Cheer: (n) a shout of encouragement, praise, or joy.
She was so pretty I couldn’t look at her.
Looking at her would mean that I saw her.
Seeing her would connote that I was worthy to drink in her attractiveness.
And there was always the danger that she might see me looking, and be stuck peering at my plainness.
Her name was Deborah Lee. She was a cheerleader.
She was a cheerleader for all the right reasons–not because of school politics or because the advisor decided to grant her the position to fulfill some sort of ethnic or body-type quota.
She was pretty, personable, perky, present, plentiful and … well, perfect.
I don’t think she ever knew I lived or breathed until one day she was sitting in a corner by herself on a chilly morning. It seems that every time she was around the cold, her legs would get red and blotchy. I never noticed. But for some reason, she felt vulnerable and when I asked her what was wrong, she told me she was embarrassed about her funky limbs.
I didn’t know what to say, so as was my custom, I said something stupid. “Deborah Lee, you’re so pretty that no one would ever notice your ugly legs.”
I don’t know whether she just felt generous, but she laughed and she laughed and she laughed.
From that day forward, she actually smiled at me in the hallway and would occasionally make eye contact across the width of the cafeteria.
At least I thought she did.
I was playing on the basketball team. I wasn’t the best player. I wasn’t even friends with the best player. But I started because I was big and they thought I would scare the opposing team and get rebounds.
One day I actually got the courage to shoot at the basket instead of retrieving it and handing it off to Billy, our star player. After I made my second basket, I heard Deborah Lee’s voice, chorusing with the other cheerleaders, “That’s okay, that’s alright. Come on, Big Jon–fight, fight, fight!”
I didn’t know whether to cry or wet my pants, but water was definitely going to come out somewhere.
I was so distracted by this cheer of approval that I didn’t score another point and dribbled the ball off my foot three times.
I never went on a date with Deborah Lee. We just remained friends. She never got to cheer for me again because I never achieved that level of excellence.
I concluded that there are people who do better if their work is not cheered on and applauded.
The appreciation is too much to handle and becomes a distraction.
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