Bumble bee with a duct-taped stinger

It all hurts – my elbowed nose, my cleated calf, my strained hip-flexor, wobbly ankles, sore arches, tick-like bruise under my toenail. Soccer is a brutal sport. Soccer against men is a viking battle, mauling orcs and especially brutal when one smells like the dregs of a gym bag left in a sweltering car for 5 months. Dude. Deodorant. Please. It’s like $3.
But hell if I let them push me around. I had an older brother who by the time he was 16 (me 13) was maxed out at 6’5″. I know how to fight back and score a goal and get 3 assists and pass quickly because I have no ball control skills. But you learn your strengths, your weaknesses and go from there.
Last night was our last game of the first season. Season two starts in two weeks. Like everything in the sport it happens fast. Our halftime is 30 seconds (which isn’t normal) but gives you barely enough time to run over, grab water and run back on field. And every game up until last night, 15 minutes in my lungs would curl up like shriveled fruit begging for blood and oxygen. Last night, aside from a few hard runs it took longer to recover from, my lungs were flat and full like dry cleaned skirts. Pumping vacuum bag, in and out. I started hurting the last 10 minutes – which in my book is progress.

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