The Basketball Player
I was nineteen, in pointy black vintage pumps. Maybe I was wearing my mint green pleather mini skirt, too. I was walking down the alley to my apartment late at night. A man started screaming "You whore!" He was on a balcony. I knew him. He was a football player I had offended at a frat party the week before. I was a girl who was so banged up inside that all I knew how to find was pain. I knew this boy was an Evangelical Christian. I said the thing I knew would make him blow. It had to do with me, Jesus and the whore thing he'd mentioned.
It worked. I stood my ground, steeling myself, wondering what it would feel like to be punched as I listened to the hollow thunder of feet running down the metal staircase. Suddenly, I was lifted and swept across the parking lot, a voice in my ear, "He really will kill you." Black, black eyes. Strong arms. This boy kept me quiet, hidden between the buildings while the other boy bellowed and raged in the parking lot. He walked me to my apartment. "Let me guess. Basketball?" I said, looking up at him. He was impossibly tall. We had sex on the floor of my living room, my roommates asleep upstairs. He wouldn't have fit in my twin bed anyway. I remember the green light from the stereo, his black eyes, his voice.
He came back to see me a few days later. I was upstairs, in bed with the man I was in love with. This man was much older than I was, a musician who lived with someone else, and had me and all the groupies he could handle on the side. He loved listening to the boy's deep voice, pure Detroit, knowing he was a basketball player. The musician was very, very short. Once he saw a picture of the boy in the paper, crouched over the ball, biceps bulging. It made his victory sweeter.
I handed that musician my soul on a platter and he devoured it. We ended up living together. Neighbors called the police once, when he had me on the floor, kicking me. By the time the female cop was knocking on the bathroom door, I had a mouthful of Lime-Away. I was going to swallow it. That's how badly I hurt. I decided to spit it out when I heard her firm, kind voice.
At 21, I ended up in an ambulance, my heart stopped from the bottle of pills I took. I didn't know how to get out, how to leave any other way. I thought it was love. It took another five years after I left the hospital, shuffling in paper slippers, wearing a musty wool sweater and sweat pants from the donation bag. My own clothes had been cut off of me in the ambulance.
That basketball boy came back to my apartment a few times. It has been 33 years, and I still think, "He came back. He came back for me."
Anonymous works hard not to chose pain, and still fails quite a bit. But she manages to be happy anyway. She recently stalked the basketball player into the bowels of the internet and is glad to see it looks like he has had a good life.