Friday, January 18, 2008
A Day of Light Amongst Current Darkness
50 degrees. Mid-afternoon. After I bought a new basketball, I traveled the subway to Long Island City. On the way, I realized three things:
1) Men and lesbians: carrying a basketball is as effective a tool to get women to notice you as a puppy or a baby. Try it sometime. Carry a basketball and watch their reaction. I got more smiles than Pryor's prime, no shit, and from women that normally pay no attention to me.
2) Everyone thinks, somewhere in the recesses of their soul, that they are a sports star. When regular subway riders see someone with a ball under their arm, the immediate reaction is not unlike a wife seeing her husband in front of tools: "You know how to use that thing?" Yeah, I do.
3) I don't know shit about the V/E trains. Thought I did. Ended up in Manhattan trying to get to LIC. Who knew? I imagined filled courts-- beautiful day-- and visions of fucking around to attain a triple-double danced in my head.
In any event, I arrived at the empty courts at 4:15: an hour until darkness would end my day. I began warming up: jeans, hoodie over long sleeve shirt, armband tight around my forearm. Hit some simple banks in close, moved back with little success, clang-clang, more bricks than the bible's got psalms. A plague of bricks, my people suffering.
So, off came the jeans. then the hoodie, then the Celtics cap. Hook shots were falling, jumpers missing their mark. Skateboarders crashed while sliding over walls. The night before I was drunk and sad. Each clang of the metal backboard was a large-scale realization of conceptual self. The basketball I dropped 40 bucks on is a step toward spiritual peace. I'm not a happy man. Each shot was a reflective masterpiece: airballs, banks, runners, each one a step toward a pinpoint understanding of my faults. Each time the ball crashed through the net was a reaffirmation of my loneliness, an admission of my inevitable death.
I could have died on the court-- collapsed like Hank Gathers or Reggie Lewis and counted the blessing and sins of my life like a smoker calculating how many cigarettes he/she has for a night at the bar. I would have passed away with my faculties intact, the ball rolling slowly toward the wall until it had no place else to roam. Alas, I did not die. I continued to shoot. OK, hit a nice jumper from the elbow, missed two from a spot I used to know like I knew the contours of my first car. Stop and pop, cross over-- I forget how alone I am the world, all the rejection and loss of the past three years, all the complications of self-awareness. A shot rims out, don't let it go out of bounds, long jumper no good, long rebound, take it in, layup no good, follow is good.
There is no score, there is only the sun setting behind me where the water sends cold wind. The skateboarders are trickling away, passers-by coming from the grocery store looking over a lone, maniacal madman talking to himself, settling himself down. I am a genius in the dusk. The ball is overfull, but getting softer and less alien in my hand. Popped one from the free-throw line. I am to blame for everything, am responsible for everything-- I am enabler and a good friend to no one. I am a tycoon with underwhelming clothes. Finish hard the rim, adjust the shot. Adjustments.
It's getting pretty dark; the skaters are gone. The people passing by are walking faster as the cold gets bitter. My extremities are getting harder to use. Keep shooting, wind playing with the long shots, move in. You are alone because you drive people away. You don't have a direction. Good from the far corner. That felt right like arms embracing for a long period of time. Everyone seems to love you. The ball is light in the left and rolling, rolling away.
Finish up the night; barely visible hoop. Finish with the right, five layups. Finish with the left, five layups. Free-throw. Missed it so I start over. So it goes for fifteen more minutes. Drilling into myself the way I want it: I am not capable of putting all together.
The sun is gone, and I am cold when I finally hit my eleven in a row. Smiling, nodding contentedly, I leave the court and realize that basketball is perfection for me. The Earth takes the ball's rotation, the moon is above me as perfect round white as the splash of the net, the constant pounding of the cement like my heart beat and this might have been the best day of my life.
In summation: I think I am ready to write about basketball. Never thought I could before. Maybe I am ready now.