A cardboard box in the basement hailed me last night to check its contents swiftly for a bulky album of news clippings from when I was in high school–a senior year now two full decades ago. Inside the box, a scrapbook; inside the scrapbook, an article; and through (or just beyond) the article, a faint memory one degree removed from this Morning Sun write-up of a humbling basketball loss: Dec. 4, 1990.
I don’t remember much about the game itself. I do recall the standing-room-only butt-kicking we took and that many of the blows were dealt solidly and consistently by the player opposite me–my defensive assignment. I doubt whether I realized at the time any relationship between losing (mistakes, failure) and development (dev. in basketball, humility, maturity…any of it).
After pulling an album from basement storage (a grand act of egotism), I’m already tentative–or on guard, assuming a defensive stance twenty years after I really needed one–about why this account should spark any particular train of thought for me now. Why should it? One mildly unexpected reminder has been that nobody was at that game–none of my family, anyway. It was a season opener. I came home that night around 11 p.m., and at her request woke my mom up to tell her how the game went. This is the flicker I remember most of all–I could not say what had happened. But what can I write now about a basis for this strange, childish-seeming encounter–an oddly wordless understanding? What was it?–anything other than a first memory of gestalt intensivity excising any expressive way forward.
Writing this mundane scene so dramatically seems silly now. I am tempted to turn it into an Oulipo exercise and retell it 99 ways, you know? Like this:
I came home after a crappy basketball game and could not explain it to my mother who hadn’t attended. Twenty years later, this silent-failed attempt to describe the game is what I remember more than the game itself.
Only ninety-seven to go.