I woke up this morning for the second time at a much more reasonable hour. I puttered hazily around my kitchen, tossing ingredients in the crock pot, onion-crying at 8:30 a.m., navy beans clattering at my feet, and I felt that prickle of words in the back of my throat, waiting to be pulled out one by one as if on a string, like red neon seconds falling closer and closer to a loud clanging buzz signaling the end of something and the beginning of the next thing, and sometimes you don't know until the last beat what they will be. I drove off to work, ten minutes late, pierced by cold and cloud and taking the curves carefully - amazed that this greengrassy haven of dog-walkers and joggers was the same street whose silence I swear I could hear only hours before, peppered with streetlights and pattered with rain, when I got out of bed at 1:45 in the morning to turn on ESPN and watch a basketball game.
The TV blared false light into the organic, dirt-dark living room. I wondered if anyone wandering at this hour would see the slivers of bright through the curtains and wonder why. And I would tell them, of course, that I was watching the boys play a basketball game.
In the fall of 2008 I spent three months in England, and many Norfolk midnights I hunched over my laptop, spilling myself into North Carolina dusks, watching justintv or the All-Access feed that I had purchased for six bucks, or listening to Kilgo's sandpaper voice crackle across an ocean. I'd Skype chat with Patty, or Lindsay, or Dad, or Becca would come over and sit and we would sing "Sweet Caroline" in soft hushes so we wouldn't wake my flatmates up. This felt kind of like that, except that this time, everyone had it, the late night deal. Twitter crackled like the virtual bar counter that it is in these moments, and the high top tables of Beaverton, Raleigh, St. Pete, Chicago, Oakland, Morganton, Charlotte, even The Pit itself, pushed themselves together with 140 and 140 and 140 again character conversations and collective jolts of watching and waking and waiting. Past becomes present becomes future, in seconds split by yawns and yells. My echoing voice sounded strange, alone and cracking, but also powerful, because how many more voices had I unknowingly joined? And all I was doing was watching a basketball game.
I thought about how these seniors were really seniors before they were seniors - they have always started and sparked and strengthened, veins iced, eyes sharp. They have balanced each other, this quartet, and each one has pulled off poise and promise, and each one has won us a memory-sparkling game, and God knows how many they have won us together. I thought about De'Mon, how I remember the freshman he was so vividly and how we all remembered as Belk boomed again that there can be grace in the struggle and brilliance in the battle to the basket, and how he has only continued to beam bright and believe deep. I thought about Tom, and Chris, and Tyler, the first times I ever heard their names and wondered what they would bring to the script, delighting to watch it unfold. And now I see Jordan, and Jake the younger, and I await, anticipate. Stories scribble as my team, my alma mater, plays a basketball game.
Yes, there is frustration in a five-point loss at two in the morning after losing a lead, yes, all of those numbers that didn't fall to our side after all still ache, though so much good had swept through this early morning. Yes, drooping eyes and caffeine and Emergen-C and head-haze have followed me around today. But all I can see is the space before us, the swaths of clean winter air and glossed wooden floor, the full-fledged forty minutes(es) that we hold in our sights. Last night (er, this morning) was elementary school slumber party and college midnight scream smushed together into this surreal moment of surrounded solitude: me, on my couch, wrapped up in blankets, hurriedly tweeting and watching and whooping while the night glazed and folded over on itself, deepening darkness except for my television. It's been the norm for me these last six years, and yet each one is always new, and that's what it is, isn't it, this old new, this familiar fresh, this history mystery - it's life, it's home, those in-the-journey-minutes. Yes, there I was, yet again, watching a basketball game.