Jacob always grew sick at the sight of blood. Getting a blood test was never an easy ordeal. Just the thought of blood being pumped out of his body made him nauseous.
Near the end of his second year of university, Jacob entered a severe state of depression. He didn't know what brought it on, but it was bad and unlike anything he had ever experienced in the past. He felt empty like a machine with no soul. God no longer existed. Nothing mattered to him anymore. Jacob didn't know why he felt this way, but he wanted to get out of it. So, he locked himself away in his room and read intensely; searching for a way out. He didn't want to be seen in public. He thought of his current state as infectious. Anyone who came into contact with him may be inflicted with this hellish syndrome.
To make things worse, football spring training camp was just around the corner. Jacob didn't know what he was going to do. He though of quitting the football team to spare himself; however, Jacob knew deep inside that the sickness would soon come to and end.
But, it didn't improve. During his time at camp he kept alone. Jacob ate by himself and talked to no one. During the practices, he constantly saw spectators passing by. Their existence depressed him. They were laughing and having a good time, but he knew their lives, along with everyone else, were ultimately meaningless. We live mediocre and fruitless lives, he thought. The only thing that seems to matter is getting that God-forsaken house in the suburbs and having kids. It was real sad. And then what? They would all die and become nothing. There is no God and unfortunately no Devil either to at least entertain us; reminding us that there is something to live for. Jacob wasn't angry at them. He actually felt sorry for them. Everyone suffered the exact fate he did. The only difference was that he knew about it.
It was at this time that he found pain. In football practice, Jacob managed to block out the sadness of the world. Football became his only existence. Like the machine he was, Jacob mercilessly plunged his body into brutality. Long from fearing it, he now found himself a new companion in physical pain. The blood trickling down his broken body gave him warmth. The pain he experienced made him feel alive. It's as if Jacob took all the pain in the world and put it inside. He thought, as long as I'm suffering the world can be free from pain. But the depression didn't leave. It always came back as soon as practice would end; as soon as the pain stopped. Jacob would enter a near-catatonic state. Other people are starting to notice my strange behaviour, he feared.
At the last meeting, prior to the final scrimmage, the normally tough defensive coordinator approached Jacob and offered him words of support. "Are you sure you want to play?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Jacob replied. But, at that moment Jacob knew the coach had finally caught on to his condition.
"You can barely walk", the coach said. "I know you're a tough player, but it's just a football practice.”
Jacob finally broke down. The tears started welling up in his eyes. Barely containing his emotions, he said, "It's the only thing that matters anymore."
Indeed, pain was the only thing that mattered to him. In this black hole of nothingness, it was the only thing that kept him going. Each crushing hit, every scrape and sprain in practice made him feel alive, even if it only lasted seconds. And he held on to it for dear life.