I imagined myself as I got into a low stance as I dribbled the ball with my fingertips. That feeling when you take control of the ball as your opponent looks at you deadly in the eyes will never fail to satisfy me. “Man, if looks could kill, I’d be dead by now,” I thought to myself.
All I have ever wanted in life was to be the best basketball player in my country, but how can I be one when I am not even a member of the basketball team in my school? Mom thought it would be a waste of time to spend every second of my life dreaming to be a player. She would always lecture me on how having basketball as my passion is just a phase but I know myself better than her.
I snapped awake as I heard the sound of shoes squeaking on the hardwood floor. I longingly looked at the team practicing from afar and slowly walked towards the bench to observe them.
The team captain, Levi, instructed his dazed teammate to pass the ball to him as sweat trickled down his neck. Genos, who I just nicknamed as the ‘dazed teammate’ ran towards his group and sneakily passed the ball to Levi who rhythmically dribbled the ball towards the hoop. The coach then whistled to signal the end of their practice and at that moment, the sound of grunts and pants can be heard.
I watched as the team leisurely leave the court as one of them happily announced that he was going to buy burgers for the team. They soon quickly cheered together, leaving me alone in this huge and quiet court.
I widened my eyes as I saw Levi promptly walking towards me with a towel hanging around his neck. “Hey, who gave you the permission to watch us practice?” he questioned. I felt my legs trembling, my palms sweating as he gave me his infamous glare. I quickly apologized, telling him it was my routine to watch them practice.
For a basketball player, Levi was surprisingly an inch shorter than me as I mentally compared my height to him. He let out a huge sigh and put both of his hands on his hips, “Your name, tell me,” he demanded. I confidently looked at his eyes and replied, “Kei.”
The captain heaved a sigh as he settled down the seat beside me. “By looking at your appearance, you must be the type of kid who studies hard,” he guessed. I surprisingly looked at him and timidly nodded. I nervously played with my fingers as I carefully listened to him talking, “For a guy who is interested in basketball, you sure do act like a girl,” he insulted. I glared at him and argued back, “What makes you think that?”
Levi slumped into his seat and mumbled, “First of all, I can sense that you find me intimidating just like the entire female population in this school and secondly, you’re quite short,” he smirked at me as he ended his sentence. “But you’re shorter than me-” I was cut off before Levi continued, “Anyways, what are you doing here?”
I turned my attention away from him and responded, “My mom prevented me from joining the basketball team so all I had to do was to watch the team play”. Levi took a huge amount of breath before replying, “Listen, I know we just met but I was once like you. My old man wanted me to excel in everything. Music, Martial Arts, Academics, you name it.”
Levi stared at the ceiling, “Sometimes I would think to myself and wonder, ‘Is this what I really want in life?’” he pondered. The captain then vented out his feelings on how he was once forced to do everything his dad wanted him to be so he can make his dad proud because he was the soon-to-be heir.
Levi gloomily shook his head and took a glance at me before looking down on the floor. “Life is like a story, a story where you have to fill every moment of your life with things you enjoy.”
Levi then continued, “If you were to write a story where things don’t go the way you have always wanted, wouldn’t that be a boring story to read?” he questioned me with a smile.
I nodded at him in agreement and sadly smiled at him. The captain’s smile widened as he told me the story how he managed to be the captain of the basketball team although his dad will always hate the idea of him becoming one.
Levi then instantaneously jumped out of his seat, “Alright, 1 on 1 with me, right now!” he announced.
I was honestly bewildered at his change of personality and hesitantly took off my school blazer. He grinned at me before jogging towards the huge court with a ball on his hand. I rolled up my sleeves and ran towards him, stealing the ball from him. “H-Hey!” he stammered.
Both of us took our time playing against each other as Levi told me a story about how Jean, the team’s most trusted member, had to leave the team due to his sprained legs which prevented him from playing for another 3 years. The captain then jokingly told me that I could join the team and replace Jean.
It was already dark outside by the time both of us stopped playing. Levi panted as he gracefully dunked the ball into the basketball hoop and landed carefully on two feet. He immediately took his bottle from the bench greedily drank from it.
“You’re in” the captain announced while trying to get in as much as breath as he can. “Huh?” I blurted out in confusion. “For a starter who does nothing but observes from the back, you’re actually pretty good,” he explained. Levi patted my shoulders and told me how he doesn’t care what mom will say about this. “There will always be an open spot for you Kei,” he announced.
I unknowingly hugged him and repetitively thanked him for choosing me to be a part of the basketball team. Levi, who felt very uncomfortable for a guy to hug him, immediately pulled back and turned his attention away from me
Soon, the captain and I left the court together as he kept on reminding me to tell my mom about my dreams, “It’s your story Kei, not your mother’s.”
As soon as Levi drove away from the school grounds, I quickly ran towards my house, not caring about taking the bus. A while later, I safely arrived and saw a familiar car parked in the driveway. Mom usually never came home this early. It has always been her daily thing to leave me alone late at night to study so no one could disturb me.
I looked around for Mom and saw her casually sitting with her phone in her hand. She had a solemn look on her face as she furiously hung up on the caller and rubbed her temples.
I carelessly took off my shoes and took a couple of strides, stopping in front of her. I rubbed off my sweat and confidently looked into her eyes, “Mom, you need to listen to me,” I grabbed onto her shoulders and continued, “I honestly don’t like the idea of you controlling my life, asking me to do things that you think would help me for my future.”
I soon realized I was being a rude son to her so I took my hands off her and nervously rubbed my nape. Mom sighed heavily and glared at me, “How many times do I have to tell you? This is for your own sake, son! It’s for your happiness!” she snapped.
Soon enough, it was my turn to glare at her, “Happiness? That word means nothing to me now!” I argued as I paced around the room before deciding to sit across her.
I leaned forwards with my elbows on my knees and roughly rubbed my face in anger. “Levi made me feel free when we played basketball together but the moment I remembered that I can’t do anything but to study made me feel hopeless,” I admitted. I was honestly beyond disappointed in myself for showing this side of me to my mom.
I looked down on the floor and unknowingly let out a sob. I hid my face in embarrassment as I remembered my mom telling me it’s a disgrace for a boy to break down their walls and cry.
I forced myself to close my eyes, waiting for her to criticize me but instead, I felt her presence beside me and slowly pulled me towards her to hug me. “Kei, never in my life have I ever seen you cry when I forced you to play the violin for me. Never in my life have I ever seen you cry when I forced you to get a perfect score for every exam that you have but instead, you cried because you can’t chase what you’ve always desired.”
Mom sadly looked at me as I saw tears trickling down her cheeks. She took a deep breath, “Kei, I-I’m so sorry for forcing you, for torturing you. I’ve always thought I was a good parent until I saw you crying. I have always wanted my son to be perfect in everything but I know it’s impossible,” she stuttered.
It was honestly hard for me to take in what she had just said to me. I find it amusing how my mom, who was always cold, stoic and demanding, just apologized. I stifled a laugh and tighten our hug, “Mom, you will always be forgiven,” I whispered to her.
I slowly pulled back and asked her, “Will you let me play basketball then?” She jokingly tapped on her chin as if she’s having second thoughts on letting me go and nodded in agreement. I unknowingly let out a sniff and my mom looked at me frantically, “Kei, what’s wrong? Are you crying?” she whispered to me. “No mom, I’m just happy,” I responded as I wiped her tear-stained cheeks and gave her a toothy smile.