I used to be a half decent free thrower, nothing special, but I would make a shot that went clean through the hoop, no net or nothing. When that would happen, the kids around me would get this stank face all over them as if they crapped themselves in amazement of my feat. Those were the days, when everything was as simple as dribble, move, shoot.
These days, I don't seem to make those shots anymore. I guess my aim went down the tube around the same time my looks did, my coordination going not too soon after. Despite this, the sound of the rubber ball striking asphalt continues to be the only constant in what looks like a life of change. Above me is a naked street light, the flickering heartbeat of my dreams on it's final beats. Surrounding me are the echoes of my dribbling, a pacemaker trying to jumpstart my ambition, guiding me through the court as I tirelessly stride towards the basket.
"Give it a rest man, you ain't got it no more" a strange voice rang through the night.
As I turned my head to view the intruder of my shooting, I gasped at who it was. It was none other than Jay. Him and I had grown up together, playing ball everyday after school. We shared everything from records, to clothes, and even women. The man was everything I had strived to be, continuing to influence me even after his unfortunate overdose.
"What're you doing here in the dead of night?!" I called out to him. Suddenly a large grin peeled onto his face as he checked his watch and laughed. "It's twilight now," he began "this has been my playtime for a while now."
Before I knew what had happened, Jay was beside me, arm around my shoulder taking a cool drag.
"I see you haven't aged well!" he snickered, carefully tapping a cigarette.
"And you look the same as you did back in Harlem all those years ago." I retorted, missing a free throw by the width of a vein.
"You look sick."
"I'm anything but sick Jay."
"That's a lie and you know it, look at your posture. It's dreadful. Whatever happened to the coordinated chap who wanted to be me when he grew up?"
"You're anything but mature."
"I don't have to take this from you!" I snapped, looking at his forearm. It was still swollen from Harlem. I quickly checked my own arm and saw it was still alright, for now.
"Remember when Andrew Doyle bet you 20 bucks you couldn't stick a shot from half court?" Jay asked, gesturing to the center of the court. "You proved him wrong that day."
"And your point is?"
"Can you prove him wrong again?"
"Why are you asking me this?"
"Because, word along the grapevine is you're throwing you're life
away. Now I've seen you play all night kid, you're coordination
is shit. And Joey called and said you haven't been looking too
good out in town lately."
"I can still get a stank face out of a crowd Jay, I'm fine."
"Oh can you really? Because I think you've also lost your aim buddy."
"Is this why you're here? To insult me where I'm most vulnerable? I've been thinking about what happened to you at Harlem and this is the first thing you do to me after 5 years!"
I couldn't believe what Jay was doing to me. I shouted, screamed, and spat at him but nothing seemed to phase his cold exterior. It was as if he wasn't even there. Eventually, after I begun to lose my voice, he finally spoke once more. "Prove me wrong. Make a free throw."
I had to prove him Jay wrong. I was still a somebody. I wouldn't
melt under the pressure of the needle like Jay did. I couldn't. I
was still young, a person with his best years before him. Before
I knew it, I had released the ball. It flew through the air
towards the hoop, my life support being pulled so that my heart
could try to provide for itself.
"There's still time to change things James." Jay said, evaporating into the thick of the night as the ball went above the backboard and into the streetlight. I stood there, baffled at what had happened and made a decision; I would pull my act together and start-playing ball by the rules, just like Jay did before Harlem.