I don’t really remember the first time we met. Those kinds of memories blur and cease to matter when they lie dormant long enough without recall; at least, until you recall them.
A man had walked in with the usual five minute warning four minutes ago so I was preparing to leave the locker room, double-checking to make sure I had everything. Neon white Nike shoes, Jockey pants, a thin black leather jacket unzipped to reveal a blood-color plain shirt, and a bouree-like striped hat I had worn since the beginning of the tournament; a kind of signature look I had adopted on stage.
Costume check complete.
Five minutes was up.
“Hey, you mind if I play too?” A 6 year-old boy curiously turned towards the foreign voice, a new voice. A new voice meant a new friend. Smiling, the boy exclaimed, “Sure!” and passed the basketball down the driveway to the other boy. He was 7 years old and in 2nd grade. One of the older kids! There couldn’t have been anything cooler than having a 2ND GRADER ask to play basketball with you…..
“Alright, you’re up.”
I straightened my “bouree” and begin walking through the hallway, tuning my ears to the iron beat in my soul.
“Your turn!” exclaimed an obviously overjoyed Shane as he placed a trap card face down. Yu-Gi-Oh was VERY fun especially when he got to play with Derek. Even though he was a year older, you never really knew who would win and wouldn’t win, and beating a 4th grader brought LOADS of joy to Shane. It was convenient really. As Shane prided himself with using such a big boy word, “convenient”, Derek played his own master move. Thoroughly happy, he proclaimed “Well you’ve just activated MY trap card” and took all of Shane’s life points with a direct hit! Shane frowned to himself then started laughing. “Rematch?”
Flashing lights and roaring cheers greeted me as I made my way up to the match. The stage, the stadium, and the sky darkened to introduce my opponent to the sounds of Childish Gambino. The iron beat in my soul grew, and I lost myself in the soothing flow of water droplets that eroded the stadium rooftop.
The rain was pounding the house as Derek and Shane ran inside. The storm had hit acutely, dictating a very unwelcome response from the two now drenched boys. Shane shivered while Kyle went to get them both towels. They had been playing together for three years now, and Kyle had become a senior of Brazos Bend Elementary. Kyle brought back the towels and as Shane wiped himself down, he decided to tell Derek about the strange thoughts in his mind all week. “Hey man, I have to tell you something.” Derek glanced up, nonchalant and half-listening. “I think….. I think I have a crush on Haley too.” His eyes narrowed, unmoving, his poise resembling that of one inhospitable. Shane shivered again, but not this time from the cold. It was the first time that he had done far more damage than a punch to the face could bring.
I was now just able to make out Derek’s MOB dance crew hat and a hoodie with athletic shorts. He strode with an air of pride.
I had to smile to myself. He had become exactly what he had dreamed himself to be; an all-star. To be in his presence would’ve been intimidating were I a stranger. But I saw the same person I remembered from the good old days.
“Stop, Stop, STOP!!!” Kim screamed as she pushed Derek and Shane apart. They were both livid, bruises in multiple areas. “What did I do, huh?! You’re the one that got so messed up not me!” Shane just took in the words, knowing they were true but not wanting to acknowledge it. Derek didn’t need to know the depth of the jealousy, of how Shane wished he was as popular as Derek. Middle school had changed everything. “I just needed you to listen to me…. But you can’t even do that.” Derek widened his eyes at this accusation. “All I’ve been doing is listening to you. It’s not my fault if you don’t know how to be happy anymore.” Shane’s breathing grew heavier. “You’ve been acting suicidal, and pretending to be depressed all the time and acting as if no one cares about you. Well I’m done caring. So get out of my house.” Shane gasped, shocked. “GET OUT!”
Calming my mind, I left everything to impulse, watching and waiting for Derek to begin. The muffled voice of the announcer quieted the crowd and DJ Storm ascended his designated stand over the MoveBox.
It was amazing.
Pop, pop, spin, lock. Twirl and jump, pipe and sweep. Every move fit and was leading effortlessly into the next as if he was planning the choreography in his head and letting it flow simultaneously. He started switching styles without falter and used his MOB cap as supplement. The audience, the DJ, even the stage had become awestruck at the visible beauty of the dance.
“5,4,3,2,1, DONE!” The announcer and the DJ cut off and Derek landed gracefully on his feet, curled and twisted with his hands in the air.
Applause and screams shattered the millisecond of silence.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Shane ran home crying, knowing that Derek was right but it was too late to change anything about it. He couldn’t let anyone see the emotion he was letting loose. They would call him so many names….
I landed the flip and started a popping session in rhythm.
I went robotic with the beat, making my entire body stiff and moving with the bass of the song instead of the lyrical melody…..
He had to get away. He had screwed up not just with Derek but with everyone who was once his friend. 8th grade year was going to be over soon and Shane had just made it worse for himself. The jealousy had become too much and he needed to find a way to calm his mind, to rid himself of the atrocities……
Only a minute left. Pop with one hand, pop with the other, wave with the fists. The clock was slowly ticking away and I was starting to feel the sweat on my brow……
Shane stared at himself at the mirror, sweating from head to toe. It was hard, learning these steps, but he needed this. It was the only way he had found to calm his mind, and it helped knowing that he was going to move to a new house in a couple of months. It was almost laughable, the irony of learning what his ex-best friend was so great at now. Almost three years had passed…..
Twenty seconds. I begin moving faster and faster, exerting the last of my energy, knowing full-well that by the time I was done I’d barely be able to stand……..
The letter came back from the high school. He had officially made it into the academy! He was going to be able to start over, to leave it all behind and maybe make something of himself this time….
I stopped, exhausted, and stumbled back over to the edge of the stage.
Derek had seen me. He was noticing the change in my disposition, the alteration of my mood and the control I now exerted over my morality. He had seen everything I wanted him to see in me, but it didn’t make much of a difference.
I got off stage and turned around to see the judges raise a green flag….Derek’s color. Smiling, I tried fixing my bouree. I let the joy of the opportunity entrance me and guide me back to the locker room as the roars emitting from behind me got fainter and fainter.
Shane laughed as he sat at the dinner table. It was junior year and his senior friend, Karyn, was about to graduate and go to college, something that definitely needed a surprise party. It was the most fun he had had in a long time. He was dancing with his friends on the floor and they were all caught up in the moment, as teenagers tend to be at dances. It was amazing and he figured that maybe he’d show off a bit……