A Game of Basketball Pt. 8
After The Santa Barbara Tournament
The next few days were a complete blur. I was suspended for the next 4 games and from going to school for 5 days, and no practice. Well, for just the 5 days. Once I can go back to school, I can practice, but I won’t be able to play for the next 4 games. I didn’t argue. It gave me time to think and I didn’t want to speak to Nicole.
I needed to be alone.
Mom, Emily and I traveled up to my grandma’s house on Thursday.
Grandma Maisie was quick to pull me into a hug and catch my cheeks between her fingers. Why is that grandma’s always have to pinch cheeks?
She asked me all about how my season was going.
“You mean, no one knows you’re transgender?” I ask.
“But doesn’t keeping all those secrets bottled up inside make you sick?” I ask.
“Well, at first they did… But not really anymore.” Although, now that everyone knows that she’s Kevin… Who knows what’s going to happen when winter break ends.
“You have a lot of friends there, don’t you?” I ask her.
“Would they still be your friend if they found out about your secrets?” I ask.
What are the odds that her best friend is named Kevin? I can’t help but laugh at the coincidence.
“It’s nothing, it’s just my best friend’s name was Kevin.”
I pause for a moment to consider whether I should tell her or not, but I decide what could it hurt. I explain to her how I found out that Nicole was Kevin and how she lied to me for the entire school year.
“Dead name?” I ask.
After a moment of silence, she continues. “I can imagine that she desperately wants to forget the name Kevin because that’s not who she is anymore.”
“I know,” she laughs.
“It kind of comes with the territory.”
“I can’t really speak for Nicole. I just know how nerve racking it can be to let someone in. Sometimes you trust the wrong people and they end up hurting you.”
“Ha, that’s because most freshman can be total children.”
As we sit around the dinner table, Uncle Dave asks me about basketball. “Everything was going great. We won our first few games and had an undefeated record until last Saturday. We played against Santa Barbara and…” My mind screams at me in anger about all the shit that went down that game.
“We ended up losing our first game,” I tell them.
“Ha, I could get you two to spend 5 minutes in the same room together without bickering,” Grandma Maisie says.
An awkward silence took over the room at the mention of Sarah. “We all miss Sarah, sweety,” Aunt Shauna says.
“Now’s not a good time, honey,” Uncle Dave says.
“No one’s forgotten about Sarah, honey,” Aunt Abby says.
I quickly get up and follow her out. She’s sitting on the steps of the back patio crying.
“Do you ever miss your brothers?” she asks.
She leans her head against my shoulder. I wrap my arm around her. Her problems make mine seem so trivial.
“Ha, yeah. We’d pretend to be Jedi or elves in a hunting party. You and Brett would always fight on who’s the leader,” she laughs. “Oh and that time Zach tried to climb that giant tree and fell, breaking his arm.”
“Why did we have to grow up?” she asks.
“Thanks, Dave! I needed this.”
As we walked back in they were watching the news when a breaking story came on the air. “Breaking news, several planes have incurred engine failures in the middle of their flights. We have reports of at least 10 flights having mid-air engine failures. At least three of those planes have crashed. And others are still in the air.”
“Zach! What’s going on?”
“Is dad with you?” I ask.
I hear a lot of commotion in the background. I put the phone on speaker. I hear people screaming.
“Honey!” my mom says into the phone.
“Yes, baby. I’m right here.”
“I love you too, just stay on the phone.” Tears fall from my mother’s eyes as we all realize the severity of the situation. “Just talk to us.”
“Dave! Dad says he loves you and he’s sorry. He wishes he could have been a better father.”
I watch helplessly as their plane falls from the sky.
“Dave… I don’t think you’ll be able to watch my games after all.”
The plane descends closer and closer to the ground as I can do nothing more than try to comfort my little brother. Where is he? Where’s the hero that’s supposed to save them?
The commercial airline crashes hard into the ground and quickly becomes engulfed in flames.
The phone slips from my fingers and skids across the floor.
Like I will wake up tomorrow and everything will be back to normal.
Fuck… My dad… I never forgave him.
I should have just told him I loved him. I should have forgiven him at the tournament.
It just can’t.
She more than anyone knows what it’s like to lose a sibling. I hold onto her.
I used to think I was strong, but after it, all went wrong… I don’t know anymore.
I know it’s only been a couple of days, but it feels like an eternity went by. Nicole sent me at least 20 text messages and tried calling me half a dozen times, but I just can’t talk to her right now. Coach has tried calling me as well along with most of my teammates.
I don’t even know what I would say.
I just can’t stop thinking about Zach. What was he going to say to me? He wanted to say something.
He’d still be here if had.
I don’t know if I’ll go watch. Basketball just seems so trivial right now.
No… I do know why. It was my parents who talked us into sports. Both my mom and dad played basketball in high school. My dad was always the one who pushed us. He’d never told us if we did a good job. Just constantly telling us where we could improve. I just wanted to make him proud.
It all seems so pointless now.
“I’m sorry Nicole, he doesn’t want to be disturbed right now. I’ll let him know you stopped by.”
“It’s been hard, but we’re both holding on. Thank you for asking.”
“That’s awfully kind of you, Nicole. But we’re hanging in there. I’ll let Dave know you stopped by.”
I hear the sound of the door closing.
I hear her footsteps followed by a knock on my door. “Dave, sweety.”
I look up at her as she walks into my room and sits down on the edge of my bed. “I don’t know. I don’t really feel like talking about it.”
“I don’t want to talk to her.”
I look up at her. “Why? She lied to me. I thought I knew her, but I didn’t even know she was really Kevin.”
After we got home I went straight to bed.
She sent me a dozen texts and tried to call me a few times. I didn’t answer or respond.
On Christmas, mom had Emily over, we opened presents and had a low key dinner.
The house was packed with my Aunt and Uncle Shauna and Dave Graceson. I wasn’t named after my uncle Dave, it’s just a pure coincidence. My cousin Jessica and I slept on the couches while her parents took one bedroom and my mother and Emily took the other bedroom. And of course my grandma Maisie slept in her own bedroom.
Jess was happy as ever to see me. She told me all about her basketball season and how they were killing it. Not only was she the top scorer, but also leading in assists.
“I’ve been watching all the news broadcastings of your games and keeping up with the highlights. You’ve been killing it!” she says. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about Nicole! She’s trans and she’s playing with the boys? I wish I was as brave as her in coming out to the public like that.”
She shakes her head no. “After what happened at my old school, I don’t think I can go through with that all over again.”
“Yeah, but it’s a lot better than all the bullying I got when I came out at my old school. People can be so mean sometimes. Do people pick on Nicole at all?”
“I wish I went to your school. I mean, San Marcos isn’t bad. People are starting to warm up to the LGBT community, but not really the T part just yet.”
“Yeah, I’ve made lots of friends since we moved,” she says.
She ponders the question for a few minutes. “Yeah. I think so. At least my closest friends would be, like this boy named Kevin who lives next door. He’s so sweet.”
“What?” She stares at me as if I’m crazy.
“Was?” she asks.
“She probably didn’t feel comfortable letting people know her dead name.”
“Yeah, the name she was assigned when everyone believed she was a boy,” she says. “You don’t know what it’s like to know deep down that you’re a girl even though the rest of the world sees you as a boy. And on top of that, you have to live with a boy’s name attached to you. And every time someone uses it, it reminds you that to them you’re not a girl. And most people use it as a weapon to hurt you.”
“You’re right,” I sigh.
“When did you get so wise?” I ask.
“I still don’t get why should couldn’t have told me. I mean, I just thought she trusted me enough to tell me the truth. It’s not like I didn’t know she was transgender.”
“Are you sure you’re only a freshman in high school? You sound a lot more mature.”
My mom, Aunt Shauna, and grandma Maisie all work to prepare dinner while my Uncle Dave grills chicken. It doesn’t take long before everything’s ready.
“Brett and Dave ended up getting into another fight. Both got ejected and suspended for 2 games,” my mother says.
“Ehhh, it happens. Siblings fight, Abby and I fought all the time,” Uncle Dave says.
“Sarah and I never fought,” Jessica says.
“Then how come we never talk about her?” Jess asks. I can tell she’s upset. Even though Sarah died over a year ago, it still stings as if it were yesterday.
“When is a good time?” she asks as she stands up. “You guys fight all the time, but you never actually talk about what happened! I’m sick of pretending she doesn’t exist.”
“It sure feels like it,” Jess says as she gets up from the table and rushes out the backdoor.
“Hey,” I say to her.
I sit down next to her and we just sit there for a few minutes in silence.
“All the time. I even miss Brett sometimes. As much as we fight, he’s still my brother. It’s okay to miss Sarah. She was an amazing person.”
I wish things could go back to when they were much simpler. Sitting on Grandma Maisie’s porch and looking out in the woods we used to play in brings back memories of the good times. “Remember when the 5 off us used to explore the woods and pretend we were going out on adventures?” I ask her.
“Yeah, and then we had to carry him back while he cried like a little baby. He screamed bloody murder. ‘I’m dying!’ .” We share a good laugh. “But somehow Sarah always knew how to calm him down. Those were the good ole days”
“Anytime Jess, anytime.”
My phone goes off. It’s Zach! I quickly answer it. “Dave! I don’t have a whole lot of time… I just.. I love you, man.”
“I don’t know, the plane… It lost power… I’m scared, Dave.”
“Yeah… He’s on the phone with Brett.”
“Dave! One of the engines just caught fire! I… I think we’re going down.”
“I love you, mom!”
‘We’re looking at a live video of flight #859 Denver to Chicago as it descends. It looks like the left wing engine has caught on fire. The captain has reported that there are 89 souls aboard and that they are losing altitude and won’t make it to the closest airport. They’re going to have to make a crash landing,’ the reporter says.
“Tell him it’s alright. Everything is going to be okay.”
What about Zatar, the golden hero? He’ll save them! I just know it. It can’t end like this.
“Don’t say that! You’re going to make it through this.”
“Zach! Zach, talk to me!” The phone goes blank. Our connection is lost. I hear my mother cry out as she drops to her knees. Emily rushes over to her.
Everything feels so surreal. As if it’s all just one big nightmare.
My world is fallen apart and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Why did it have to be Zach and my dad on that plane?
He told me he was proud of me. That’s all I ever wanted when I was a kid. To make him proud. And all he wanted was for me to forgive him.
This can’t end like this.
Arms wrap around my waist and pull me into an embrace. Nicole… I open my eyes to see Jessica’s tear filled face.
If I could only erase the past and change all the things that went wrong. I would’ve fixed our family. I would have stayed and helped my dad through whatever hell he was going through. I would have stayed with Zach and Brett. I would have never blamed Kevin for the things that happened. I would have told him to become herself. I would have loved her. We could have been happy.
I don’t think I can pick up the pieces of my broken heart.
I don’t remember how the rest of the weekend went. I don’t even remember going to sleep that night. Ever since Zach and my dad died, I’ve felt numb.
I just don’t want to talk to anyone right now.
School started back up today, but I couldn’t pull myself back together enough to attend. Besides, I’m still suspended for 5 days so I won’t be able to go until next Wednesday.
Why couldn’t he have just come with us to grandma Maisie's?
The next basketball game is this Friday. Not that I can play, since I’ve been suspended for 2 games.
I don’t even remember why I played in the first place.
To prove to him how good I could be.
I hear a knock at the front door. Through the thin walls, I can hear my mother answer it. “Hi, is Dave there?” It’s Nicole! I recognize her voice anywhere.
“Thank you. How are you holding up? I saw what happened on the news. It feels like it was literally yesterday we had dinner with Zach.”
“If there’s anything I can do, please just let me know.”
“Okay, thank you.”
The sound of my mom crying echoes through the walls.
She opens the door. “How are you doing, honey?”
“That’s fine. Nicole just stopped by. She’s worried about you.”
“I know, sweetheart. But you really should hear her out.”