The feeling was terrible. It was similar to that feeling of anxiety you experience as you’re going up that big hill at the beginning of a roller coaster. That feeling you get when you have to present a project to the class that isn’t even completed because you just started working on it the night before.
That was the feeling I had when he turned and I saw him, his dark brown hair swept to the side and his beaming hazel eyes shooting what seemed to be right through me.
Damien and I go way back. Both of our families were stationed in Germany, and we lived in the same apartment complex together, and went to the same school. It was a kind of love-hate relationship as our parents pushed us towards each other in hopes we would become best friends. And we eventually did, however it was accompanied by a constant rivalry similar to two brothers always trying to outdo one another that eventually led to the downfall of our friendship in the fifth grade.
It was my eleventh birthday, and all of the kids from my class were invited, something my parents pushed me to doing in order to ensure no kid was left out. By this time, my family had already moved outside of the apartment complex to a house that we had been renting for a while, and my parents were able to give me a gift I had wanted for so long; a trampoline.
In our own little groups, each of us each took turns jumping on it, trying to do any acrobatic thing our young bodies could handle. I remember my friend Monica doing cartwheels around the circumference of it and my parents warning her not to do it again for fear she might fall off.
Eventually, though, this all ended up to be a recipe for disaster. One by one, my classmates began to leave as their parents arrived to pick them up, and Damien happened to be the last one left. We exchanged some awkward glances sitting in the backyard, not sure of what exactly to do now that everybody was gone, and then he gave a sheepish grin.
“What?” I asked him, letting out a slight laugh due to the fact he couldn’t stop smiling.
“Let’s have a contest!”
This definitely wasn’t anything new for him to say, and as always I was ready to accept his challenge. “Alright! What’re we gonna do?!”
He pointed toward the trampoline. “Let’s see how many flips we can do in a row!”
For once, I knew this was a challenge I would definitely lose. I had just learned how to do one today, and could barely even land on my feet. “Okay! You go first!”
I could tell he was quite confident as he strutted his way over to the trampoline. He hoisted himself up, and helped me up it too as I sat along the edge and got ready to count. My palms began to get clammy and I knew my nerves were going to get the best of me come my turn.
The competition then began as Damien pushed up off the trampoline and began twirling himself up in the air over and over again, each time landing perfectly and making another leap in order to add another flip to his score. I sat and watched in awe as he kept flipping, eventually landing on his bottom.
“I can’t beat that!” I exclaimed as I looked at him with my mouth wide open. “Ten flips… that’s way too many! I’ll get dizzy and fall off!”
“Don’t be a wimp!” he said teasingly. “You afraid you’re gonna lose, aren’t you?”
That was enough to convince me to take on his challenge. “Fine, I’ll show you…”
I got up and walked toward the middle of the trampoline as he took my spot sitting down. Not even sure if I’d be able to beat his score, I took a jump and began flipping for my life. There was no way this cocky overconfident butthead would be beating me in a challenge as simple as doing stupid flips. I turned and turned and jumped and jumped until I couldn’t anymore, landing and closing my eyes to keep from getting too dizzy. Then I opened them to look at him. He sat with an indifferent face.
“Twenty-five flips,” he declared reluctantly as he managed to keep the same facial expression. “I think I deserve a second shot.”
It literally blew my mind. “I never got a second shot at any of the challenges you won! This isn’t fair—“
“Shut up, and count!” he ordered as he got up to get started again. I didn’t care anymore. I took myself off the trampoline and went back to the same place we had been sitting before this mess began. I could still hear him flipping, the sound the trampoline’s springs squeaking violently as he landed each time. I then turned again towards him and watched as he wouldn’t give up, still counting as he was going.
Then it happened. He lost his footing around the twenty-fourth flip, and plunged to the ground off the trampoline. Shocked, I stood there for about five seconds unsure of what had just taken place. His shrieking was unbelievable and could have probably been heard from miles away. My parents came running out of the house, wondering what was going on. I looked back and forth between them and him, still spooked by the whole situation. I had never seen somebody get severely hurt before, nor been told what to do if something were to happen. As I watched my father pick Damien up and hold him in his arms, the words that escaped his mouth were going to impact our friendship forever.
“He pushed me! Seb pushed me!”