The basketball court.
The one place I've never EVER come across.
You see, before this I had the dubious distinction of being the nephew of a doctor, a relation I used to my advantage to get medical leave whenever we had a gym or sports or anything-to-do-with-the-outside-world class.
I had spent the entire morning out shopping for "basketball clothes" , just so that I do not look out of place. I had this very bad habit of dressing up casually for any and every occasion.
Like when you wore shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt to your cousin's wedding
In my defense that incident was blown way out of proportion . When I returned from school that day I found a note from my mom saying she had already left for the wedding , and that my clothes were in my cupboard. When I opened my cupboard it didn't quite really sink in that the clothes meant for the occasion was the tuxedo. By muscle memory I picked up my everyday clothes and left. I did not expect them to panic and send me back to change.
They wouldn't have ...if you weren't the best man.
Anyways coming back to the point , I finally got a basketball jersey, although two sizes larger . And I was totally looking forward to a fun evening of slamming the basketball through the hoop like I had seen them do on TV. I mean how hard could it be? I was hoping that she would see me and be impressed. And I knew Nik would cooperate.
The only thing I hadn't taken in mind was that Nik and I wouldn't be the only kids on court.
As soon as I reached there my blood pressure shot up and all my courage spewed out like air out of a deflated balloon. There were so many guys.
So many tall guys.
I couldn't understand . All of these were about my age. And yet from where I stood they looked like they must be at least ten years older than me. As if they ate the magic beanstalk beans for breakfast everyday.
Nik was there too. Upon noticing me he came running, took me by the hand and dragged me to the coach. I guess he had anticipated my shell shocked state.
"Coach, this the friend I was talking about. He wants to learn basketball."
Now, I would have told you about the coach , but the problem was I couldn't see his face. He was twice as tall as everyone and my head hardly reached his waist. He might as well been employed by the government to catch enemy planes and missiles between his teeth. Everyone around me was SO SO TALL
It's also possible that they're at normal height and you're SO SO SHORT.
The coach looked down at me and smirked, possible with derision . He said "three rounds of the whole court. RUN!!"
I went on full adrenaline mode. I can do this. I can master this sport.
I tighten my leg muscles, lean back, and make a run for it. You never know when she would arrive and see me running like a total pro. This was fun. The wind in my hair. I didn't know I could run so well. Everything was passing in a blur. If everyone ran like this, why was getting into the Olympics so hard? Haha! I was absolutely unstoppable.
One round later, I was adequately stoppable.
I wonder if there is an Olympic medal for "Pathetic panting and wheezing Idiot on field"
I don't know what sorcery this was, but the court looked so small when I was standing. Yet it never seemed to end when I was running around it. I was falling to bits by the time I had reached my last lap.
I went back to the coach, taking each step as if I had been chained to weights. And somehow managed to get the words "Done coach" out of my mouth.
The coach looked at me and laughed ," You have to work on your stamina , young boy!"
Just then another guy came and whispered something into the coach's ear. The coach nodded and agreed. He took out his whistle from his pocket and blew it as hard as he could. Everyone stopped and looked at him .
"WE NEED TO CLEAR THIS AREA IMMEDIATELY AND MOVE TO THE OLD BASKETBALL COURT! THERE ARE SOME MAINTAINENCE GUYS WHO WANT TO WORK HERE NOW!!!" he screamed.
Most guys sighed, some groaned, and some were unaffected. Nevertheless everyone started moving towards the exit and outside to the old basketball court. Even Nik managed to pull me (by me I mean my body , which was temporarily disconnected from my brain) to the old court. The coach came there and announced that they would be continuing practice there. He then called for all the 7th graders and told them to assemble in one line.
This is the moment . We were gonna make teams and start playing. No more pathetic drills.
My time to shine was here.
The coach shouted out instructions, " Ok on one team I want Chris, Nik, Evan , Giles, and Louis. On team 2 I want Dylan, Kevin, Sid , Rico and Howard. Nat and Eddie will be the baskets."
I'll be the WHAT?
"I didn't get you coach", I said in a very submissive voice.
The coach explained."Son, look around you, this old court doesn't have hoops. So whenever we come to play here we make human baskets. See those tall stools? You stand on them and hold your arms in a horizontal circle, as if you're hugging someone. You and Eddie are new to the batch. Newcomers either sit as substitutes or play as baskets. "
When you said it was your time to shine, did you mean like shoe polish shine?
I couldn't believe my ears. I had come all the way here to be a human basket?? Surely this man was kidding. "Coach is it possible for me to sit this one out?"
"NO BOY!! RUN AND GET ON THAT STOOL !!" he glared.
Before he would start breathing fire, I made a run for it and got onto that ridiculous stool .At the other end Eddie got onto his , but he looked so indifferent. It's not like he cared who saw him like that . Soon the game started . Everyone was dribbling, passing , throwing, shooting, and I was standing there like the statue of liberty about to do ballet. I was using my collective praying power to hope she wouldn't come today. I kept looking at the side of the court, where the people usually gathered. One by one the girls were coming , warming up. But there was no sign of her.
Lady luck was smiling upon me.
This huge guy Louis came dribbling towards me . He was managing to tackle everyone efficiently . He got about 5 meters near me when my eyes went to the edge of the field and ...she was standing right there . But she wasn't looking at me .Her eyes were following Louis and the ball as he dribbled and threw it .
Wait , he threw it ??
On my face.
Lady luck just gave you a wedgie.
It wasn't hard or anything , but my head recoiled a bit and I shut my eyes reflexively . It must have looked really silly, because everyone started laughing. When I opened them, I saw her looking at me . Here golden brown eyes were fixated on me. And then slowly a small smile appeared on her face.
The coach whistled. Time was up.
I descended and tried to look at the ground and walk away. I was so embarrassed I would have teleported from there if I could. Nik came to me. I could tell from his face that he was feeling bad about this whole plan.
"I am so sorry bro. I didn't know the coach would make you be the basket."
"It's okay , man . Let's just get out of here before they laugh at me anymore."
I was just about to escape, eyes to the ground, when I bumped into someone. I looked up.
It was her.
She was looking at me and smiling. WHY WAS SHE SMILING?
Nik said hi . I said hi too, but it was more of a please-leave-me-alone-I-want-to-leave kind of a hi.
"Hey. It's okay. I know what you're thinking right now and when I was new here they made me do exactly the same thing. There is no need to be embarrassed . In fact, at least you took the hit. I fell right off the stool." she said.
And then she started laughing. Not at me. At herself.
What was this girl made of ? She didn't stereotype me as a loser, that too after such an incident. In fact she revealed her own humiliating moment and tried to make me feel better. I just looked at her straight into the eyes , smiled and said "Thanks a lot."
"Tell you what. Why don't you and I become friends? We look like we might hit it off" she said as she extended her hand.
I said something really intelligent ,"Uhhh ....ubbb....ummm"
What are you saying ? You sound like you're evolving from a chimp to a human! TAKE HER HAND AND SHAKE IT!
I raised my hand and enveloped it around hers, but I was still hypnotized by her words.
We look like we might hit it off.
The very touch of her hand sent and electric surge of happiness through my system. I smiled all the way home. She had officially given an acknowledgement of our compatibility.
We look like we might hit it off.
The next two days we did hit it off . She taught me basketball, I taught her science and math. Nik , her and I spent a lot of time talking. I was so happy that I didn't see what was coming near.
And it would , as usual, balance all the happiness I had got from the previous three days.