Knowing I had to walk in the door, in the front of the classroom, after the bell had rung, I composed myself with a five second pep talk. Play it cool. Be confident and respectful. Hold your shoulders tall and smile. Open the door quietly. Take the most efficient route to an open desk and sit down. If the teacher says anything, apologize genuinely with “I’m sorry I’m late” and leave it at that. No excuses.
Now cool, calm, and collected, I quietly opened the door. Immediately, my whole pep talk went to… My classmates’ faces showed a mix of shock, concern, and amusement. The teacher said, “Run to the bathroom. You’re bleeding.” I touched my face and felt, then saw, gobs of blood. I walked casually to the bathroom. In the mirror I saw HUGE, bright red wounds on my face along with several other scratches. Then, I saw two wet, muddy spots on my Abercrombie and Fitch cargo pants. My palms were also cut up quite a bit. I guess the combo of adrenaline and endorphins had made me temporarily oblivious to the pain I had put my body in. The face wounds were the kind where portions of my face were actually left on the concrete slab. I didn’t even want to touch them to wash them. I wet some stinky paper towels and dabbed the wounds, but there wasn’t much I could do. I cleaned up as best I could and made the shameful walk back to class, headache in full force.
The whole day and for several days after I had to answer the same question, “What happened?” I kept it fresh and created several epic scenarios as explanations, eventually telling them I slipped on ice while running to class. The following Friday night was Backwards Homecoming - the night where guys, not gals, are selected to walk awkwardly on a basketball court during halftime of a game as some sort of honor. I was on the Backwards Homecoming Court, face strawberries and all. Halftime rolls around, we line up, they call our names and we walk out in front of 1500 people while they clap and cheer (Wow, it's even more bizarre than I thought at the time). It's your moment in the little spotlight. You wear your best clothes, shave, wash your face and practice the perfect smile. And here I am with some giant strawberries on my face. Luckily, I had a pretty little lady on my left arm to distract from the way I looked. She went by the name Ashley Rose.
That was over 10 years ago and I still have that same pretty little lady on my left arm, and our son in my right.