Back then, a number of decades ago at Peter’s regular game, I was the guy on the perimeter, on the receiving end of one of Peter’s passes, thrown now as then with a good dose of hot sauce, the mark of a real player. I remember one night in particular. I was new to the mix. I’d spent the whole night passing. Now the game was on the line, and I had the ball. I feigned the shot (my trademark head fake), shook the defender, drove for the basket… and surprised everyone with a perfect running hook shot that floated above the outstretched fingers of the big guy in the middle. It wasn’t a conventional choice of shot—more of an old-school move, something I learned from my father in the driveway, perfected during my long hours of one-on-none. I can still remember my teammates’ hoots of ironic appreciation—a fucking running hook! Game over.
On this night, Knee-High Stockings is too eager to shoot. He forgets to catch first; the ball slips through his fingertips and bounces out of bounds, right to me, sitting on a folding chair, watching the action in my NBA-logo socks.
For a moment, I’m that boy again.
Standing on the sidelines at the high school court watching the big guys bang, wanting so dearly to touch the ball, to be asked to play.
But instead, I’m this older guy with a bunch of injuries, most of which are related to sports. About a year ago, a neurosurgeon told me, “You’re one face-plant away from paralysis.” I’m sure he was being glib. You know how some of these surgeons are. Look at me. I’m upright. So what if I can’t turn my head very well, much less head fake. I have my reel of personal highlights to remember. And nearly every day I walk four miles in the steep hills around my house. Or sometimes I walk the boardwalk. There are lots of college girls around here who like to run in the afternoon.
I just have to make sure I don’t get distracted and trip.