This week, our tale (mercifully) comes to an end. As you've probably suspected, you're not the target audience for my trip down memory lane. This is another of the numerous little breadcrumb trails I'm leaving for the boys. I do hope, however, that you've found it to be entertaining in some small way.
For whatever reason, I've been struggling through pretty much every aspect of life over the past week or so (boo hoo- I suspect it's the chemo). In any event, I may use that as an excuse to take some time off from the ol' blog. If I miss next week, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm dead- don't worry. In the meantime, the conclusion of the Trinidad story:
As I woke on Sunday morning, the recognition that I was likely in a great deal of trouble emerged through my dreamy remembrance of what was otherwise a great Saturday. During our breakfast and team meeting, however, everything seemed normal. I didn’t get called out, pulled aside or otherwise singled out for my transgression. I was hopeful that this might just blow over. We headed back to the gym for our next game. If we won, we would advance through the losers bracket, but another loss meant we were going home. In the locker room before the game, coach reiterated his points and set the starting lineup…with the noticeable absence of one C.Rushing.
My family, who had stayed at home for my brothers’ games the previous day, had made the several hour trek early that morning see this last day of the tournament. From my perch on the bench, I saw them sitting in the stands. They gave me a curious look when they saw I wasn’t starting, and I returned it with the universal teenage “I dunno” shrug and pretended to focus on the game.
It sucked to not start, but I understood that this was the price I had to pay. The team played hard, and the game was close. As the minutes ticked by, I itched to get into the game and make my mark, but before I knew it, the first quarter ended. During the break I started stretching in anticipation of unleashing myself, but was not included in the five he sent out to start the second quarter. The game continued nip and tuck, and the itch to play became a burn. My teammates were staring me down, wondering why I wasn’t in the mix. The game flew by until halftime arrived.
We retreated to the locker room, Coach gave his halftime talk, and made no mention of me. As we walked back onto the floor, Brillhart brushed by and said “We really could have used you today.” The implication of what he said immediately sank in, and my knee-jerk reply of “No shit you could use me, I’m the best player you’ve got”, sealed the deal. I got to ride the pine for the rest of the game. I did my best to avoid looking at my family, who put in the time, effort and expense to come see me play- only to not see me play. I spent the game, a petulant child sat on the end of the bench “ignoring” everything. The game that had been close throughout finished with us losing by a single point. It was a bad scene afterwards- everyone was pissed off. Coach was mad that we lost, and mad at me for making him have to bench me. My teammates were mad that we lost, mad at me for getting benched and mad at coach for benching me. My folks were mad at me for breaking the rules, and creating a situation where they invested time and resources in me and didn’t get to see me play. I was mad that we lost, mad at coach for benching me, mad at my teammates for being mad at me, mad at myself for getting caught and mad at my folks just because.
The bus ride back to Moffat was the longest ride ever. When we arrived, and as we were waiting for our parents to pick us up, I told coach what I thought of his decision and quit the team. That quit didn’t last very long, maybe a couple of days- coach needed me and I needed basketball, so we each swallowed our pride and put things back together. The rest of the season was unremarkable. I was very inconsistent- games of brilliance followed by supremely lackluster efforts. Our young team didn’t accomplish much either, we finished the season a game below .500, and lost a heart-breaker in the first round of the playoffs to La Veta.
The story, however, doesn’t end in the Moffat Consolidated School parking lot. Mah-rya and I had exchanged home phone numbers before we departed. Yes, rather cut my losses and politely go my own way, I decided to double down on my mistake and keep the doomed relationship alive. In my mind, I was being unjustly persecuted by authority figures and of course this girl I barely knew was the only one who could truly understand me. I called her. And we talked. And I called her again. And we talked some more. And all was well with the world. Until the phone bill came.
Livid is as good a word as any, but it doesn’t truly capture the anger of my folks when that particular phone bill arrived. A full month of hours-long, peak-hour, long-distance phone calls. I was immediately put on double-secret probation, or whatever grounding mechanism they used at the time. I was stripped of all telephone privileges, and they forbid me from having any further contact whatsoever with Mah-rya.
Again, rather than cut my losses and politely go my own way, I doubled down on my double down. Being the clever young man that I am, decided that Mah-rya and I would continue our illicit long-distance relationship via U.S. mail. One of my friends at school let me use his post office box in Moffat to receive letters. Every day at lunch, I would walk the couple hundred yards from school to the tiny post office to check for mail. We wrote each other for months in what was a slow-motion relationship played out on perfume and cologne soaked loose-leaf notebook paper. It’s tough to have an actual argument via snail mail- but we managed. I remember one particular letter that arrived replete with mascara-stained teardrops strategically placed on the page. The nice letters out-numbered the bad, but they weren’t nearly as interesting.
In the end, our relationship came to an abrupt conclusion that summer. I moved back to Montgomery, lost access to the free post office box, and started another chapter in my life. I kept those letters for years, but they were eventually lost- probably when my folks moved. (Although my inner fifteen-year-old suspects that my mom found them and threw them away out of spite.)
Oh, the life lessons I should have learned that weekend. Among them: 1) Sometimes the bad decisions we make don’t just hurt us- they effect others as well, 2) don’t let the pursuit of young ladies get you in trouble*, 3) bad things happen when you put yourself before the team, 4) disobeying authority figures (even when they are wrong) brings consequences, 5) it never hurts to consult a map, and 6) if you break the rules, don’t get caught…oops, I’ve said too much. I’m sure I’m missing a few, and the fact that the ones I remember didn’t sink in too deeply speaks to my level of maturity at fifteen.
Fortunately, that was as bad as I ever got while still living at home. I rebounded to become a pleasant and well-behaved teenager. My college years, however, were something else. But that’s another story for another time.
*Unfortunately, I ended up learning this lesson the hard way...several times.