The Bungee Cord

When I was about 6 years old, I was playing at my house with my friend Matt. Matt was that rare sort of guy who could make all the kids laugh at school and still be the teacher's pet. He was always in control. Always together. Always... cool.

Did part of me resent him for these reasons? Perhaps in as much as my 6 year old mind could.

One Sunday, we had become bored. There was nothing on TV. We had already ridden our bikes all over the neighborhood. And it was only 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Desperate, we went into my garage, hoping to find something interesting to play with.

My dad was a research scientist and he would always bring all sorts of strange things from the lab home with him. No, he didn't bring back monkeys or killer bacteria. Mostly he just brought back supplies which he stored in the garage.

By the time I was 6, I already knew what Parafilm, graduated cylinders, pipettes and erlenmeyer flasks were. And so did Matt because we had been through all of it together before. Still, we dug around in the deep recesses of the garage in hopes that we would find something new. We did.

I saw it first. It was a large coil of what looked to be rope. When I pulled it out and examined it, the rope was heavy and dense but very stretchy. It was some sort of long bungee cord. I'm was sure my dad had brought it home from the lab but for what purpose it was used for I didn't know.

I immediately showed it to Matt. He was as fascinated as I was by the discovery. We brought the rope outside. Our little minds raced as we tried to figure out what kinds of fun and interesting things we could do with a length of bungee cord.

Sadly, the best we could come up with was each of us grabbed one end, stretched the rope out between us then shouted, "One... two... three!" then let go. SNAP! The rope would snap back violently in the middle and for some reason this was great fun to us.

And so it went.

"One... two... three!" SNAP!

"One... two... three!" SNAP!

Now why I did what I did next, I'm still not sure. Maybe I was bored. Maybe I really did resent Matt for being all the things I wasn't. Maybe I was just a rotten bastard.

We stretched the rope out again just like all the other times before. And we counted just like all the other times before.

"One... two..."

And then, not like all the other times before, my little hands let the rope go. Not by accident. Not because my hands were slippery. Not because I lost count. But because I made a conscious decision to release the rope on the count of "two" instead of "three".  I wan’t planning on doing this. It was curiously unexpected.

My end of the bungee cord hurtled back towards Matt's end. And Matt happened to be holding his end right in front of his crotch.

I can only imagine it was sort of like a towel whip you would do in the locker room. Only the towel is twenty feet long and traveling at roughly the speed of light.


Matt screamed.

I'd never heard a scream like that before and haven't heard one since. Maybe if I go to war or something I'll hear pain like that again. But for now, I only have little Matt's 6 year blood curdling cry of pain as a twenty foot long bungee cord whipped him in the nuts.

The second noise that came from Matt was more like a drowning man trying to take his last breath under water.

He immediately dropped the rope, ran straight into my house and locked himself in the hallway bathroom.

"Are you ok?" I yelled as I chased after him.

He didn't come out for an hour.

When he did, his face was red and streaked with tears. His eyes were blood shot. His pants were unbuttoned, his belt unbuckled. Maybe it hurt too much to have everything fastened. He held up his pants with his hands and looked like an 80 year old man as he shuffled out of the bathroom.

"Are you ok?" I asked again.

Matt just gave me a look and pushed past me, out the door and headed home.

He didn't show up to school the next day. When he did, we didn't speak of what happened. We remained friends. I always maintained that it was an accident even though it wasn’t. Matt believed me. But I still think back at what happened sometimes and smile because for that moment, I saw Matt when he was utterly and completely... uncool.