One of the darkest days of my life was when I found out that all of the college students taking the general education gym class were required to be a part of an intramural sports team. I was stunned when I heard the news. I felt like Rocky Balboa in one of those boxing movies that I never finished watching where he gets punched in the face over and over again. I had already nearly killed myself trying to run a mile and a half earlier in the semester, and now the teacher wanted me to play a sport with other students?
The teacher was beginning to seem like a sadist, but there was nothing that I could do about it since I was too lazy to come up with ways to fake an injury. I looked through the list of available intramurals and was dismayed to see that most of them were sports that I was completely inept at playing. Basketball, volleyball, and soccer made up the majority of the teams, and I knew that if I joined any of those, I would be forever marked as the person who ruined any chances of victory by being a colossal clutz.
I stopped looking at the list and went to the student center, hoping to clear my mind of the stress caused by this intramural issue. I had not been at the student center long before a guy I had met the previous semester strutted over. I say “strutted” because this guy, whom I shall refer to as Ahmed, always walked with the confidence of Beyoncé.
He said hello, and we talked for a little bit about our classes and what was going on during the semester. When he heard that I was taking the gym class, he immediately asked if I had signed up for an intramural yet. I told him that I hadn’t found one yet but that I was hoping to pick one soon. He clapped his hands together like an excited kid on Christmas morning and told me that he was looking for one more person to add to his bowling intramural team.
Clearly not comprehending my unmoved expression, he asked if I would be interested in joining it. Since I was fresh out of options, I told him that I would join his team. He responded by jumping up and down excitedly and trying to hug me, a person who utterly loathes hugs. After his attempt to embrace a rigid, annoyed-looking person ended, he said goodbye and swept out of the room. I tried to think positive thoughts about what I had just signed up for but was unable to since I knew that being on any team with Ahmed could quite possibly be the event that made me snap.
The first night of bowling came much sooner than I had hoped it would, and I waited in my dormitory lounge for Ahmed and the rest of the team to arrive. I was not sure who the other two teammates would be, but Ahmed had assured me that they were “great at bowling” and would make a “great addition” to our team. They soon arrived, and I realized that I knew both of the other teammates. One was Claire, a kind, artistic girl who had grown up in my hometown. The other was Stacy, a negative, deeply troubled girl whom I had worked with at the cafeteria before switching shifts after determining that she would murder someone one day. With all four of “the team” together, we set off for the bowling alley.
The team could not have been made up of more diverse people. Claire, who was initially really worried about not being able to bowl well, ended up being the best player on our team. I think that her art major requiring her to breath paint fumes all day gave her a sense of calm in the face of such a high stakes sport. She enjoyed the game and never stressed out about our score in comparison to the other teams.
Ahmed, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. I would sit at the table eating french fries, trying to guess how soon he would develop an ulcer from the stress of bowling. He had regaled us with stories of his “exceptional bowling skills” on the car ride to the alley and was beginning to feel the pressure to live up to his lofty claims. Unfortunately for him, his claims were a little too grand to live up to, and he crumbled like a pop star whose fifteen minutes of fame have expired.
Stacy fell somewhere between Claire and Ahmed. She would take her ball with the calm demeanor of a sociopath, but if she missed the pins, she would storm back to the table. Once at the table, she would sit with a furious look on her face and angrily pull apart whatever paper napkin or Styrofoam cup she could get her hands on. Trying to appear nonchalant while shoveling french fries into my mouth, I would stare at her and wonder why she derived such a sense of pleasure by shredding disposable products. I thought that it might be an outlet for her violent tendencies, but I never wanted to prompt her to unpack her issues.
I was unlike any of my teammates when I bowled. I did not get angry when I sent the ball into the gutter like Stacy or Ahmed, and I certainly did not bowl like Claire, since that would require actually hitting pins. Instead, I would get up, calmly walk to the machine, pick up the ball, send it flying down the runway (I’m not sure what you call it), and often turn away before it ever hit anything.
This nonchalance may sound like the demeanor of a closeted bowling champion, but it was because I could not care less about whether or not I did well in the game. I was happy to have found an intramural that was not hard, but, unlike some of my teammates, did not look at it like it was the Bowling Olympics. In the end, our team placed third (thank you Claire), and I was relieved to be done with the routine torture every Monday night.
I realized that I learned a valuable lesson from my bowling experience after taking some time to reflect on it. I learned that bowling with an old friend, a prima donna, and a potential serial killer is something I never want to do again.