blindsided

By Naomi Wall


I shouldn’t have taken a shower. Damn football practice. First day of class and I’m 

already 15 minutes late. Which one is it again? 5...6...7...8...okay here we are, lecture center 9.

 A lot of different faces in this class. Hate that guy, and there’s that stalker kid. Oh wow, 

no way, she’s in this class. Is it her? Can’t be. I’m just going to quickly turn around to look at 

her, maybe make it look like I heard someone call my name. Could play off how badly I just 

want to catch a glimpse of her. Okay, quick turn around, go. Wow, she has a beautiful smile. It is 

her. We’re in the same class. This is my chance, and I’m not going to mess this up.

 Coach stands in the middle of the field. “Hustle up, ladies,” he says. As we all reach the 

middle of the field, coach looks around, taking attendance. He nods at one of us. “All right, 

Justin, get everyone stretching.”

 “Okay, Coach,” says Justin, “right leg over left...1.”

 “2,” we echo.

 “3”

 “4”

 After spending 10 minutes stretching, we break off into our positions. I jog over to the 

end zone and see Mark standing there looking at me.

 “Yo, Tyler! What’s up, bro?” he says, adjusting his shoulder pads.

 “Yo, Mark.”

 “How you liking the school?” he asks.

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 “It’s nice, tryna focus on my game though. I really want some playing time at the 

homecoming game.” I take a deep breath, already anticipating that I’ll be busting my ass this 

practice.

 “Think you’re ready for that? You realize that’s next Saturday, right?” he asks. He looks 

toward Coach B making his way to the end zone and adjusts his pads again.

 “Yeah, I do. I think I can get Coach to switch me on and off with Darren.” Mark laughs.

 “Darren’s earned the spot for the whole game. If you think you can prove yourself in less 

than 2 weeks, then damn, good for you, man.” He slaps my shoulder pads.

 Darren walks over with two of the other juniors that play the line. They give Mark and I a 

head-nod and stand next to us in the end zone. Darren isn’t a big dude, but it’s his speed and 

agility that makes him the star lineman. He can get around an offensive lineman and get to the 

quarterback seconds after the snap. Last season he had 13 sacks. He’s an animal.

 “Listen up, we’re going to run through the Angle Tackle Drill 10 times each and then 

we’ll move on,” says Coach B, looking at each of us.

 As we begin the last drill, I fantasize a hot shower. When we’re done, Justin calls the 

team to the middle of the field and we jog over. I pray his speech is short today because I need to 

get to class on time. He wraps up with some motivational shit. Then Coach takes over.

 “Good practice today. I’m seeing a lot of improvement amongst you freshmen. Makes me 

proud. Hit the showers, ladies,” Coach calls out, and I bolt towards the exit ramp.

 “Yo, Ty, where the hell are you going, rushing and shit?”

 I look back and see Justin jogging up behind me.

 “Bro, I have class in 20 minutes.”

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 “Oh the one with bae?” he asks.

 “Yeah, and I’m trying to get in the shower first so I’m not stuck waiting.”

 “She must be real special if you’re still pushing yourself to rush after that hard-ass 

practice.” 

 Mark comes up from behind.

 “Who’s special?” he asks. I look over at his face and notice the sweat dripping from his 

forehead.

 “No one,” I answer, and give Justin a look.

 “This chick Tyler’s crushing on.” Justin says, ignoring me. 

 “Oh shit. Little freshman’s got a girlfriend or what?” He starts laughing with Justin.

 I look over at Justin, wondering if I should shove him, but he’s standing there, smiling. 

Mark looks at me, expecting an explanation.

 “Whatever dude.”

Ha! I make it out of football practice with ten minutes to spare. If I’m actually on time for 

this class today, it’ll be a damn miracle. I wonder if Nataly’s here yet. Whatever, I’m sitting here. 

I check my phone to make sure it’s on silent. Check.

 I show up early and the professor is 10 minutes late. Thanks for showing up, Teach, I 

want to shout. Now what is he blabbing about? An in-class group project? Has he even taught us 

anything yet? I don’t know how I’m going to find 9 other people to work with me. The 5 people 

next to me all seem cool with it, though.

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 “We have 5 people, how many are you guys?” I turn around and see Nataly looking at 

me, like she’s waiting for something. I continue to stare and then I realize she’s talking to me. 

 “We’re 5 too,” says the kid next to me, reading my mind, knowing the words weren’t 

coming out of my mouth anytime soon.

 Where is she going? Shit, she’s moving next to me. Weren’t kidding when you said group 

work, huh Teach?

 “Hey,” she says. 

 “Hey.” 

 “Were you in my orientation group over the summer?” she asks, looking away from me 

as soon as the words leave her mouth.

 “What?....me? Yeah, yeah I was.” 

 “Yeah, I recognize you, it’s Tyler, right?” she asks. 

 “Yes, and you’re Nataly?” 

 “Yup,” she says, smiling, “I’m glad I stuck with my decision to come here.” 

 I smile at her because I don’t really know what to say. What does she mean by that? 

Okay, now the whole group is staring at us. I didn’t notice any of them until now. There are six 

guys, four girls. Two girls are nerdy looking, they probably can’t wait to start this project. Then 

there’s Nataly and another girl, a foreign exchange student. I think she said she’s from Scotland, 

her accent is really heavy, so I don’t really know. I look at Nataly. I’ll just start working on this, I 

guess. I can’t get enough of her smile. She really is so beautiful. It would’ve been great if this 

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was a partner kind of thing because the whole 10-person group is making it awkward to ask her 

 The next 45 minutes we all work on our project and, surprisingly, actually get shit done. 

The alarm on the professor’s computer goes off and class is over. We all get up, ready to go our 

separate ways. Nataly packs her bag and looks at me. I rush to put everything in my bag, to 

hoping to walk with her out of class. Our eyes meet, and before I can say a word, she says, “see 

you around.” 

 “Yeah, see ya.”

“I think I’m feeling a burger today,” Adam says, pulling out his student card.

 Adam is my best friend from home and we’re sitting in the college plaza now. I got re-
cruited for football, and the economics program here is “top 1, no other 1,” in Adam’s words. 

And now we’re here. He isn’t an athlete, but he’s not fat either. He’s smart as hell though. 

 “I’m getting a grilled chicken sandwich,” I say.

 “Yeah, me too. Last time I got a burger, that shit was gross,” says Justin.

 I look around the plaza, checking out the girls, and seeing if anyone I know is here. I see 

a group of the other freshmen from the football team and give them a head-nod.

 I pay for my sandwich and pick a spot in the back corner. Justin grabs a chair from the 

table next to us and pulls it up to ours. I look around for Adam and see him walking over to us, 

struggling with his tray.

 “Shit, Nataly’s here,” I tell him, glancing over at the line.

 “Where, where?” Adam asks, turning around.

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 “Dude, you’re making it obvious as shit, stop.”

 “The girl in your class?” Justin asks.

 “Yeah that girl.” Adam turns back around, raising his eyebrows up and down about five 

times. 

 “Who’s she with?” he asks.

 “I don’t see anyone next to her. She’s probably by herself.”

 “Go ask her to sit with you,” says Justin.

 “No shot,” I answer.

 “Dude, why not? This is your chance to ask out the love of your life,” says Adam. He 

flashes a grin then takes a bite of his burger and everything falls out the opposite end of the bun.

 “She is not the love of my life. Wait, she’s looking over here. Shit. She’s waving.”

 “Wave back,” they say in unison.

 “I am, I am,” I mutter, waving back at Nataly. I notice she looks different today. Her hair 

is pushed back in a ponytail.

 “Bro, you’re turning red,” Adam says, bursting out laughing.

 “No I’m not, shit, she’s walking over here. Do I stand up? Am I supposed to hug her?” 

Adam and Justin continue to laugh as Nataly walks over.

 “Hey, Tyler.”

 “Hey, Nataly, what’s up?”

 “Nothing really, just getting a bite to eat before my next class,” she says, looking over at 

Adam and Justin.

 “Oh, Nataly, these are my friends, Adam and Justin. Guys, this is Nataly.”

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 “Nice to meet you,” says Justin.

 “Yeah, Tyler has told us all about you,” Adam says, raising his eyebrows again. I picture 

myself shaving his eyebrows off while he’s passed out, drunk on the futon this weekend. 

 I stare at Adam then look up and see Nataly smiling.

 “I think tomorrow is the last day we have to work on our group project,” she says.

 “So, we’re handing it in to him after class?” I ask.

 “Yup.”

 “53. Number 53,” someone shouts.

 “Oh, that’s my food. I’ll see you in class tomorrow, Tyler. Nice to meet you guys.” she 

 “Yeah, you too, Nataly,” the guys say, but it’s too late, she’s already by the pick-up sta-

 I caught myself staring at her smile while she spoke to us. It wasn’t only how straight and 

white her teeth were, but how there was a genuine feel to the way she smiled. It just wasn’t like 

some of these girls who smile at you and 5 seconds later they’re back to chronic bitch face. 

 “Yo, bro,” says Justin while waving a ketchup packet. “You good?”

 “Yes?” I say, finishing up my sandwich.

 “All I’m saying is, if you don’t ask her out soon, then I’m gonna have to take her up to 

my room.”

 “Oh you got jokes, Justin?” I ask, looking over. But I’m laughing now too.

 “I’m serious,” he says.

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 “For real, dude, if you don’t ask her out tomorrow, I’m gonna call you ‘lil bitch’ from 

now on,” says Adam. I stand up and pick up my tray. I look at Justin and Adam to see their faces 

are serious.

 “Deal.”

I’ve got 45 minutes to make a move. I got this. I have to have this. We will probably nev-
er sit this close to each other again. Okay, focus Tyler, what’s the plan? You could just grow a 

pair and come out and say it, point blank, “let’s go out.” No, no, she probably wants a solid game 

plan. “Let’s go out to the movies,” or “let’s go get something to eat.” Too demanding? A polite 

gentleman would say, “will you do me the honor and go out with me?” Ha, I can’t even take my-
self seriously. I’m screwed. Might as well tattoo ‘lil bitch’ on my forehead. 

“Tyler what do you think?” someone says. 

Think about what? 

 I look up and say, “yeah sounds good.” 

 “Okay so everyone knows what they’re doing? Good. Anyone have the time?” the blonde 

guy asks. 

 “We’ve got a little less than 40 minutes. I think we’ll finish just in time,” Nataly says. 

 Everyone nods, grabs their pens and starts writing. I look around to figure out what exact-
ly is going on. Too busy getting nowhere with Nataly to pay attention. Good job. 

“Hey what’s everyone doing?” I whisper to Nataly. 

 She smiles and it makes me smile. “We’re all writing out different definitions to add to 

the powerpoint,” she whispers.

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 “Oh, okay. Do you remember which ones I was assigned? Sorry, I wasn’t listening,” I say 

trying to hide my embarrassment. She nudges my shoulder and laughs. 

 “Yes, you have the definitions on pages 113-127.” I nod a couple of times. 

 “Right, right.”

 Nataly checks in with everyone at the end.

“I’m on my last definition,” one of the nerdy girls says. Others nod in agreement. 

“Me too.” I say. 

 “I have 2 more to do,” says the blonde guy. 

“Okay, I’m going to start putting everything together.” says Nataly. 

 “I’ll help,” I offer. 

“Thanks,” she says, “just pull up powerpoint on your computer and I’ll email you all of 

the information.” 

“Okay. Are you coming to the Homecoming game tomorrow?” 

 “Yes, I am, actually. Pick that layout, right there,” she says, pointing to one on my screen. 

 “Good good. It should be a good game. You should tell your friends and everyone to 

come out too.” Nice going, you just said ‘good’ about 7 times in a row and basically said you 

want all her friends. 

 “Sure, I guess. Are you going to play?” 

“There’s some competition with me and the junior that plays the same position.” 

“Oh, well I hope you get the spot.” 

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 I can’t stop smiling as I add the last definition to the slide show. “I think it’s all finished.” 

 “Perfect. Make sure to send it to the professor, and then we can leave.” 

 I send the email, and we start packing up. I look around to see some of the guys in our 

group dap each other up and hear some of the girls say how relieved they are that this project is 

finally finished.

“Good job, team,” I say. 

 I get some dirty looks. I turn around to Nataly and say, “tough crowd.” 

 “Don’t take it personally, but they all just think you didn’t do much for the project.” 

“What the hell? I did just as much as some of them.” 

“I know. That’s what I told them.” 

 Wow. She’s perfect. Defending me and shit. Get ready to eat your words Adam! I ask her 

if she wants to grab lunch. She gives me a big smile and the rest flashes before my eyes like a 

lightning bolt. A guy comes up behind her and kisses her on the cheek. Nataly turns her head to 

kiss his lips. “Ready to go, babe?” he asks pulling her jacket closer to him. They make eye con-
tact and I can feel my stomach twist. It was like cramping up during practice, but I can’t stretch 

this one out. Where was this guy before? I’m ten times better looking than him. She turns away 

from me and answers, “yeah, I’ll be right there.” “Okay,” he says, walking up the steps. I feel my 

hands getting clammy.

 “Sorry about that,” she says, “but I already have plans to eat with my boyfriend, Eli,” she 

says, pointing in his direction. 

 “No problem,” I say “see you around.”

Blindsided Wall 11

 “We’re gonna take this game against Maine and think about all the alumni out there 

watching, thinking about their times at this school, and remind them why they love coming to 

these football games. Go out there and play hard. Justin any words for the team?” says Coach. 

 “You all heard, Coach, let’s get out there and win one for the fans. Clear eyes, full 

hearts,” yells Justin. Jesus. Another line from Friday Night Lights. 

 “Can’t lose!” the team yells in unison. I look over at Justin who is now jumping up and 

down, pumped up for the game. He smiles at me, “You ready bro?” 

 “Yeah man, this is it.” 

 We wait in the tunnel for a few minutes. I can already feel the cold air creeping into my 

jersey and between my pads. Everyone is moving around to keep their body heat from escaping. 

Coach gives us the cue to run onto the field and Justin starts the chants. All fifty five of us run 

out, a herd of buffalo, arms pumping to get the crowd going, shouting every chant we know. We 

huddle up in the center of the field like a mosh-pit of some sort. More motivational shit from 

Justin, Coach gives us advice, and then we run to our sideline. I look back at the crowd and no-
tice the usual: kids bundled up in blankets, an almost endless sea of silver and navy blue, the oc-
casional few supporters of the other team, and then I spot her. My eyes flit back to the field. My 

stomach feels tight. Get it together, Tyler. You know she was going to be here.

 Part of me is pumped for the game I’ve been waiting weeks for, but part of me still feels 

like shit. I really thought I had a chance. I pictured us walking to class together, me carrying her 

books and being that couple holding hands around campus everyday. Everyone hating us. That 

sort of thing. It’s that false hope that girls feed you that really hits hard in the end. Be straight-

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forward. Stop with the mixed signals and bullshit. Fuck. That pep talk really works until you 

think of shit like this. 

 I spend the 1st quarter on the sidelines. We’re already losing. 10 to nothing. 

 “Tyler! Ty! Tyler!” I turn around to see Adam waving and sitting next to a big group of 

girls with the biggest smile on his face. I can’t imagine how much he paid to sit with them. 

 By the 4th quarter, the score is 25-20. We’re still losing. 

 Maine snaps the ball and the quarterback looks around for the open pass. Darren gets 

around the lineman and goes for the sack. He runs, heaving his body forward like a rhinoceros 

heaves his horn forward when charging. One of the offensive lineman sees Darren coming and 

runs over for the block. Darren goes down hard, he is motionless with his arm bent unnaturally 

and the lineman loses balance and falls on top of him. The quarterback gets the pass out to his 

receiver and Justin tackles the receiver. Down. It’s a gain of 16 yards and everyone jogs over to 

line up at the 34 yard line. Everyone, but Darren. He still hasn’t gotten up. 

 The trainers run onto the field. I look over at Coach. He looks worried. Darren finally 

gets up with one of the trainers holding him under the left shoulder. His right arm is dangling by 

his side. They get over to the sidelines and I hear the trainers yell at the Coach, “It’s just a dislo-
cated shoulder, we’re gonna take him into the locker room and pop it back in.” 

Coach nods his head and yells, “Tyler, get over here.” 

 This is it. 

 “Yeah, Coach?” 

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 He puts his hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got less than 5 minutes to prove to me every 

reason you’re here. Show me why I shouldn’t let Darren back in. Get out there.”

 “Yes, Coach.” 

 I run out to the 34 yard line, look back at Adam, and give him a salute. This time, I see 

Eli, sitting next to Nataly, his arm around her. I feel myself getting heated, I think about the way 

she smiled when I asked her to get food. The way he looked at her when he asked if she was 

ready. The way they kissed. I might throw up, right here, right now. 

 I join the guys in the huddle. 

 “Time to show ‘em what you got, Tyler,” Justin says. 

 I nod and we walk over to the line. This big guy lines up in front of me. I picture Eli un-
der that helmet. We both bend down into position. There’s a rage inside of me as I set my feet. I 

hear their quarterback yell, “Set, hike.” I throw my hands in front of me and feel my momentum 

explode. I overpower him and throw him to the ground. I get around him and see the quarterback 

looking around for the pass. He’s right there. I reach out for his body. My hot hand grabs his cold 

arm, I squeeze my body around his back plate, reach over his shoulder pads and pull my body 

towards the ground. Got him. Yes. 

 “Sack by #13, Tyler Runsler,” says the announcer. 

 I look over to the sidelines and see Coach clapping. That’s it, Tyler, keep it up. Check the 

clock. We have time to get this turnover and score a touchdown. I look over again and see Darren 

standing next to him. 

 We line up. At the line, I see Eli in every uniform. I hear the quarterback yell, the ball 

gets snapped, and I am moving swiftly around the lineman. The quarterback hands the ball off. 

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Run faster. Run faster. Get him. I run Eli down, warp my arms around his torso and slam him 

into the ground . Yes. Fourth down. 

 Maine punts the ball off and we receive it. The returner gets past the 30 yard line, the 40 

yard line, the 50, the 40, then he’s tackled by one of Maine’s special teams player. 

 Justin gets the ball. He looks around for the pass. One of the receivers goes long. He’s 

running. He’s wide open. Justin sees the pass and throws it to him. It spirals in the air. He catches 

it. Go. Go. Run. No one can keep up with him. He’s in. He’s in the end zone. The refs throw their 

arms up. It’s good! Touchdown! 

 It’s 26-25. The kick is good. 27-25. The clock runs out and we shake hands with Maine. 

 I look over to the stands and see Adam hugging the girls. I see Nataly hugging her 

boyfriend. Fuck that girl, I won the game. 

 “Tyler.” someone yells. 

 I turn around to see Darren jogging over. 

 “Yo, how’s the shoulder?” I ask. 

 “It’s fine. Good game out there. Don’t get used to it,” he says hitting my shoulder pads. 

He smiles and walks away.