed refused to admit the source of his broken leg, though he assured us that it was not football-related and that he would be fit to play within the month.
This insular world of the Pequods encapsulated every aspect of high school for me. I soon forgot about Quenton and our night spent together, as I got indoctrinated to the football team’s practices, both on and off the field. The major driving force within the cutthroat environment of the hallways and cafeteria seemed to be the cheerleading squad. Mainly, our ability to bed them.
It must be noted that cheerleading girls are a whole other species and nomen that others that inhabit our sea of high school social stature. The drama girls may be clever and the girls soccer team may be passionate, but cheerleaders are vastly different. From their cool sense of superiority in ruling the surrounding fish around them, they go on as if unaffected by those around them. They are larger than anyone else, not in mass or quantity, but in sheer influence. At least, the kind they enacted upon us. Beyond the precision of their grand acrobatic feats and synchronized subversion, they had power over the best of us. Namely, on Ahmed by the great white, vastness of the head cheerleader, Monica.
There are many great things that comes in being white, or pure. I’m speaking of virginity, a great commodity that seemed to be actively bartered, exchanged, and even fought for in our tiny community. Monica was seen as the biggest treasure of them all by our dear captain, for not only was she a virgin, but she knew this power and used it to her advantage. Having already bed the captains of various sports teams, such as Samuel Enderby of the varsity basketball team and Rachel of the volleyball squad. There were rumors concerning a mysterious skater known as “Delight,” and said to be every bit as decidedly undelightful as the name suggests. All had ended in heartbreak and tears, Monica walking away unscathed for the next poor victim to fall prey to. Yet for all the bad that was said of her, Ahbed desperately and obsessively still pursued her. It was all he could talk, and one must assume think, about.
So while he continued on his quest, the rest of the team continued their usual business of tackling and scoring. Quenton and I had grown apart by this point, him to tend to the offensive line while I stayed in defense. I quite liked the hustle and hurry of tackling. Every so often, while we all were piled on the ground in the quest to have possession of the football, my arms would refuse to let go of the other players. We all got lost at those times, and so my body chose to squeeze and keep squeezing my captor. And I myself was captive to the nature of the Pequod’s fierce some teamwork. Was it any wonder I would refuse to let go, until the last moment?
Meanwhile, Ahbed was still fighting his own battle to track down Monica. It was only in the darkest of hours after a celebratory post-game victory party that he confided the source of his broken leg, since healed, to me. One night, she had accepted him, had invited him to her house with open arms. Her parents, on the other hand, had grounded her for some previous offence with the before-mentioned Rachel and Monica was restricted to the family home. It had been Ahbed’s job to break her out. In the act of carefully climbing up the walls of the porch to her second-story room, Ahbed caught himself off balance and quickly fell to the ground. However, Monica could not help him for her fear that she would be caught and so, our poor captain gathered himself up and drove himself with much pain and bruised pride to the emergency room himself. It was a shameful event for him, and one he was quick to avenge. He still desired Monica. He desired every part of her, all of her whiteness to be his at long last.
This type of sensitive information does not tend to stay secret for long, and it only took two breaths to be spoken after that the whole crew of Starbuck and Stubb and Flask and Quenton to be up in arms in Ahbed’s monomaniacal want. They reminded him of Monica’s past, of the wrecks of people she left behind. Despite this, he always insisted that she was his to pursue, his to finish where they had left off.
And so it transpired that she did give into the chase. And it was something that we all regretted, because she then swallowed him whole. No more was he focused on the games we continued losing or schoolwork or college applications. Monica controlled him with barely a wrinkled nose or raised eyebrow; him quick to serve. The season ended and we saw Ahbed no longer, he was gone into the depths. The team outside of the season quickly disbanded and disintegrated into nothing more than memory. All the captains and senior players, including Quenton, graduated with much applause and were soon forgotten by the class that replaced them.
The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth? – Because one did survive the wreck. I did not play football that following senior year, and I have not since that mighty fall. I see no allure in it. But perhaps someday the siren song of sport will call me back someday, when I feel melancholic and eager for that which spits me out again and again.