VARIOUS 2001 - 2016
    SEPTEMBER 14, 2012
    JULY 9, 2005 | JUNE 18, 2008
    APRIL 20, 2013
    AUGUST 10, 2005
    JUNE 18, 2008

    FALL '09 | SPRING '14 | FALL '14 | CHRONIC
    NOVEMBER 29, 2008
    JANUARY 25, 2013
    APRIL 30, 2002 | MAY 12, 2003
SEPTEMBER 14, 2012
It's really not the pain that tells Sam something's wrong. It's the look on all their faces. Actually, it's the look on Jake's face. He hears nothing. Fuck. Around him is chaos. Jake is definitely yelling at someone. Yet Sam still hears nothing. And he's beginning to panic. Then all at once it's like someone cranks the volume causing intense feedback. The ringing in his ears is sharp and painful. He goes to grab his head with both hands but something is wrong. People are gathering. Friends. Strangers. Lani. The fun bouncy feeling of the trampoline is gone, replaced by intense sagging from the weight of too many bodies.

He can hear the far away echos of an argument or debate about picking him up over the ringing in his head. Picking him up? Why? Sam goes to move himself. Everyone yells. Sharp intense pain shoots through his right arm as it gives out underneath his weight and now Sam is screaming. Fuck! He has no strength, little control. His arm is limp. Holy shit.

Someone manages to move him, but there's too much going on to know who. What happened comes only in flashes. They are at an indoor trampoline place, killing time on a Friday afternoon. Everything was fine. He was climbing - onto something he definitely shouldn't have. Jake was egging him on. The foam pit was definitely his target. And then fucking madness when it all went wrong.

There's something else, more than just the collision and the pain. The ringing, throbbing, pounding in his head. He knows what this is. Sam sits on a bench, waiting for someone to find his fucking shoes. And he just watches Jake, trying to focus on more than the pain. He's surprised just how well his friend is holding it together. Jake's phone is in his hand, reading aloud what they should and shouldn't do. One of their other friends is ignoring him, insisting he's seen this done a million times and they should just pop it back in. It. His fucking arm. Sams eyes occasionally drift to that very arm, and he looks up as hands brace on his forearm.

"No you don't fucking pop it back in, this isn't TV! Do you even know how to do that?" Jake's voice gets Sam's attention. "You could give him permanent nerve damage!" Oh fuck, please don't do that.

It's the weirdest sensation of his life. The pain. The numbness. The fact that his arm is dangling. And then the throbbing and ringing in his head; so familiar. He knows this one. "He doesn't look too good," one friend observes. Now everyone is staring at Sam and he's trying not to look like he's about to do what he's about to do, slumped to the side. "His eyes look weird, man." Jake gets right down in front of him. "Sam, are you with me? Focus here."Nope. Not happening.

"Yeah," Sam finally musters. It's the first time he's spoken other than the screaming. "Yeah I'm fine, I just, what were you saying?" His words slur together and he isn't actually sure what he's said. "Is he fucking drunk?" the girl he is definitely not going to be seeing anymore asks in a tone that says quite a bit about what she thinks of him.

"No Lani, he's got a fucking concussion. Someone help me get his shoes on." Again it's Jake taking charge, "I'm taking him to the ER." Sam doesn't recall his shoes getting put on his feet, yet there they are. And he's standing, walking out the door. "None of you are coming with me," Jake says pointedly. Later Sam will learn this was directed at Lani - and he'll think it's the funniest thing he's ever heard. What a hero. Sam vomits in the parking lot before getting into Jake's car. For a moment things feel better. But the pain in his arm is some of the sharpest, most intense pain he's ever felt - short of when he fucked his back up in high school. Every bump in the road sends another jolt through his nerves, down into his fingertips. His fucking fingernails feel it.

By the time they reach the Emergency Room, Sam is ready to succumb and slip off into a nap. But Jake keeps him alert. The wait is ridiculous and apparently Sam's shoulder isn't top priority. Jake asks multiple times if there is anything they can give him for the pain and aspirin seems to be the only answer.

Well not the only answer.

By the time Sam is admitted, he's higher than he's ever been in his entire life. Hotboxing in Jake's car leaves him in a fuzzy euphoria and all his problems are gone. Sure his arm still hurts and he has a real deal concussion, but time stretches in and out and as they head back he asks Jake if it's true that Lani banged one of his friends. In and out, one moment he remembers Jake handing him a packed bowl, and the next it's some nurse shoving a sample cup in his hand. In and out, it feels like it's been hours but it definitely hasn't. He's being asked to give them piss and yet his biggest concern is how the hell he'll hold his dick and the cup at the same time. Jake reluctantly volunteers to help and Sam slips into the bathroom in a fit of giggles.

Moments later he's in a a hospital bed, surrounded by all sorts of tools and machines and technology. His nurse stands at his little computer cart, typing things into the screen. He mentions needing to take blood. "And I see you guys are clearly on drugs. Anything beside the weed?" he asks with a very knowing smirk. Sam looks at Jake. Jake looks at Sam. Sam looks at the nurse.

"Excuse me... why would you assume I've smoked... marijuana?" he asks, trying to sound as straight as possible.

It's the nurse's turn to laugh at him. "You're gonna be here about an hour before you see a doctor so get comfortable boys. If you need something once your high wears off, give me a call." He finishes drawing blood and puts the two vials into a bag. "You guys have phones, you don't need me to call anyone for you right?" This guy is incredibly cool about everything. Jake informs him that he already called Sam's parents.

"What?" Sam asks loudly. "No my dad can't know. My dad can't know I've been smoking. He'll kill me." The panic is real. "Hey. Hey guy. You can't put that in your rolling computer."

"Listen kid, if you don't want your dad to know you've been smoking, then both of you skunky smelling assholes better find a way to burn all your clothes before he gets here. I can get you some gowns but how're you gonna explain this guy?" he jokes, nodding his head toward Jake who takes it all in stride. "And don't start any fires in my ER."

"My dad's gonna kill me."
MAY 4, 2013
He's so thankful for the existence of his little sister. Despite the fact that she really believes Sam is acting like a huge baby right now. He knows this because when she entered his bedroom a couple of hours ago she accompanied it with, "Sam you're acting like a huge baby." Why? Well mostly because he was just so antsy. There were other reasons too, things having to do with the fact that he couldn't stand being on pain medication. The fact that opiods gave him anxiety and restlessness and quite a bit of nausea.

He told his doctor about the nausea. His father told his doctor about the nausea twice. And yet, thirteen days ago, when he had the surgery done for his knee, they prescribed something of that nature. And Sam puked. So then Haloperidol was the next snap decision after Dr. Shen pestered his former colleague about hydrocodone and his son. The fit Sam's father threw about his son being administered an antipsychotic was legendary. He was never more impressed.

The story about the antipsychotic has made fourteen-year-old Pru laugh at her older brother about ten times. She keeps bringing it up too. And as they walk down the street toward their former elementary school, she says something about it again. "But don't you think you should be on antipsychotics? I just think we all would have saved ourselves a lot of time if dad hadn't said anything. Maybe you would finally be balanced ou- OW!" she shouts when Sam literally hits the back of her knee with one of his crutches. "Assault! ASSAULT!"

So there had been one big argument, one allergic reaction and a new prescription before they were allowed to bring Sam home nearly two weeks ago. And since then, it hadn't exactly been pretty. He really wouldn't stay still. He had so much energy and so much frustration over the fact that he couldn't help his team. After a few days of trying to keep him from moving at all, they were thrilled to send he and Pru out together to go play like when they were little again.

And it really is like that. Sure there are a few years between Sam and Pru, but the relationship has always been there. Maybe because Pru is fearless, or because Sam has never treated her like she's some little damsel. As a big brother he's always had the expectation that she rise to his level, not the other way around. And he's always made time for her.

"Oh fuck yes," Sam says and begins using his crutches a lot faster than she expected him to be able to, literally gliding across the cement toward some kids kicking a ball around. Pru, taken off guard, struggles to catch up to him at first but then runs in his direction.

"How are you doing this?" she laughs at his speed.

"This isn't my first time, P," he jokes and it's also true. He's been on crutches quite a few times at this point. Broken feet and ankles. Even a pulled groin. The reconstruction of his ACL is nothing.

Sam and Pru are so similar, both exuding this drive to be better; the best. They often lose sight of good judgement just to have fun. And this is no exception. The kids are late elementary/early middle school age, and one of them seems like he's a real demon. The potential to be a great athlete is there. His footwork is impressive, but Pru's is better. She's always been fast and had balance and restraint that did not come naturally to Sam. He makes up for it with force and endless practice.

Sam 'kicks' the ball with the crutch on the opposite side to his knee brace, standing on his good leg and leaning on the other crutch to support him. It's a kind of weird struggle but he still outplays a couple of the kids this way. When P has the ball, she gets rushed by the little demon only to completely shock him with her misdirection. She makes a 'goal' and comes running back to her brother cheering.

They carry on like this, no real discussion with the kids, for a little. For a few moments he completely forgets that he's injured - despite the very real reminder that he is underneath each armpit. But it's fun and he's not thinking about prescriptions or nausea or whether or not he ate anything before his meds. It's the contained feeling he can't stand about being injured. Sam's whole existence craves movement and fast pace. His brain just as much as his body. He needs the drive that comes with competition.

"Shit!" he scolds himself sharply as his movements fall too far out of sync with his crutches and more into old patterns of play. He kicks the ball with his dominant leg instead of the crutch, and the pain is stupid and sudden. More than that he worries he's just fucked up his surgery and he won't heal properly.

"You are so stupid!" Pru shoots at him as she jogs over to check on her brother. Her words actually mean concern more than they sound like and once she's in front of him, she makes a face. "Are you okay?" Sam nods because the pain is already subsiding and nothing feels too weird.

It's not just Pru who runs to check on Sam. The entire pack of kids make their way to him. "Hey how did you do that?" a little girl with a huge ponytail asks, breathing hard because she's been trying to keep up with Sam the whole time.

"Got kicked in the knee in my game a couple weeks ago," he answers. It's not a lie. The injury that took Sam out was a result of a collision with another player whose cleats intentionally slammed into the side of his knee. "He was playing dirty. Never play dirty, okay?"

One of the other kids speaks up. "No I gotta play dirty," he says, "I'm not good. How did he hit you? Teach me."

The shared laughter between both Shen kids is loud and unexpected. Pru launches into some reasoning behind why you should never play dirty while Sam connects eyes with the kid and urges him to come over. He shows him the angle the other player used to come into his knee to the best of his memory. And Sam's instruction just makes Pru yell at her brother. "Oh my God Sam stop!" she laughs at him. "Listen if you guys are going to play with dirty players you have to learn how to fake a foul then."

Once again Sam is caught up in another world, laughing at his sister and playing around, forgetting about the injury and everything that's making him so damn whiny. He stands in the middle of them all using his crutch to sweep at their ankles, each child faking injury as he or she falls in pretend agony. "Wince more," he instructs, still laughing at their lesson. "P you're not even good at this. You're the worst actor here!" he criticizes. She's on the ground, holding her knee in 'pain' and flips him her middle finger. "It's still not convincing," Sam laughs.
APRIL 15, 2014
The hospital room is dimly lit, colors and lights from the tv move across Sam's face and he doesn't react or focus at all. He's just staring like some kind of a zombie, lost in his own thoughts. One day before his twenty-first birthday and this is going to be his third major surgery. His second back surgery. And for the first time in all these years, he actually feels scared. Not that he'd ever say it out loud - but it's plenty obvious.

Everything became more urgent after he began to feel the numbness and then the shooting pain down his left leg. Fearing even moderate degradation of his spinal cord, his father - a successful surgeon in his own right - urged his doctors to move faster, a lot faster. Which meant a painful exploratory procedure just the day before. It sucked. It was an uncomfortable, excruciating feeling - probably the worst thing he'd ever gone through - and it required he be awake through the entire thing. The resulting pain has left him not quite himself - and definitely not as confident as he was the last time. The last time.

Sam was sixteen years old the last time he had back surgery. Five years ago. He can't pinpoint the exact moment the aches started, but it was always something he could handle as a young athlete - playing multiple sports. He was in great shape and knew working on his core would help any pain in his back - and for the most part it did.

But he'll never forget the moment the aches in his back went from dull to acute as he jerked and twisted his body awkwardly and immediately fell to the ground in agony. Despite his age, he came to terms with his injury in the weeks that followed, that he may never play soccer competitively again. And just like when he broke his collarbone, he was actually okay with it.

Of course that didn't mean he stopped trying.

Months went by and he saw no improvement through his efforts. He had a herniated lumbar disc and he did his best to handle it on his own. He would rest, train, and when he felt he was back to full capacity, try to get back on the field only to find he was only at about 80%. This repeated for nearly a year until the idea of surgery came into play. An outpatient procedure. It didn't take long. He recovered in no time and after that Sam felt invincible.

No, Sam was invincible.

His string of injuries seemed to be no more. 2010 was the best season of his life. His senior year of high school saw an even greater improvement. He'd never been in faster, stronger, or in better shape. In college he was like a rock star. The tear in his hamstring winter of his sophomore year came out of the blue, but he recovered faster than expected and went on to have a winning season until his knee injury. And even then he wasn't that worried, just mad he couldn't support his teammates on the field anymore. Because he trusted his body and his ability to heal. He'd be fine.

It wasn't like now. He wasn't scared. Scared of his surgery, of the outcome, of the look of concern on his father's face and of how this really felt like the end. Ever since his injury on the field two weeks ago, something in his mind keeps telling him it's over. There's no way he can keep going after this. The pain is way too much. And it reminds him of high school all over again - only worse. People rarely get two chances, he keeps telling himself. There's no way he'll get three.

After his procedure he was admitted to the hospital for pain management and observation for the time between it and his surgery. And after only 24 hours he's itching to leave. His restlessness at an all time high. People have been in and out all day; a kind of pre-birthday party for Sam. It's a hard pill to swallow that he's not out getting shitfaced for 21. Instead he was allowed to eat until 8pm, including the cupcake from his mom that he forced down only to see it make a reverse journey an hour and a half later.

His room has balloons and flowers and all sorts of decorations and gifts to make him feel comfortable, but that doesn't change much. His parents and sister were the first to take off. Then a few other friends. Jake most recently because he had to get back to work. Parker is still there and he's told the nurses - who have been incredibly cool - that he's not leaving any time soon.

It's nearing midnight and he still hasn't seen her. She wasn't around Monday either. In fact he hasn't seen her since the pain in his leg last week and even then she'd been scarce - kind of fading into the background since this all began. He can't decide if she's intentionally avoiding him or not - he just wishes she was around to lean on, to tell him he'll be fine. But maybe that's expecting too much from someone else. He's got so much on his mind anyway. The pain. The nausea. His future playing soccer. The risk that he may never get on the pitch again. What the hell he's even going to do with his life if he doesn't have this. He can't really focus on whether or not Evie is avoiding him right now. But she keeps creeping in. She always does.

"Hey, are you okay?" Sam blinks and realizes Parker has been talking to him this entire time. He looks down and notices Parker's hand gripping his loosely and then looks back at his friend. "Do you need something? You haven't said anything for a while." A shrug of his shoulders, because he doesn't really need anything and honestly he doesn't know how to answer the first question.

Through out all of this, his best friend has been amazing. Despite going to different colleges and having different schedules, Parker has really been there for him. He's practically waited on Sam hand and foot. He's helped him out of his hospital bed, to the bathroom, walked the halls with him, gotten him whatever he needs - anything. Hell it was his idea to decorate Sam's room for his birthday and he even delegated Jake and Pru on a trip to get supplies. Now he's staying the night because he doesn't want to leave him alone. And Sam appreciates it more than he realizes.

A knock at the open door pulls Sam's attention away from Parker and there stands Rose, his 4'11", tough as shit Filipino nurse. His friend turns the volume down on the movie neither has really been watching. "Knock knock, Samuel. There's someone here to see you. We don't normally let guests come this late but..." she continues but Sam stops listening when he sees Evie step into the doorway. The light from the hall behind her contrasting with his dark hospital room illuminates her like some kind of angel.

He sits up straight, turning his wrist in the process and feels a new sensation as his IV tugs. Sam looks down again to see Parker's arm is resting on the tube where he'd been idly gripping Sam's palm. He wiggles his wrist and his friend realizes what's going on and moves, helping make sure the IV tube isn't snagged on anything else.

Evie's eyes are on Parker as she walks in, tentative. Sam leans forward and winces - the pain from the needle site on his back from yesterday's procedure is crazy. Parker and Evie exchange hellos while he silently suffers - not wanting anyone to give him anymore fucking narcotics. He watches as his girlfriend shifts her attention toward him, and a smile appears on his lips. His mood is instantly lifted.

"I thought you were gonna be- Well, I wanted to be here in time-" Sam notices that her usual confidence is not there. It reminds him of a few short exchanges they've had over his recklessness over the past year concerning the other injuries. The loud chime of an alarm cuts loudly over the low sounds of Iron Man 3 and the memories are gone. She pulls her phone from her pocket and shuts it off. "Yaaay, it's your birthday!" Evie says, awkwardly and Sam's smile turns into laughter.

"Happy Birthday!" Parker adds. He's much more comfortable and confident, sitting next to him in a chair, his feet propped on Sam's hospital bed. Parker pulls on the string of a big red balloon tied to his IV stand and hands it to Sam playfully. Sam gladly accepts it, laughing again and scoots toward the opposite edge of his bed to see Evie.

"Come here. Did you bring me something?" he asks, nodding toward the gift bag in her hand.

"Yeah, but it's nothing special. I can leave it. I don't want to third wheel this party," she jokes. "I'm not interrupting am I?"

"Come here," he repeats, this time whining as he reaches for her. And she closes the space between them. "What is this? You're not interrupting anything." His free arm wraps around her waist and he leans up so that he can kiss her - hardly noticing the pain in his back. Once. Then a second time. The third kiss lasts a little longer and feels reminiscent of how they are when they're alone. She stops him and redirects his attention to his gift.

Inside the bag, Sam finds a scrapbook Evie has put together and an ipod with earphones - a mixtape. It's all heartfelt and meaningful, special. It's exactly what he would expect from her and the way she always makes him feel drowns out a lot of the noise. He's still scared and anxious, but, well now she's there. And that's the only way he would be able to explain it if anyone asked. But everyone's main concern is whether his back is at a 6 or an 8. "Thank you," Sam says as he turns the ipod on to see what's on it.

"It's just a mix I made," Evie explains. "We could all listen to it but there's... ya know only the two earphones..." She trails off for a second, once more glancing at Parker then back to Sam. "Hey can I get you alone for a second?"

"Oh, I should go get something-" Parker begins as he moves to get up.

Sam stops him. "No, stay here. Remember," he moves awkwardly, getting off of the bed and having to brush past Parker incredibly closely. His friend helps to move his chair and get the IV stand out from behind it - balloon and all. "I'm supposed to be mobile so I don't develop any clots." The internal struggle is real. He's restless and feels this need to move but the pain tells him to stay still. Sam is in a pair of track pants, hospital socks and that terrible light blue gown. And he actually looks weak.

Once in the hallway he says hi to every single on shift that night - of course they already love him. They'll be close friends by the time he leaves next week. He lies about how he's feeling and Ruse can tell it's a lie and says she'll be checking on him later. He and Evie walk the hallway hand-in-hand and she apologizes for not being around the past few days, says she's been swamped with homework. He reassures her that it's fine, and says he's happy she came to see him anyway.

"I didn't know he was going to be here," Evie comments as they slow in front of a window overlooking with a pretty great view of the city lights. "Anyone, actually. Has he been here the whole time?" Sam nods. "That's nice of him. I guess I've been replaced." Her joke lands and Sam laughs because he's never able to pick up on what's going on there. He sits and pulls her down to sit by him, his arms around her.

"By Parker?" he asks, making her joke go further. "You could never be replaced." He can't believe how much better he feels with her around - an intense feeling that will one day be way too much for both of them to handle. For now, he's just riding the wave. "You don't have to leave right?" There's an urgency in his voice, because that's what Evie brings out of him; A need to have more of her. "Sleep here. They have more chairs, I know Parker looks comfortable and all... My surgery is in the morning. And I need you."

That night Parker sleeps in the same position he's been the entire time - his feet propped on the chair intended for Evie instead of the side of the hospital bed. He is unmoved and will remain that way. Evie sleeps squeezed in the bed with Sam. And Sam fakes it until Rose comes around and puts something warm and fuzzy in his IV that knocks him out - because she fucking knew he was lying and knew he was faking it.

His surgery - which lasts seven hours - is a pretty big success. The pars stress fractures from adolescent spondylolysis on his L4 - something they missed when he was in high school - are repaired with a pair of screws and bone grafts taken from his pelvis. He has a complete discectomy as well with an artificial replacement. And he stays in the hospital for the next four days for recovery. Parker never leaves his side.

However in the next nine months he will suffer another herniated disc - this time minor. It is a result of the somewhat controversial exploratory procedure he had. Sam will opt to not have a third surgery.

In the future he will suffer occasional flair ups of lower back pain that he will manage through a very strict routine of strength training, acupuncture, yoga and other conservative treatments. He will never play competitive soccer again, but instead go on to coach at the high school level.