They say the coldest time of the day is just before the crack of dawn as it is the longest the earth has went without the sun. And maybe that was why I felt so hopeless and cold that night, just before I saw you again.
I couldn’t take it anymore. Call me a coward or a loser, but everyday feels so cold, even when the sun is shining high. I am all alone now, there isn’t any reason for me to continue like this, not anything worth. There is no reason to sit through another sunrise. But still I want to see it again, one last time.
I don’t know what my thoughts were, maybe I was thinking about how I could no longer keep up or the big mess that was my life now, I don’t remember. But seeing you there, shooting balls into the rundown hoop, I pause. All that has happened in the past six years feel like a fever dream. No, this must be a dream. There is no way that the person who never answered my mails or calls for the last four years was here before me. Time stills as we look at each other, minutes, hours. Then to my complete disbelief, I see you smile. Not the brilliant smile that used to light up the room, not the smile that felt like sunshine but a ghost of it.
I quickly turn around. I need to leave, it doesn’t matter anymore. I need to leave before I lose my nerve. ” Aren’t you curious; you
don’t want to know how I am doing?”, I hear you call out. I have to be quiet, leave, I tell myself; ” I guess I got tired of asking around my what, 35th or maybe my 50th mail”, I retort.
You burst out laughing, I swear the audacity of this jerk. “There you are, little Jun. But not so little anymore, I see.” I shrug it off and ask ” What are you doing here?.” I see your smile disappear, “Listen Jun, I heard about your mom. I am… I… ” Don’t you dare “, I manage to grit out.” What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the qualifiers right now? ” I ask. I remember that last mail, the summer of 2013, your excitement as you got into the best college in the state, at least when it comes to basketball.
” Was in an accident, would probably never play in league again” you say with a light laugh. I hesitate and you say it’s okay. I can’t let this be our last conversation, this is goodbye after all, so I try again, ” Is it just you here or Aki and… ?”,I let it hang. Maybe I could see them both again, one more time before I go. “Oh, they… it was that accident”, you mumble. I finally work up the nerve to look into your eyes.
You used to be taller, but now we stand head to head. I pull you closer. Holding you this way, it feels so warm. This, it was right here, the place we met all those years ago and right here, that we both fell madly in love with basketball. I miss those days, us playing in the sun, not having a care. How I wish we could go back! But we can’t, and maybe that is why they are so special.
Somewhere along the way we grew up. But nothing really changed did it? We were still friends and we still loved basketball. One summer you went away for vacation, and when you came back you had 3 inches on me. I thought you had done some special workout without me. I tried pull ups and every possible trick I could find on the Internet. Guess I was just a late bloomer, just like you said. Every time we played a match, I would think, thank goodness that we are on the same team! But deep within, I wondered how it would be like, to play against each other. That thought used to scare me, but I also hoped, dreamed, that we would one day.
We couldn’t wait to grow up, we wanted to play in college. We used to watch all the league matches. We felt like school would never end but we didn’t realise how little time we had left, did we?
Your grandma fell sick, you had to mortgage the house and move in with a relative, far away and out of reach from me. We thought we would be okay, and I guess we were for a while. But time and distance can be cruel.
I can’t believe I forgot all the good times we shared. I can’t believe I was blind to all those happy, fun, carefree moments. I should have tried reaching out a little more. Maybe if I had been a little more understanding and a little less demanding, would it have been different. But it is already too late for it now, isn’t it?
Now looking at it from afar, I don’t have anybody to blame but me. I was given a lot of chances, so many opportunities and I wrecked them one after another. What is even worse is I didn’t
know back then, how much I would come to regret not trying. And before me is this person who did everything right, who never gave up, who worked harder than anyone I know but still lost everything they held dear. And still, you choose to smile.
We might stand head to head now, but we are no longer equals.
I always blamed you for leaving me alone, blamed you for everything that came after. I was such a fool.
We sit on the bench. I don’t know what we talked about, maybe we laughed about our sorry states or maybe you tried to convince me to play ball again, I don’t remember. But I will never forget the look in your eyes, that look as you asked me not to leave. You knew didn’t you? What I was about to, that if you let me go you may never see me again? I am not leaving you. And just like that it was sunrise, again.
Here was my reason, to start living again. Scratch that, here, right in this sorry excuse for a court were three reasons to not give up. Basketball, you and us, playing together.
It is warmer now. “Care for a game?” I ask. “Thought you’d never ask”. And there is that brilliant smile again.