His jaw was slacked, and his wrist was perched by his chin with hand dangling as he walked in a dotted rhythm. He pushed forth in what appeared to be willed excitement, dribbling a basketball offbeat on the sidelines, and occasionally, when play stopped, would rush onto the court, and use both hands to scoop the ball, and shoot an unorthodox overhead hook shot. He would dart back a click too late here and there, but he had a smile. Was there sadness in his eyes, or was I just projecting?
He was one of the children, all aged around 12-16. He made various attempts to talk to the others, but was invariably ignored, and shut down. Occasionally someone would take the ball away from him, and he would pause and slink away. Another child would give him back the ball, a glimmer of hope, perhaps of friendship, at least humanity. Seems like just humanity—he is given the ball, but ignored further. The boys around him give off an air of cringe—they feel embarrassed having him around them. Seeing this upsets me and angers me, but children are cruel, and we were all children before.
He is one of three others waiting for the next game (4 on 4, half-court). The game ends, and the kids engage in quick discussion. They give some sort of short explanation away from him that forces him out. He’ll have to wait for the next game. He slinks again, this time, more fully. How many times has he had to wait today? How many times has he had to wait his whole life? How many times has he chosen to believe in the better of people and been disappointed? But still, he comes.
He walks over to the handball court, basketball in hand—wait, this was his own basketball? The one that the others were ripping away from him? He stands on the side against the fence, and a man sitting on the floor, with a short mohawk hairstyle gives him a high-five. They exchange two or three words. The boy holding the basketball smiles.
He walks back and forth from basketball court to handball court, dribbling, shooting at baskets in imaginary games, in a cycle of disappointment and hope that would’ve defeated me long ago.