Before Practice

by Erica Ayala

published in Voices Magazine September 2013


Early one morning as I waited for practice to begin

he came to speak to me with a whistle around his neck

and a smile on his face.

We talked about the game, about the upcoming season;

all the usual.

He congratulated me on making the Varsity team as a freshman,

all the while coming closer.

I thought nothing of it for he was old and I

soft spoken.


However, with every shuffle of his feet I become more aware

of his closeness.

Now he stood over my right leg

that lazily dangled over the bleachers.

I realized his position too late now he stood straddled over me.

Even the slightest movement would ensure that his hope of my leg

brushing up against the inseam of his purple warm-up suit

would be realized.


As he towered over me,

he began swaying back & forth

in perfect time with the whistle around his neck.

I wished desperately that I could

adjust my shorts that were now bunched tightly between me and the bleacher,

exposing my thigh ever so slightly beyond comfort.

I had long lost the conversation, too busy quietly praying that he would leave.

I closed my eyes and the stories of my paranoid father play in my mind.


Daddy would tell me about perverted coaches,

urging me to stop playing sports.

As the chatter of my teammates began to fill the halls, he left as pleasantly and suddenly as he appeared. In practice that day, I was off.

Coach, disappointed in my performance, asked mockingly if my feet are made of lead. That day, they were.

I think of what my father would say if he knew; how he would look at me?

I see my father’s head shaking in shame,

and I allow myself to cry.

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