How I Broke My Collarbone
I was a AAA School Safety Patrol in the fourth grade. Before and after school, I performed a variety of duties like putting up and taking down the American flag, monitoring the hallways and bathrooms, and helping with traffic in the parking lot. It was a neat job, that came with a badge and an orange belt thingy. It made me feel important at my new school, and more importantly, it introduced me to my second girlfriend, fellow Patrol Sarah.
Sarah was a cute blonde girl with glasses. She was nerdy, way before nerdy was cool. To me, she was everything a nine year old boy could ever want. Sadly, I was a nine year old boy, who had no idea how to ask a girl to be his girlfriend. I had a girlfriend in first grade, but that just sort of happened. This time, I needed to impress the girl and be noticed.
The school I went to was just off the military base, so all of us military kids walked or rode our bikes to and from school. Like the elementary school stalker that I was, on my way home, I paid particular attention to where she lived, making sure to stay back far enough in a group of friends so I wouldn’t be noticed. That evening and for the next two weeks, I dribbled a basketball or ran with a football by her house, hoping to catch her outside. My rationale was that she would be amazed with my amazing athletic ability and fall in love with me. It was my version of Lloyd Dobler and the stereo. It was extremely corny, but it actually got the job done. I never saw her outside, but she did ask one day, if I ran by her house with a basketball the night before. I said yes, and that was the icebreaker I needed to charm and woo my beloved Sarah.
We talked for a few weeks, and quickly became friends. We’d work together doing our patrol duties and I began walking her home each day. One afternoon while walking her home, I got up the nerve to finally ask her to be my girlfriend. I was pretty confident that the combination of my awesome basketball prowess and charming personality would leave her with no option but to say yes. So when she finally said no, I was heartbroken. Time suddenly stopped, all of my confidence came leaking out, and I wondered if I would be scarred for life. It was just like in the movies, I could see her mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear any words- just the beat of my own heart. I felt a hot chill rush over me, and I stood there just staring trying to figure out what words were coming out of her mouth by watching her slow moving lips.
She smiled, and it snapped me out of my daze. Suddenly, everything went back to normal and I could hear again. I stuttered a small, “What?” that got an eye roll from Sarah, and then she began repeating everything I had just watched her say.
She had to say “no” because her dad wouldn’t allow her to date. We were practically “together” anyway, so we’d just leave the title behind. She gave me another big smile and a hug and went skipping into her house.
I was a bit discouraged, but happy I was in a pseudo-relationship with Sarah. We ate lunch together, talked and did our patrolling together, continued to walk home together, and then spent an hour or two at night talking on the phone with what had to be the most boring and stupidest conversations ever. Still, we just upped the time we spent together as far as it could go. It was the most unofficial boyfriend/girlfriend situation I’d ever seen. I guess her dad realized that we were practically together anyway, so he gave his blessing and we became officially “a couple.”
The day she told me we were “official” I gave her a hug, and I invited her over to my house after school. No, I didn’t have any bad intentions. Come on, I was in fourth grade! I really just wanted to show her my cool room and all my random stuff I had. She was pretty excited about seeing into my little world, and we walked to my house, hand-in-hand that afternoon.
My parents weren’t home, so I gave her a full tour of the house, with special emphasis on my bedroom. I showed off my Sega Genesis and signed baseballs, and just did my best to impress my new girlfriend with the things that I owned. We walked out of the house, holding hands, and she gave me a little peck on my cheek. What was supposed to be a nice moment was ruined by snickering. My next door neighbor, Jake, a little homeschooled punk, whose relationship with me extended only as far as playing Battletoads together, was standing in his yard, pointing and laughing. He started with the annoying, “Brandon has a girlfriend… Brandon has a girlfriend” chant.
I was blinded by rage. It had taken me months to get my first “real” girlfriend, and here was this little jerk, embarrassing me. I knew I had to defend my honor so that Sarah would view me as being a suitable boyfriend. So, I decided the best course of action would be to charge Jake. I figured one good tackle would probably send him inside crying (he was a big wuss) and I’d emerge the victor, having conquered the bully.
What I didn’t take into consideration was Jake’s recent Tae Kwon Do training. I charged him. I channeled my inner Bo Jackson and lined him up as I ran across my drive way and his. In what should have been my first hint that something wasn’t right, Jake hunched down and put his hands up, like he was waiting to catch me. I must have been blinded by my anger, because I didn’t see the calm across his face. I just remember grabbing his shirt while throwing my body towards him and somehow ending up on my head in pain.
When I reached Jake, he grabbed my shirt by the shoulders, dropped to his back, and placed his foot in my stomach effectively monkey flipping me. I’m not sure if he didn’t have enough strength or if my momentum was too much, but he didn’t get me completely over. Instead, at the point where the top of my head was facing the ground and my feet were in the air, I came crashing down hard on my head. My head slid across the grass, allowing my collarbone to take the brunt of the force. I heard it snap and felt the searing pain. The sound was so loud, all I could think of was Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story, a TV movie I had seen about NFL player Dennis Byrd, who broke his neck in a football game.
I laid perfectly still on the grass, afraid to move. The pop was still ringing in my ears, and my eyes had filled up with tears. I was more upset over the thought of being paralyzed than the pain itself. It took me a good ten seconds, which felt like ten hours, to finally try and move my arm. I was so relieved when my arm moved on demand, and so did my feet. I managed to scramble myself up, but I had to hold my left arm up with my right hand. I wasn’t sure what was broken or torn, but I knew if I didn’t reinforce the arm, it hurt like hell.
Jake stood by quiet. He knew he had screwed up, but to his defense, he didn’t try to keep me from telling. He just stood by and watched me get up, while Sarah, stood across in my yard with her hand over her mouth in shock at what she just saw. When I finally made eye contact with her, I felt so defeated. Not only did I allow the verbal mockery, my attempts to get even resulted in me getting my butt kicked.
Like a scolded dog, I slowly staggered across the driveways and back into my yard, where I was forced to face my new girlfriend. Jake had already went inside without saying a word, and Sarah’s only response to me was, “I better go home.”
I nodded in agreement, but that is when I realized I couldn’t dial the phone and hold my arm up at the same time. So, I attempted to swallow my pride but found none left to swallow, and asked Sarah to come inside and dial my stepmom’s number for me. She complied, and put the phone up to my ear and then went home as soon as I got off the phone.
During the quiet drive to the hospital, the question of how I hurt myself came up. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Do I mention that I had a girl over? Do I admit to getting my butt kicked? Saving face was important to me, so I decided to do what any embarrassed fourth grader would do, I lied. I said that Jake and I decided to throw the football around and we got a little rough. I messed up a tackle, when he ducked, and ended up on my shoulder. It was realistic and very possible. I didn’t play football with Jake, but it wasn’t beyond the possibilities since I did spend most weekends playing football with neighborhood kids. I figured Jake would probably keep his mouth shut since he didn’t want to get in trouble for using his Tae Kwon Do on me, and everything would work out fine. And you know what? I was right.
After four hours in the emergency room, they put me in a figure eight sling for my broken collar bone and set an appointment for me to get into a regular sling in a few weeks pending no crazy issues arose. I went home, slept horribly, and then the next morning woke up to find my dad next door at Jake’s house. Apparently, Jake didn’t say a word about the previous day’s events, so as my dad described my side of the story to his parents, Jake just nodded and agreed.
Sarah brought me a card and a balloon later that day. She panicked so bad the day before, I thought our relationship might already be over. She was armed with a smile when she came into my room, and that made me feel better than all the pain killers in the world.
Like all young romances, Sarah and I weren’t meant to be. We broke up at the end of the year, and off we went our separate ways.
I managed to get two weeks away from what should have been my final appointment for my collarbone, when I tripped on uneven sidewalk and broke whatever had healed up. I was not happy about wearing the sling for an extra couple of months, but that’s life.
What’s probably most unique about this story is, I never told anyone the truth until I sat down and wrote this post. It took me over twenty years to finally talk about what happened. I didn’t go out of my way to lie or anything, I guess once everybody heard how I broke it, no one had a reason to question it.
So, you faithful readers are the first to hear the official and truthful story of how I broke my collarbone. I wish I could say a load has been lifted off my shoulders, but it really has made no difference in my life. Still, I think it’s funny that I’ve kept this secret all these years, for no real good reason at all.