For most of my life, I’ve had very specific flying dreams. Mysleeping self unlocks gravity with a perfect physical coordination. I’ll be running, or dancing, and then somehow both at once – suddenly I feel weightless.The struggle is not how to leave the ground, but how to find it again. The nightmare version of this: I am running, and I feelsomething pull my feet out from underneath me – I fall down while my feet are being pulled backwards, and wake just before my face hits the dirt. My athletic unconscious orbits around the scene of physicalfreedom – its gift, its loss, its recovery.
Last spring, I played a game with that dream-like weightlessness. There was no will, no thought – just the pure physicalexpression of intention.I scored, assisted, played great defense. My body knew where the ball was, all the time. Iplayed out of my socks, and felt, for the first time, that I knew what that phrase meant. I loved every second of that night – months later, I can recall the game in flashes, a residual sense of a perfect (for me) economy of movement.
But the morning after, I woke up with a swollen knee – I don’t remember hurting it. This was not something I’d seen before. I did the things athletes do, wrapping, icing, etc. I stayed away from the field for awhile.
After three or four weeks I was back in the game – but it didn’t feel right. More months off the field – a glorious summer devoted to cross-country running – and my legs felt great. Then I tried playing.
My first week back, my knee felt wrong. Easing into a game ,I took up a defensive position in relation to player attacking down the right wing – he faked this way and that. I tried to go with him as he cut to my left.
As I pushed off with my right foot – nothing unusual – I heard a crunch, and my knee immediately went funny. This was a loudcrunch – very different from the crackles that knee has made since I was in my 20s.The knee didn’t swell up immediately (one of the big indicators of a torn ACL), and I could put a bit of weight on it. But it hurt, and it felt so wrong – like I’d tangled up all the cords.