If I could choose one phrase that would best describe my school days, it would be: The years I was repeatedly hit in the face with sporting equipment.
Mostly tennis balls. Mostly didn’t hurt, except the ones that actually lodged in my eye-socket; they kind of hurt. Like having a Chinese-burn on your eye-ball.
There was, of course, the time when I was playing soccer with some older kids, and one of those older kids kicked the soccer-ball into my face at close range and at high velocity. That one hurt, and I’m pretty sure I blacked-out on my feet for a short time. At one moment, I was happily chasing a soccer ball around the oval. The next moment I had amnesia and couldn’t feel my face. At first, everything was fine. A few minutes later, when I actually realised what had happened and the feeling had come back into my face? That was bad!
But the ultimate face-hitting experience was when Mark Cashman hit me in the face with a cricket bat. Yes, Mark, I still remember your name. It was forever tattooed into my memory the moment the bat hit my face. I was looking for something in my school bag. Mark was standing a few paces away from me practising his cricket shots, or at least I thought he was. It was only when I turned to stand up that I discovered that Mark had moved a few paces closer. This realisation was reinforced when Mark spectacularly drove his practice off-drive right into my face.
This wasn’t a glancing blow — he didn’t just clip me — it wasn’t a slight tap on the chin — it was the full-face of the blade, at full-force, into my face. In fact, I’m pretty sure he hit me with the sweet-spot of the bat. If my head hadn’t been attached to my body, I’m sure it would have gone for six.
How nothing was broken, I still have no idea. I still had my front teeth, my nose wasn’t broken. I wasn’t even bleeding. I just hurt. I didn’t even get the respite of temporary amnesia or numbness like I did with the soccer-ball. There was only pain. As if there was a party in my face that a bunch of bogans had gate-crashed and then trashed. Yeah, that’s how bad the pain was. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move. It hurt so much, I couldn’t even cry. I just sat there in shock and awe.
The only thought that kept going through my mind was, “I’ve just been hit in the face with a cricket bat.” Strangely, I kind of felt cool about that. I mean, how often does it happen? I guarantee I’m one of the few people in the world who knows what it feels like to be hit in the face with a cricket bat. I feel like I’m a member of a very exclusive club.
But all good things must come to an end. Sadly, since leaving school, I haven’t been hit in the face by any sporting equipment. It seems like that is something I have left behind with my childhood. But who knows what lies around the next corner? Maybe there’s a polo mallet with my name on it somewhere.