A semi-regular look inside the helmet. Obviously, this is a little different.
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|Hometown:||Belle Glade, FL|
|Career Highlight:||Returned a blocked punt for 11-yard touchdown against Washington as a redshirt freshman in 2004.|
|Fun Fact:||Nicknames include "Sancho," "The Kid," and "Dirty."|
Other times he's come close. He's slept with girls, drunken friends, whom he didn't touch (or not in any meaningful way, at least), not because, as he might testify were he ever put on some ludicrous trial for the matter, he is a fantastic guy who values his few female friends as such, or that he has only platonic feelings for them, or even because they were involved with other people - only one them actually was, as part of a committed lesbian relationship - but usually because, at the time, he found them not altogether attractive enough for the risk, or the required effort, feeble as it may have been.
True, Gina was what many men would call "attractive," and have, and it would be a lie were Nick to say he hadn't thought of her carnally since the night she suddenly flopped onto his chest as they watched, bleary-eyed, a repeat of the fantasy sitcom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" in her apartment following a tour of Palo Alto bars. He probably should not have been so surprised by this. Neither of them was hopelessly drunk, but both were near enough to act as if they were, and to believe it for the rest of their lives. A couple hours before, they had left a happy year-end party for the university's Honor Society, to which they had both belonged and devoted so many hours, and in which the two of them, superficially opposites, had inadvertently become close.
But Gina was a few years older, also had wide hips, and a kind of elongated face, with a flat nose that was a tad too fiery in the nostrils, and had at some previous point before Nick knew her suffered what she had only days earlier described as "a breakdown," though he saw no indication of this in her cool exterior. There was also the matter of her apparently brief affair with a leading member of the society - then involved romantically with another popular group member, naturally - the semester before Nick joined on, a tryst that had spawned a rumor of a cryptic threat in a graveyard and alienated Gina from the true object of Nick's affection, therefore making his otherwise pleasant association with her a potential liability to his greater sexual goals. It is probably worth noting, while we're on the subject (though it does not happen to be any of our business, yours or mine, and though he shrewdly maintains plausible deniability among even his close friends), that these were the same goals Nick has harbored without satisfaction for some time now.
Something his teammates didn't know about Nick: he was valedictorian of his high school class. He was the twelfth member of his family to be "honored" as valedictorian. Always it was an "honor," as if bestowed rather than earned. As if anyone involved had a choice. He had come 2,500 miles to not be valedictorian.
In Florida, though, at least he always slept. Even the night when he was sixteen, home alone, and saw a steady line of headlights passing his house for hours, stopping down the street for what he guessed was a party at Izzy Sandperl's house, a house he hadn't set foot in since fifth grade, for the kind of party he wouldn't set foot in until the night of graduation, until it was too late, when he felt obligated but didn't even know what to wear. Even that night, Nick slept. His parents made it in sometime after he lost consciousness, and he didn't think to ask in the morning what had made them so late.
But there was no sleep in California. Nick assumed other people slept, but saw no evidence of it at Stanford. He blamed his restlessness on the time change at first, then the demands of school and football - the best mix of athletics and academics in the country! he always said of his cross-continent move then, as he still does now, though he's asked so much less often - then on his closely-regulated diet. The team's losing. He thought at one point he had perhaps submerged some unacknowledged dread of earthquake, or wildfire, or other disaster, stereotypical California tragedies, and occasionally remembered Joan Didion's description of the Santa Ana winds to the south, that "something uneasy in the Los Angeles air" that once drove local Indians to throw themselves from cliffs and still sent its temperate citizens into fits of madness. He was never afraid of hurricanes in Belle Glade, but he was naiive, invincible, not a Californian. Didion's only neighbor refused to come out of her house for days when the sky turned yellow, her lights would not come on at night, and her husband unsheathed a machete to deal with fantastic visions of rattlesnakes and the rustle of trespassers. Sleep in California, it occurred to Nick, was only propaganda. He hated the idea but thought a lot lately of taking something.
The TV continued to flicker, illuminating the half-eaten bowls of pasta on Gina's coffee table, set down just long enough for her body to roll onto his, pinning his unsuspecting arms against his chest. Insomnia in this position was no mystery, for a change. He had never been able to sleep on his back. For an hour - maybe more, maybe less, Nick had no way to gauge - he had slowly worked one arm free from beneath the dead weight on top of it, and had begun slowly, incrementally, working his torso onto its side. He labored to avoid waking her, but was slightly relieved anyway when she opened her eyes and lifted her head. She sat upright on the couch and pushed the heel of her palm into her face.
"If we're going to stay on the couch, we'll have to rearrange," Nick said.
Gina stood. "You can do what you want," she told him, "but I'm going to sleep in my bed."
Nick laughed slightly, and was glad his mind had chosen this reflex. "Okay. That's probably best."
She left, disappearing in a sleepy shuffle down the hallway to her room without a word. Nick heard her door close and sunk his weight again into the couch, on his stomach now, closed his eyes, and slept dreamlessly until the sun invaded an eastern window.
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