The goggles were too big, I remember that. They sagged over my left eye, bobbing as I skied. I had never worn goggles or a helmet before, but now my dad said it wasn't safe without. Starting this year, my fourth one skiing.

I was halfway down when a snowboarder slammed into me from behind. The snow felt like a broken pillow, my goggles buried underneath. I lifted my head and saw the snowboarder, a slim kid, probably in junior high too. He turned his board downhill and left me in the snow.

I spotted him later at the Waffle Cabin. He didn't say anything then either, didn’t notice me in my teal jacket, snow clinging to the back. But if he had asked if I was OK, I would’ve smiled. I would’ve said don't worry, I’m fine. That’s what I always say. The way who’s there follows knock knock . How are you? I’m fine. Anyway, that was my first concussion.


I knew high school wouldn't matter after high school, my parents reminded me of that weekly, but the problem was that I was in high school and it did matter. I made Varsity Soccer as a freshman and was desperate to show the upperclassmen I deserved to be there more than their friend who’d just been cut.

The school wasn’t legally allowed to ask us to practice on Sundays, so the captains did instead. We used the boys’ field, the one that actually had stands and a scoreboard. Every Sunday we ran the stairs, reciting mantras the seniors made up. We are faster. We are better. We want it more. Things like that. Someone always puked. It felt like we were making a difference.

At Semis, we played our rivals, a private school from two towns over. It feels quaint now, but I loathed them. They all wore their hair in the same high pony, stick- straight and just touching their numbers. They smiled in a weirdly wholesome way, then turned around and tripped and elbowed and spat like creeps.

The rest seems obvious now. I jumped for a header and so did someone’s elbows, clocking me in the back. I was out for a week, but my shot went in. Not that high school soccer matters after you’ve graduated and are in your mid-twenties still, somehow, getting concussions, but the shot did go in.


At the start of collegiate soccer, you learn about the triangle: school, sports, social. You can have any two points, but never all three. When you hear that, you nod like you know, like you’ve suspected it all along.

Most of us on the soccer team focused on school and sports, but a few girls had social lives. I looked down at them for their lack of dedication and up at them for having cute boyfriends.

By the time I was a junior, I was starting as forward. It had taken years to convince Coach, but enough seniors had graduated that she didn’t have much choice. Half the starting lineup was new. Practices became more intense that year. I got used to the pace and action, but not the muscle. After a particularly brutal 6-1 loss, Coach drew a diagonal line on the locker room whiteboard.

It’s a myth, she said. Progress is not a ramp, it’s not smooth like that. She erased the line and drew a stepped pyramid. Progress is a series of plateaus followed by sudden bumps up. It feels like no progress at all and then it clicks—next level. But, she said, first you have to slog through the plateau. You have to keep going. You have to push. And I bought that.

It was in practice when I tripped over a mess of legs and fell, turf burn on my face. One of the trainers gave me a concussion test. I remember seeing triangles, lots of them. What did triangles have to do with anything? I passed the test, but Coach still pulled me from the lineup.


Car accident. They hit him; he hit me. I was one year out of college and floating without soccer. Nothing felt real. I had started a job answering phones at a law firm and my mom, so proud, filled my closet with button-downs. My dad gave me his old Jetta. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Or maybe that came from the SUV, ramming my bumper.

The man tapped on my window. I’m fine, I mumbled. I need your insurance, he replied. I stared at the glove compartment, its faded leather, and saw the ambulance’s red lights bouncing, coming for me.


Today my head is a bowling ball. I think of more heavy things: cannonballs, lead weights, the shot in shot put. My head is all of that. I roll over on my parents’ couch.

Instead of thinking about my head, I think about co-ed rec soccer, my first time playing after five years off. I think about my roommate Grace, who gave me a piggyback ride to her car when I fell. I think about the guy who missed the ball and head-butted me instead, sending me to the ground. The same people I’m trying to meet and date are crashing into me with their titanium-plated melons, oblivious this is supposed to be fun.

Text from Grace: u ok?

Text from Grace: also can I borrow ur hairdryer? mine broke

Some plateaus, I think, are just plateaus. Sometimes, there’s no bump up. You just get in your car, work, play soccer, crash heads. Flat, flat land. I never even learned the guy’s name. I think this, then think how dumb it is to think this. I’m supposed to be resting, not thinking.

My mom calls from the other room, says we’re out of string cheese. I’m fine, I text Grace, go ahead. I want to add emoji, but which? There are round heads of every kind, but they all feel wrong. 

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Brooke Randel is a writer and copywriter in Chicago. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Jewish Fiction, The Nasiona, SmokeLong Quarterly and Two Cities Review. She is currently writing a memoir about her grandma, literacy and the legacy of the Holocaust. Find more of her work at brookerandel.com.