Dad's words crackle out of the receiver and my ear goes numb.
"Oh my god."
I'm standing in the Appalachia Service Project staff office in Wyoming County, West VA, bonetired and caked with mud after our last day of spring break service work. David is standing in the doorway, watching me. I can tell my face is crumbling, I can tell he knows.
"I'm so sorry, Clairey."
"Oh my god... I can't --"
For the last twenty-four hours I'd been waiting for the result of a game that hadn't even happened yet. Starting at two o'clock, my skin prickled and my heart got all keyed up and I felt like I was in two places at once. I could imagine the scoreboard but I couldn't see the numbers. I knew who was in the stands, on press row, but I couldn't be with them. My brain created new scenarios every five minutes, giving tempo swings the chance to happen in real time. We're losing... we've come back... six minutes on the clock... we're crushing them... come on, no stupid TOs! I tried to send good thoughts, vibes, karma, anything, from the deep hollows of the West Virginia mountains -- hell, I even made my friends sing "Sweet Caroline" while we finished nailing vinyl siding onto a trailer and the boys were hammering upcourt in downtown Charlotte.
Obsessed much? Sure, if you want to call it that. Kitschy? Uh, it's Davidson. I didn't have to do much convincing to get the song going. But more than kistch or nostalgia or even desire to win, it was the only way I could say it, the only way I could make it important from hundreds of miles off the beaten, incommunicado track --
I don't know how many of these I have left. And I want one more, I want to make it to Saturday. Give me another chance to be a student at a Davidson game, I don't care if we win or lose, just let me have that, please. Pleasepleaseplease. It can't end without me there, it can't. It's the ending of too many things all at once, not just numbers on a board. Not just trophies or seedings. I need one more, please give me one more.
But now it's 4:45 and I'm starting to cry in this empty office and it's all suddenly slammed out of me so quickly with those two words. They lost. Dad is so sorry, so sad, he's come to love it too and he didn't want me to call, he didn't want to have to tell me... The ASP staffers walk down the hallway and they must think someone's died, I'm gasping and sniffling so damn loudly, what the hell am I doing, it's just a fucking game...
"I just wanted to be there," I squeeze out, "I just wanted to be there for it. For them. I just wanted --"
I just wanted.
After we hang up, I stand there. The frigid white sunlight shines through the dim blinds; my physical surroundings are completely disconnected from my tears, and the silence is so apathetic, so detatched, it's slightly laughable. What a picture I make, woman in transition. I feel 18/19/20/21/22 all at once, time-less and time-stopped and time-whooshing-by. I pick up the phone again, dial two numbers, leave two voicemails. Morgan. Michael. They were there, so much more within it than I am at this moment, and yet I need them to know that I was in it too. Two that I care so much about, two who are on different parts of the journey, student and alum -- and in a split second (that was actually two hours that was actually a season that was actually four years, how the hell did this happen?), I've left one part and crossed to the other.
I'm not sure how to take the next step. I'm not even sure what the next step IS.
So I do all I can do, I take a step down the long hallway, and then another, until I reach the room of bunk beds that I've shared with my best friends for the past week. They stop talking and laughing and they look at me.
"They lost," I manage to squeak. Crumbling again. And -- god bless my girls -- they pull me into their arms, they understand, they get it. I am incredibly grateful that folks who know me well get it. I'm not crying because we're out of the Southern Conference Tournament in the first round, but because I'm being moved, relocated, I'm walking across a stage -- although at the moment, it feels a bit more like being pushed. Though it's been a seven-month process ("hey guys... we're seniors."), this is the first tangible, sense-slamming, memory box part of it to finish, and I could do nothing except watch it pass by. No, not even watch it. Feel it fly by me.
"It's just -- given me so much," I sob into Jamie's shoulder. "More than I ever expected, and --"
They know. David, who gives me a bear hug, knows too, and I hear the slight smile in his voice: "You know you'll still be part of it. You know you'll still be on that board."
"It's about endings," Jamie says, or something like that, "but it's also about beginnings."
My eyes are tired the rest of the night, and it's still strange to be immersed in the silence of no cell phone or message board to give me more information or tell me what people are thinking (though I can guess). Instead, I sit on the couch and write words that randomly come to my mind, words in two columns, words that make sense to me and make me feel those nights in winter and afternoons in March. Words that help me understand that it won't all go away. Words that are abstract, overwhelming, but that stem from my heart/throat/eyes/hands, come from the people of my life.
There's another part to this story.