"Victory Lap" by Rono Hem ('19)

His eyes shifted trying to find the end of the pitch, but the end seemed to dissolve within the shadows of the trees that lay on the borders. It was early morning and the whole scene had taken on a brilliant blue hue, further accentuating this dissolve into infinity. He thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. “Number 22!” shouted a bitter voice. His eyes darted towards the speaker. He raised his fidgeting hands and with a muffled voice stated “P-p-present…”
“22, I called your roster number three times already. What are you doing?”
“Sorry, I just forgot”
“You forgot your number? It’s your second day of school. You just forgot?”
“You’re too busy staring out that window. Listen you’re here to get an education. That’s it. If you’d rather stare at the pitch all day, you might as well just go outside and stand in the middle of it. We don’t need you here.”
He stared down at his desk. He just wanted it to be over.

He’d arrived early and had been playing futsal with some of the guys in his class. He wondered if he could play with them everyday from now. Were they his friends now? He was standing in a single file line with his class during the school assembly; they were singing the national anthem. The sun torched the entire pitch. You could see where the pitch ended now. The whole pitch was encompassed by a red brick wall. He thought the bricks might have had a layer of some sort because they were glistening so beautifully. The person next to him collapsed. A real lanky figure just laid there with his eyes half open and shifting almost rhythmically from side to side. A couple of the older students carried him off towards the nurse’s office in the main building. “It’s just dehydration” murmured some around him.

It had been two days since his father had come back.  His mother dragged him by the collar to his father to complain about his disobedience and infatuation with sports. His father got out a wooden coat hanger from the closet. He beat him. He stared at the floor with lifeless eyes. They had large beige floor tiles. He kept his eyes fixed on the grout between two tiles. It was dirty. He wondered if he could clean it out with a nail file the next day.

His older sister jumped off their apartment building a year ago. She didn’t leave a note. People couldn’t believe it. Some gossiped that their father probably beat her to death. He heard his father’s friends at the funeral whisper to each other “She was just a seriously troubled kid” or “I heard she had an issue with some unwanted pregnancy...” On her funeral day their father reassured everyone by talking about how his daughter had always been suicidal as a result of mental instability and refused help.

He didn’t know what to make of his sister. She rarely talked and was seldom seen outside her room. He remembered her fighting a lot with their parents.  He was annoyed at her for stirring up so much trouble, for ruining so many nights of sleep with the loud thumps against his bedroom wall. He would awake to her swollen forehead and bruised lips. He thought she was ugly.

After number 22, he was number 5, and then he was number 7 and two days after he had become number 9, his father died. There were lots of people there. Lots of people saying lots of different things. You couldn’t hear them very well over the wailing of his mother. He stared blankly at the epitaph, “A loving father of two.”

He was on the third floor. He stared out the open door leading to a large balcony. His gaze peered over the charcoal black wall towards the pitch. It was a greenish bright yellow. The grass under the sunshine shone like specks of gold. He wondered what it would be like to just jump. What would happen if he just took a running leap and jumped. What if found out he could fly? He would have loved to circle that field forever. Over and over. Again and again.

He hesitantly returned his gaze to his principal for a second. The principal was a short wide man. He quietly and reluctantly looked over the piece of paper in front of him. The top button on his shirt was coming loose, giving view to the gray hair poking out of his chest. They were glistening from the sweat he had accumulated. His lips were chapped and he kept licking them. Just looking at his principal made him uncomfortable.

“This is your fifth time here..you should be ashamed.”

He didn’t have much to say. He was on the tip of his toes trying to look over the balcony. He just wanted to see that pitch again. He wanted to breathe it in as much as he could.

The principal snapped his fingers once, trying to get his attention which was followed by a loud shout that echoed throughout the entire floor. The creaking of the chairs were heard as the principal hastily stood up. The following sound was that of a loud swat as he slapped his student across the face.

“Is this fun?”

In autumn the pitch was covered with the yellow leaves. The grass looked darker than usual. It was quiet. Everything was still. He was sure now that he was in love with it. He realized that he had been love with it his whole life because it was the best thing. It was the best thing that ever happened to him. He just wanted to be there, undisturbed. A loud clap broke his concentration. The teacher gestured him to his desk. He heard a few chuckles, the amusement of his peers. He stood up like he normally would every time. He braced himself. He walked through the row of seats at a steady pace. He didn’t walk towards the desk. He was walking towards the door. He didn’t know why he was doing it. The chuckles turned into short gasp and afterwards it was completely quiet. He slowly walked out of the door and didn’t turn back. He stood in front of the balcony and leaned forward. There it was, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.