In the kitchen, the coffee pot, still hot, was just beginning to drip. He was
in his uniform, and that hadn’t changed: the khaki was perfect for
racing—a perfect match for the softness of his skin, his blue eyes, long,
slender, and with a hint of humor in them. He had never been the “good girl”
or “bad girl,” nor had he ever been the “nice boy” or “mean boy.” Instead, he
had been the person who made the world around him better and made those around
him better. He was not just an athlete; he was a champion.
He had never been perfect. He had never been a good person. He had never
been a great athlete, but he was a champion.
And now there was this: the new version of reality.
Every time he blinked, he saw himself as a champion, and yet, in fact, this
was the reason why he had become a champion—because he had wished to be a
champion, but had not. He never wished to be a champion, because he had
always, from the day he was born until he’d finished his freshman year of
majors, wished to be someone else.
It was the “F” word that made it all real: that had made him feel real. It
was the F word that had made it real.
He wished to be a champion because he liked to get hit, and he felt he had
the best route to that because he had a powerful body and was the best at
getting hit. He wished to be a champion because he thought he could run faster
than anyone else. He wished to be a champion because he didn’t have to do
anything else, he could not run faster than anyone else, and he would rather
have that than anything else.
He wished to be a champion because he didn’t have to be good. He wished to
be a champion because he liked to get hit. He wished to be a champion because
it felt good. He wished to be a champion, not because he deserved it, but
because, in the words of a friend, “it was what he wanted.”
He wished to be a champion because he had never been good enough. Maybe he
was never meant to be, but he was.
He wished to be a champion because he knew how to get back the way he had
left. His dream, which he had never had, was to be the champion, and what he
wanted was to be a champion. He wished to be a champion because he had never
been good enough. He wished to be a champion because he was a champion.
The day before, he had thought of nothing but his goal. Nothing had been
left to wish for—except maybe to get hit harder, and he was glad that it had
When he got to the track, he found that he was not alone. He walked in,
dressed as he had been the day before, and there was his boyfriend, Zander
Roloff, standing with his girlfriend, the best sprinter around. Zander had
expected someone who was there with him, someone he recognized, someone who
knew what he looked like, someone who knew him, someone who understood him,
someone who would give him whatever he needed. But this was someone who
wished it all to hell and back, who would make everything as it should be.
“I haven’t seen you since yesterday,” the guy said. “This place is, what?
Five times bigger than last year?”
He walked to the bathroom. After he was finished in there, and after he went
to the shower, his boyfriend opened the door to a mirror with him as Zander
watched him, and the man had looked like his brother in that moment.
This was the Zander who had been waiting. This was the Zander Roloff who was
screaming outside, who was beating up those on the track team he loved as he
was beaten. This was the Zander who had never been the best, but who
wanted, in the worst way available to him, to be the best. This was the
Zander who wished to be the best.
Zander was the best.
As he’d driven his family to the track, he and his girlfriend had gotten
sadly quiet. She had looked at him with so much love and understanding, even
as he wondered to himself how it could be love that he wanted to be and how it
could be that he did not. She had understood even as he had been incapable of
understanding. They had understood and understood and understood, and then not
understood anymore. He hadn’t known how to take it, and she had understood,
and understood, and so they had both come to understand that they had never
needed to take it. And so they had, finally, gone out together, and that was
when it had all made its way from the dream to the reality: it had
occurred, and it had happened, and it had been everything that it was
supposed to be.
It had also been everything that it wasn’t.
In his head, it had all been perfect, everything he had wished for. But it had
been so much more than he had ever dreamed. And now it had turned out just
like he had been hoping for.
After he had driven, and after he had come to a stop outside, his girlfriend
had taken his hand. Without it, it had been just his left hand, just as his
right hand was. After he had taken it, she took her hand away, and she had
stood with him as he stared at himself in the mirror.
“I don’t want to be any better.” Zander had said, his voice low, his eyes still
on his reflection.