In the replay I’ve manufactured with all the time since, I turn suddenly. I’ve just stepped with my left leg, the ball deflects to my right, and I try to follow it.
To veer right, I should push off my left. But in the split-second my brain has to decide, waiting another so I can step with my right before pushing off my left doesn’t even suggest itself as an option. The ball’s there to be won.
I put my right leg where I should my left, drive off it, feel the kick. Down I go, searching for my kicker, wondering how he’d like it if I got straight back up and kicked him.
But the nearest and most likely just looks at me, wondering why I’ve hit the deck, roaring as I fall.
“Sure you’ll go into goal until it numbs up?” Éanna suggests while I cradle my calf, running diagnostics.
“I don’t think I can,” I admit after a pause, a sign that something is wrong.
Soon after, I stand up on my left, and hobble pitch-side, where I sit for the rest of the match, half-watching its action unfold. I don’t even think about re-joining – a further sign – because my leg just doesn’t feel right. I move only to hop to the opposite side to collect my things when I get cold, just before our evening ends.
Hopping to Éanna’s car, I decide it’s a calf strain; I won’t be able to play the following week.
“I’ll have to see how I get on,” I say, or words to that effect, before making my way inside.
By the time I go to bed, the internet and I have decided it’s a bad calf strain, ‘Tennis Leg’ to be exact. I make my way upstairs like a disabled spider, using my right ass-cheek and left leg as my base, my hands for propulsion. Sleep is respite.
Thursday’s a non-event. Movement is a merger of hopping on my left leg and stepping with it whilst sliding my right foot along the ground, until that evening, when my landlady’s partner digs out a set of crutches for me to use.
Only once do I make the mistake of planting my right foot, by accident, and that’s more than enough. It’s still just a bad calf strain, but one that’s not getting any better. It’s swollen and I can’t walk on it, I can’t do anything.
Friday. I wake to my leg as swollen as it has been since Wednesday. It still doesn’t want to do anything, nor do I want to do anything with it.
Dad says I should go and have it seen to at the hospital before the weekend’s madness kicks in. I listen.
I get a taxi to the ATM across the road from the hospital so I can take out the small wedge of money I expect to pay for visiting A&E. I refuse the taxi-man’s offer to bring me there, decide to crutch my way instead.
The few hundred metres takes me two or three rests and a torrent of sweat but I arrive. I then trundle my way into the waiting room, having completed a form and re-diagnosed myself with a ‘calf strain’.
I cool and sit happily enough: I’m going to be seen to, find out exactly what’s wrong, and I’m going to be fixed. My wait isn’t long.
When my name is called, I crutch my way into the A&E corridor and plonk myself on the chair indicated by a doctor.
“Yeah, you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon,” she says, no sooner than she’s touched my calf. “I can feel the defect. There’s a hole right here I can put my fingers into.” Something she does, all too promptly.
My blood pressure spikes. It’s the worst possible injury I could have.
“What happens now?” I manage to blurt out.
“Surgery,” she says.
Neil Slevin is a 27-year-old writer from Co. Leitrim. An English teacher, in 2015 he completed an MA in Writing at NUI Galway and he is now pursuing a writing-based career. Neil’s poetry has been published by The Galway Review and Boyne Berries, as well as numerous international journals, including Scarlet Leaf Review and Artificium: The Journal. His flash fiction appeared in The Incubator.