I was wrong. Admittedly, even while I typed the words to my last essay, “Clocks are the only Time Machines,” I considered that one day I may think differently. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would eventually encounter another time traveling device. I just didn’t realize that it was nesting in the warmth of my palms nearly every day since the beginning of June. Straws are the cheapest teleportation devices. That much is true, but when I flip open my journal, I know I can be taken anywhere.
June 22: I was thirsty before even stepping onto the court. I guzzled ounces from my one gallon jug while being careful enough to aim the overflow directly onto my skin. The temperature was hot enough that people from up north thought they were in hell already. Add the concrete beneath our feet and the athletic movement required in basketball and we were baking. Hot was an understatement.
One of the men asked my friend if he cared for a beer. Some of the older guys drank Keystones during play so by now he wasn’t shocked that they might offer one to him. The first time we came out here, I had the luck of guarding a keg. He was wild and active, but had little that could be considered ability. At the time, my lunges weren’t strong enough to take advantage of this shadow. We were both often spotted with our hands on our hips or worse, hunched over sucking in wind.
At times like these, I thought nothing of committing one of the cardinal signs in basketball: ‘never take your eyes off of the ball handler.’ On one pass the ball whizzed right by me. My only reaction was to stick my hand out, but otherwise I made no real attempt to haul in the pass.
That was weeks ago though. Some of the other players shot for team captains. The first shot went in, but the second success took about two minutes. My friend Tee and I were chosen on opposite teams. Somehow we all came to realize that we only had nine players. My team chose first but we still only had four.
“Hey-wait, we picked first. How come ya’ll have five? We’re supposed to have our squad before yours.”
That was Big Rinnie objecting. He was joking, but even if he wasn’t you would respect when he spoke. Small ironies like choosing players out of turn were more entertaining to us than they probably should have been. For some of us, this was the only chance to relax and release tension from the week.
The other team was forced to select the last person willing to play. Half of them wailed, “Old School.” That was the sound of tickled enthusiasm. The moment felt like we were preparing to play with a celebrity. I tried to avoid adding to their chuckles.
Old School didn’t do himself any favors, but he also didn’t seem to care. He proudly wore a Jesus T-shirt and suspenders clamped to his basketball shorts. In all honesty, he resembled a small ninja turtle; minus the ninja. I didn’t realize it at the time, but although there were ten bodies on the court, we were preparing to play five-on-four basketball.
As much as I’d love to finish this story, I’ve got a point to make. The moment my eyes neglect the pages in my journal, my mind meanders away from the vision being digested. It’s just that simple. Still, as easy as it is to disperse these thought bubbles, it’s nearly as easy to climb back inside them.
June 3: My mom, girlfriend, and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings. Two employees, neither of which was our waiter, made the entire experience uncomfortable. One of the guys stared at my girlfriend constantly from a distance which, although awkward, I somehow tolerated. The other guy was far bolder. He cleared the table behind us four times and kept looking at her each time he walked by.
On the final stroll-by I stared him down. He could have traveled across the world and my eyes still would’ve followed. I could tell he was holding a smile back. Apparently, he enjoyed meaningless games like this. The other guy switched tables and turned his chair so that he no longer had to turn his neck even the slightest degree to stare.
Having completed our meal, or at least most of it, we finally got up to leave. My mom decided to walk about ten paces behind us to get a chance to witness what we often have to go through. As luck would have it three more guys exited behind us.
As we reached the car my mom yelled, “That was nasty!” Their eyes didn’t lift from the cement. They just continued toward their truck.
She decided not to tell us exactly what angered her until after we had driven away. Experience gave me a good idea, but even I couldn’t predict, ‘I’d hit that,’ was what she would say.
Even though these memories occurred not too long ago, I still teleport back into the moments. I’ve found that journaling records memories and preserves pockets in time. The act of writing without self-judgment allows me to see my thoughts and have opportunities to analyze them for further understanding. Some writing allows a different reflection that I consider geared more toward enjoyment than analysis. Either way, ideas don’t always have to be “presentable” to be drawn on paper for safekeeping. My own words have become a video camera that I can rewind and play with the blink of an eye.
June 1: I was asked earlier if my girlfriend dresses me. Of course I said no. But I’m sure some men are dressed by theirs’ and still would answer the same as I did. Then the question was rephrased, “So she undresses you?” I had to hand it to Suzanne; that was clever. If I was pale my face would’ve morphed into the color of a fireball. It’s good to be black!
Luckily, I’ve become aware that I forget more stories than my imagination generates. I’m now amazed at how much time I’ve wasted trying to dream up ideas. Even boring experiences can thrill after the story sits for a while. There’s often more at work in life than we can realize during the moment. Reflection makes us all smarter. From reading my journal I’ve realized that the pages are glass. There’s a lifetime of memories waiting to be polished, right in the mirror. It’s good to travel.
– Eric McCarty (Summer 2012)