A toasted my favorite strawberry Pop Tarts, carefully cut them into quarters like my precision would protect me from something, and sipped regular Coke.
Garbage in, garbage out, sis," said my brother. "Carrie, girl, your energy is going to totally crap out halfway through practice, if you eat like that." I didn't care that much. Yeah, I'd probably have half a snack bag of corn chips for lunch, throw the rest away and say I was fat, try to pretend I was fashionably dieting like the pretty girls, and then feel like wet rag after doing wind sprints with my hockey stick after school. But I never saw my body as a carefully sculpted, inhuman machine, capable of perfection like my brother. My legs were just a vehicle to get my life to Point a and Point B, as best as it could. I think deep inside, I had learned the lessons my father taught me about the female body, the way he never encouraged me to excel in sports like he did my brother -- there were limits to female size and strength, and your body and fate could betray you. So you had to chill.
Screw you Brad," I'd say, and feel my Pop Tart singe the inside of my carefully glossed lips, swing my heavy backpack, and leave.
Yeah, my backpack was heavy. I had to work hard, unlike my brother in school. Yeah, I played field hockey, my knees growing tan beneath the shining fall sun, but I was always earthbound about my athletic ambitions. My father reminded me that there was no money in women's sports, no matter how high the heavy softball sailed across the field with a crack of my bat. I was always better at books, anyway. I knew that was the only way I could get out of my home, the school where I wasn't popular, just my brother's little sister, was following a string, step by carefully wrought step. Intellect was my way out of the labyrinth I lived within, and patience.
There I would be, cheering my brother on at the games, every night he played, even though he never came to my games. I was still my father's daughter, and he was the quarterback. I was his cheerleader in spirit, even though I wasn't like the pretty girls making pyramids in the school colors of Kelly green and gold.
We all waited for the recruiters. The scouts came. Then the visits to college. Playing with the teams, the best and the brightest, from teams with names we watched on television, in warm stadiums with throngs of cheering crowds, all dressed in the school colors.
And then, the rejections. To small. Don't need a quarterback this year. We want you, but we can't pay your way so you have to afford a zillion dollars in tuition for our fancy private school that isn't really that great anyway.
I know you were looking for some great ending to this story -- like my brother becomes part of the NFL, or he gets busted for using steroids. Hey, I grew up to teach high school English, so I know all about good story endings. But the reality is that sometimes, they just don't want you. And that's what happened to my brother -- with his grades, SATs, and no offers, he ended up at the local community college, painting houses with my father during the summer, and working part-time at the Sports Authority during the school year. Sometimes he even has to sell a golf club or a pair of running shoes to one of the teachers he 'disrespected' so much in high school.
My brother is still getting his degree, slowly, but I got a part-time scholarship to the state university, and now I'm in my first year as a teacher. I hope to be able to move out of my parent's home in a year or so, once my fiancee and I get on our financial feet. Teaching Greek mythology to bored high school freshman isn't glamorous, but it pays the bills and I like it, most of the time. I also coach the girl's field hockey and softball teams, and I like that as well, although I can tell you, none of the kids would pass my father's standards of toughness.
And my father? One thing they never say -- how did Daedalus feel when he saw his son fall from view? Did he fly on, knowing that it had to happen, because the boy was so arrogant, because he knew his son too well? Or was he overly confident in his son's character, was he surprised, did he look and did he never get over the sight of Icarus burning, choking, drowning? You can't blame him -- lost amongst the birds, with only the sight of his son, it's easy to get caught up in your own glory, without the reality check of other people's advice.