“Drew, you should really sit,” Coach Davidson said, leaning forward in the plastic waiting room chair. “We could be here a while.”
Drew paced up and down the aisle in the brightly lit, antiseptic yet chaotic ER waiting room. All around him, his teammates talked in low tones. In the chairs beyond them, little kids sniffled and coughed, a guy about his father’s age held his arm, which was obviously broken, and a few other sorry-looking characters stared into space or called for doctors. Drew’s heart was pounding so hard he couldn’t even imagine trying to sit still.
“I can’t,” he told Coach, stepping over Dirk’s outstretched legs. “I can’t sit.”
There would be no relaxing for Drew. He was going to practice abnegation until he heard that his best friend was okay. No matter what Drew did, he just couldn’t stop seeing Jason’s gray, limp body. His friend had never regained consciousness as they loaded him into the ambulance. And when his mother had arrived with Jason’s little brother in tow, she’d been a hysterical mess. And why? For what? Because of some stupid rivalry between Corinth and Washingtonville? It was all so pointless.
“Damn it!” Drew shouted, bringing his fist down into the seat of an empty chair.
“Drew!” Coach barked, surprised.
“Dude. You’ve gotta calm down,” Samson said, standing up from his own chair.
“I can’t. I feel execrable,” Drew said, pressing the heels of his hands into his forehead. “This is all my fault. My best friend . . . basically the nicest guy on the planet . . . is in the hospital unconscious, and it’s all my fault.”
He felt so desperate, so alone. So completely and totally stupid. Encumbered by all his emotions, he finally dropped into a chair and put his head in his hands. He knew the rest of the team was staring at him, but he didn’t even care. Nothing mattered right now except for Jason.
“Drew . . . son, let me exculpate you right now,” Coach Davidson said, putting his arm around Drew and squeezing his shoulder. “You didn’t start this fight. You weren’t even in on this fight. You and Samson were trying to change things. This isn’t your fault.”
Drew sniffled and looked up, constraining a few tears that threatened to overflow. A few of the kids from Washingtonville were whispering and laughing, telling stories about Jason. Drew’s heart felt like it was about to burst.
“Do you see that? They’re telling anecdotes about him. Like this is his wake. Like he’s already dead,” Drew said.
“He’s gonna be fine,” Samson told him. “The doctor seemed optimistic. You’ve gotta try to cultivate some hope.”
Drew took a deep breath, staring out over the waiting room. The Washingtonville guys were on one side. The Corinth guys—the few who had bothered to come—were on the other. They weren’t acknowledging each other or even looking at each other. The whole thing made Drew so sick he wanted to spit.
“They should just raze the field already,” he said bitterly. “This isn’t a team. It’s never going to be a team.”
Coach Davidson shifted in his seat. He slipped out of his jacket and folded it on his lap with a sigh. “To be honest, son, after today, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the school board decided to abjure the team and abrogate the program. At least until next year.”