Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Basketball for the Heavy Set

He had this dream, this beautiful dream. In it, he and Dirk Nowitzki were paired in a 2v2 game against Mark Burrows, the boy who used to throw mashed potatoes at him during freshman lunch, and Michael West, the boy who used to supply Mark with the potato ammunition. The rules were simple: the first to twenty-one points won, and the winning team got to watch as the losers groveled at their feet before ritually committing suicide with the blade of their choice (this being a civilized society). Even in his dreams, he played the role of sidekick, choosing to take the backseat as Dirk leveled point after point onto the opposition. He could pass well enough that he felt his contribution adequate, though he wished he could nail a jump shot, could drive to the rim, could shoot threes with the confidence of a young Larry Bird, but that would never be the case, not even when his imagination was unhindered. Still, he delighted in the demise of his enemies. He took a devious sort of pleasure in watching Dirk do his bidding and even darker brand of pleasure in watching the blades protrude from the backs of those, to him, perpetually thirteen year old monstrosities.

This dream, a day dream, arose only in moments of stress, a means of shutting down and tuning out, allowing him to forgo the pressure around him and take solace in the imagined demises of others. It was his means of imagining the audience in their underwear, a coping mechanism in a life in desperate need of coping mechanisms. Lately, it seemed he was in a constant state of mourning, always grieving over some loss or another. Not a loss of people, rather, he found himself grieving over the loss of dreams and ideals--existential mourning--the sort of mourning that made his company dreadful.

Still, as easy as it was for him to drive away friends (leaving him mourning the loss of relationships), he could not rid himself of Samuel Hess. As he watched his dreams fade away ... his longing to play for the Mavericks, his dream of romancing Annie Stone, his hope for a socialist society, his vision of a currency-less economy, his plan to write the next great American novel, his desire for two twin boys and a daughter with whom he could play games and share his perpetually dissolving dreams ... Samuel Hess stood by his side, his only friend, and he hated him. He found him abhorrent, annoying, the sort of person who should have been his arch-nemesis if this were a comic book. Samuel was everything he was not--optimistic, charismatic, arrogant. In fact, Samuel hated him too. They were united in a mutual disdain, friends more likened to enemies.

As such, they often engaged in antagonistic activities when they got together. Battleship, Connect Four, Street Fighter, Call of Duty, Rock/Paper/Scissors, tic-tac-toe, various card games, Risk, Monopoly, a game they had invented called "Punch" (it is exactly what it sounds like), but their favorite medium of competition was basketball. Through it, he, though fatter and slower and, by extension, less athletically gifted than Samuel, could prove he was both smarter and more of a man that his best friend. He could best him with skill, with pure masculinity and strength, with wit, with the endurance of a much more driven man.

Of course, he had never actually done so but hence the dream. It was the last of his dreams--the rest all buried in ash. Even the dream of Dirk and he decimating his childhood villains had begun to wane. He recognized it for the fantasy that was and was beginning to have difficulty finding solace in it as he once had. No, he wanted to achieve of his own merit, of his own strength, and he had begun to feel he had little of both.

How he wanted to take Samuel to the lane, to drive to the rim and force his best friend to the pavement, skidding his knees to where the blood poured forth like faucet, to slam that basketball through the net, home. He used the dream as inspiration, picturing Dirk with each succession of his own dribbling. The eyes of Michael and Mark stared at him, through him--Michael's in Samuel's left eye and Mark's in the right. The score was 19-19, and the game was Twenty-One. He no longer believed he had legs. Instead, he was convinced that they had dissipated beneath him, no longer able to bear the toil of the game. Now, he stood diminished, a torso and arms, with Samuel towering over him. He had the ball in hand, trying to maintain a steady dribble, but he felt his arms beginning to disintegrate as well. The hoop before him, victory near, he watched as Dirk took the game winning shot, the fade away, the buzzer beater. You just knew it would go in. You knew you could count on the German.

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