The Let Down
“You’re going places,” this has become a frequent compliment not only at home, but at school as well.
I feel like everyone expects too much of me because I was the captain of the varsity football team, all star player for the varsity basketball team, a state qualifier for track, and the president of NHS. Now that my senior year of high school in ending at Evergreen High, in Ohio, I have no clue where my future will take me. I’ve been considering doing football after high school because I’ve received a scholarship and full-ride at the best college football team, Alabama State, however my true passion is track. But there is a secret that I have kept from my everyone all these years and I do not plan on telling anyone because I will let everyone down and be labeled as a fraud. Graduation is in a week, state finals for track are tomorrow, and prom is in three days, I have so much to do. Stress is a common emotion I’ve dealt with through high school, if I’ve dealt with it in a good or bad way is questionable, but I try not to think about it. I close my eyes and go to bed as I dream about winning first at state tomorrow.
“ J.P. wake up you're going to be late for state,” my mom yells as she enters my room.
Adrenaline rushes through my body and I immediately run out of bed into the kitchen. As I enter the kitchen, my mom has already made breakfast: pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs, my favorite.
“Honey, hurry up you're going to miss the bus,” my mom tells me as she hands me a glass of milk.
I eat everything as fast as I can, get dressed, and head towards the bus, which I barely manage to reach as it’s leaving.
“Hey J.P,” is the first thing I hear when I enter the bus, it sounds like a lion’s roar ready for combat.
I don’t mean to brag but I’m kind of the popular guy at Evergreen High and everyone worships the ground I walk on. I then head towards the back of the bus with my squad.
“Dude aren’t you nervous, I hear the competition is fierce this year,” asks my friend Derek, a tall dark-skinned buff boy with acne.
“No, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve,” I tell Derek, but on the inside I’m terrified like a little boy going to the doctor’s.
The bus arrives at school and everyone heads towards the school but not me, I have a coach bus waiting to take me to Cleveland for the state tournament. I enter the bus and it’s empty because I’m the only one at Evergreen High that qualified for state.
“Let’s go Vikings,” a crowd of students cheer me on like I’m a soldier being sent to the warfront, as the bus leaves the school.
There are signs wishing me good luck and to make history for Evergreen High. I feel like the trees are waving goodbye as the wind blows on the leaves. Halfway through the bus ride I open my backpack and take out a needle. This isn’t just a regular needle it's a needle that will make me stronger and faster, steroids. I make sure the bus driver isn’t looking and I stab the needle in my forearm. I quickly put it away before the bus driver gets suspicious. I’ve been using steroids since my freshman year and I haven’t stopped using them because nothing bad has happened, I guess I'm immune to the side effects. No one knows that I use steroids, it’s too risky to trust anyone and if an adult finds out my entire future will be jeopardized.
The bus finally arrives at Cleveland after an hour and a half drive from Metamora, Ohio. I look at the beautiful campus of Eleanor Gerson High that will be hosting this year's state finals for track. The school reminds me of Hogwarts because of its castle like structure and the uniforms the students are required to wear. I go to the locker rooms and start getting ready for the mile run. My record mile time is 4:15 and I plan to break this record today. I pull out my lucky charm that my father gave me before he passed away. I was only nine at the time, but I remember it clear as daylight.
His final words were, “ Joe Perry I want you to make me happy even though I won’t be alive to see you grow up I know you’ll make history one day,” then he died before my eyes, due to a heart attack.
I was left alone, in a cold harsh world, with only my mother to take care of me. As I started to grow up and reached my teen years I was a short scrawny white boy with no talents. I weighed only 85 pounds my freshman year which meant that no sport wanted me on their team. Not only this, but I was also not the best student and received a C average. When I finally realized that I had no chance of being successful in school, I took steroids. I started to see results almost immediately which only boosted my motivation even more. I then made the basketball team and qualified for track sectionals. My sophomore year I made varsity football and basketball and made it to sectionals once again for track. My junior year I got nominated to be the president of NHS because of my 4.3 gpa that didn’t deserve, made it to state with the football team, was the captain of the basketball team, and ran a 4.15 mile in track that year, but it wasn’t enough for state. Now that I’m a senior, I weigh an astonishing 195 pounds, 6’’ 1’ , I’m ripped, I have short blond hair, blue eyes, and determined to win state for track that will make history at Evergreen High. Now that I’m here I have a chance to make history for Evergreen High and accomplish something historical that I will then dedicate to my father.
I change and head towards the track field, where the mile event is about to begin. The steroids kick in and I have lot of energy, my hearts racing, and my blood is pumping intensely. It’s a warm, sunny day, and the sky is a mild September Blue, perfect running conditions.
The announcer screams through the speakers, “Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Ohio’s 56th annual State track tournament! Today’s event will be the mile run! Please welcome our state mile qualifiers…”
The announcer finishes and the referee yells out, “Ready?! Set Go!”
Adrenaline rushed through my body and the steroids give me an impulse, immediately I was in the lead. I am a good ten meters away from my closest opponent, Ryan Fauster. Ryan is a tall, skinny, white boy with long ginger hair. He has green eyes and really pointy ears, he reminds me of a leprechaun. I finish my first lap around the track field, three more to go! I keep my pace and overlap other contestants, they just look at me with astonishment saying, “Wow this guy has no chill!” I look back and wink at them, I finish my second lap and the clock reads 2:00, wow my personal best. All of a suddenly Ryan zooms right past me like a cheetah chasing its prey. I try to catch up to him, but he’s way too fast. By the third lap I’m exhausted, my saliva is thick, and my eyes are watering. “one more lap to go!” I tell myself as I overlap other contestants. Ryan is about 100 meters to the finish line and I’m not that far behind him, I grind my teeth and head full speed like a race car on its final lap. The clock reads 3:56, I’m so close I can feel it. I give it my best effort and I feel like I’m going to win the race, but by the time I reach the finish line Ryan has already beaten me to it. I pant like a dog and fall on my knees, I know I have blown my chance to make history for Evergreen High and let my dad down once again.
I ask the people around me for my time and to my astonishment I ran a 4:04 mile! I’m not such a failure after all, I set a new record for the school, placed second in state, and set a new record for the fastest lap around the track field in Ohio. I walked towards Ryan to congratulate him, but as I approached him there’s a crowd of people surrounding him. This is isn’t just a crowd of people cheering and paparazzi, it’s a crowd of paramedics and people crying. What could've happened to him I ask people around me, but everyone is asking the same question as me.
I finally find someone, he is a short red-haired boy that claims to be Ryan’s younger brother he responds in tears saying, “I told him not to do it! I knew this was going to happen! This is my fault!”
“What’s happening, I need you to tell me this is very important to me,” I ask Ryan’s younger brother and give him a hug so he doesn’t feel so alone like I felt when my father left me.
There is a pause he then looks up at me and says in a serious tone, “ He’s been using steroids since 8th grade he claimed that nothing would happen to him and I told him to stop. I never told anyone because he would threaten me, but I knew the consequences would happen. He just had a heart attack and it’s likely that he died.”
I turned ghost white, I can’t believe Ryan used steroids after running a 4:01 mile, he was disqualified and that meant that I won first in state. As the announcer handed me the trophy the crowd was cheering and chanting my name. It should of been a moment of glory, but it wasn’t all I felt was remorse. I felt like the trophy was giving me a nasty look and heard it saying, “You’re a disgrace.”
The paparazzi was all over me now, out of all the questions they asked me the one that stuck out the most was, “What is your opinion on steroid use and the death of Ryan Fauster?”
I didn’t know how to answer the question I sounded like a child trying to answer a question to a math problem he doesn’t know. I couldn’t lie on public t.v. nor confess my steroid use so I decided to leave the question unanswered, at least for now.
I got on the coach bus that took me back to Evergreen High. On the way back to school I tried to answer the question the reporter had asked me earlier, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t. I looked at the trophy, I don't deserve it, I’ve done a bad thing today, I know my dad wouldn’t be proud of me.
My dad would've said something like,” It’s not who wind J.P. its how you win that counts.”
I got back to school the teachers and students congratulated me and cheered me on, I was the star of the school, but in reality I was a fraud. The school day ended and I decided to walk home and think about what had happened earlier today. As I walked home I heard the birds chirping, but to me it sounded like they were saying, “You cheated.” I replayed the thought of Ryan’s death in my mind, I never would've thought that such a thing could happen to a boy at such a young age. Then I thought what if it happens to me next? I think about my addiction to steroids and realized that I had to tell someone and that person would be my mom. I heard thunder across the horizon, looks like a storm is about to start better hurry up. All of a sudden the rain came down in long knitting needles that stabbed at me. I ran as fast as I could through the heavy rain, boy the clouds sure are crying up a storm.
As I got home my mom flung the door open and gave me a big hug and said, “I knew you could do it J.P.!” After all the kisses and hug from my mom I looked at her straight in the eyes and was about to confess the biggest secret I have kept from everyone. My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, I feel a lump in my throat,and I’m already fighting back the tears.
“Mom did you hear about Ryan’s death and how he used steroids,” I ask her in a quiet timid voice.
“ Yes I did unfortunately, what a poor child, he had a big life ahead of him. I can't imagine how his parent must of felt after hearing the news. Speaking of Ryan’s death I have to tell you something,” She said it with a blank expression and a soft voice, I could tell she was keeping something from me.
“Wait I wasn’t finished,”I cut her off and then say, “I asked that question for a reason. Mom I have a confession to make I’ve been taking steroids for the past three and a half years…”
My mom turned ghost white, it looked she was going to faint, she looks at me in disbelief.
“J.P. I can’t believe you would do such a thing, you know how bad the are for you! Why would you do such a thing,” she burst into tears went running into her room crying.
I can’t believe I actually told someone, but I didn’t know it would hurt them that bad. I try to open my mom’s room but it’s locked, I call her name and no response. I sit outside her room with the the lights off and the daylight turning into a beautiful starry night. The rain is still pounding hard and it reminds me of my mom’s tears, while the thunder reminds me of how angry she’s going to be at me. Finally, my mom opens the door her eyes are puffy and red, I stand up on my feet and hug her like I never have before.
“Mom why did you get so emotional about it I expected you to be angry about it not sad, are you okay,” I say trying to comfort her.
My mom takes a while to respond then she says in a quiet voice,” J.P. you have kept a big secret from me and I don’t blame you because I have too. J.P. as you know your dad died from a heart attack, but what I didn’t tell you was that an overdose on steroids triggered the heart attack.”
I look at my mom shocked. I can’t believe my own dad used steroids, I can’t imagine someone like him doing such a thing, who knew I was turning exactly like my father.
I should've told you earlier, but I just didn't know how to tell you, now it’s too late who knows how long you have till something bad happens to you,” my mother tells as her blue eyes shine like gems in the moonlight.
We go to the kitchen and start talking about revealing my secret, including the school about my addiction to steroids. Not only will this cost me my track state championship, my full-ride to Alabama State, and possibly be kicked out of Evergreen High, but I realized maybe it's for the best. I will be label the biggest fraud in Evergreen High and gain a bad reputation not just in Ohio, but across the United States, but if it’s for my own health it’s for the best. I then look at the good luck charm my father gave me, its a necklace that says, “You are a champion.” I then realize that my entire school years I might of thought I was a champion, but in reality I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and for the first time I accepted that I was a fraud.
My mom then tells me to go to sleep and that we’ll discuss the punishments and my future later. I go to bed and I know I have ruined my own future, I knew steroids were bad, I know the secret would get out some day. I thought I was invincible to steroids but after seeing Ryan’s death earlier and learning that my father’s own death was because of steroids, who knows how long I have before the same thing happens to me, if not in the near future, then early in my adult years. I look at the dark night that is as realistic as the nightmare I’m living right now. But as I lie in my bed I can’t stop thinking of how I will break the hearts of my coaches, friends, and possible fans that looked at me as a role model, I have let them down just like I let down my dad.