Thursday, April 23, 2009 • 9:15 pm
Volleyball at the YMCA. They play in the multipurpose gym. Basketball, gymnastics, parties. If this were a grade school, the kids would eat lunch here, too. I stretch my legs, wait for the current game to finish, and speak with W., the woman who's keeping score, blowing a whistle to signal the next serve, keeping riots from breaking out. She asks if I'm a member (yep) and if I've played before (yep) and where. Kansas, I say. And Missouri, Atlanta, Tel Aviv and Berkeley and New York and Aruba. W. says, “You've certainly played in a lot of places.” Playing volleyball in the sand was the second best workout I had on my honeymoon.

This group is pretty good. There's a handful of aggressive, polished players. Nice placement, nice spikes. I'm a competent volleyball player. Not great, but I enjoy the teamwork, the coordination, the dexterity. The workout. I can handle this group. I can hold my own. Game ends. I'm in.

• 9:25 pm
I’m up at the net. First ball comes my way. I get my palms under it, and it veers out of bounds. S’alright, I tell myself. Haven't played in three years. Two minutes later, the other team sets up for a punch across the net. Volleyball, you know: it's all about the timing. I wait, gauge, jump, and block the shot perfectly. The ball falls on their side, untouched.

I land and collide with the guy whose shot I just blocked. I hear a snap in my right knee, feel pain shoot simultaneously up my thigh and down to my toes, out the door and down the street to the Hudson River. I go down.

• 9:29 pm

a knee gone bad
I'm sitting on the floor. Knee's throbbing. Pain shoots out, regenerates, stabs back in. Everybody's looking at me. I'm looking at my knee like it's an appendage that just got added to inventory, and someone shipped the wrong part. For ten seconds, it's very quiet in the YMCA's multipurpose gym. And then the guy who collided with me speaks. He says, “I didn't cross my side of the net.”

• 9:30 pm
I'm sitting on the floor against the wall. The game continues. W. asks if I'm okay. “No,” I say. “My knee hurts.” She says she'll be right back, leaves the gym, returns with a piece of paper on a clipboard. The Incident Report. I say, “Wait a minute. Maybe I can stand up and walk on it.” I get up on my good leg and take a step on my bad leg and the knee hyperextends backward in a way I've only seen in sci-fi alien movies, and it hurts even worse, and I sit back down.

W. wants to call an ambulance. I say, “Please don't call an ambulance. Methodist Hospital is four blocks away. I can crawl there...or you could give me a ride. Or I'll get a car service.”

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