It’s a sad and ugly memory to me, but it is what it was.
I was a sophomore in high school, and I remember the sun going down and I was alone in the empty driveway of our house practicing basketball basics. I had been shooting baskets for nearly an hour, and in the magical light, I drifted into fantasy land. It was the end of the big game, our team was down one, and I had been fouled and was at the free throw line to seal the win with two free throws and no time on the clock.
What was really at stake as I was at the line was the attention and affection of some anonymous cheerleader gal I had a crush on. She was, at this time, symbolic of idyllic love and a feminine ideal, but I knew it was my chance to win her, right there, at that moment.
As the sun dropped, I heard the crowd quiet as I stepped up to the line to take the shot that would tie the game and set us up for the win.
I bent my knees and went through my motion, and the shot lifted and fell towards the hoop, stopping on the front of the rim, not shot with enough strength to clear the basket. I would not win the game here. But I could still tie it.
I took a deep breath, sighed, felt the anxiety of failure climb my spine, and set for the second shot. It’s one shot. It’s one shot.
I exhaled, bent my knees, and extended my left hand and flipped my wrist.
And, as the ball left my hand, the release didn’t feel smooth and my hand folded to the left. The ball arced to the illuminated rim and clanked mercilessly off the backboard and the rim and dully plummeted to the pavement. The heat flooded my face as the buzzer sounded and everyone left me on the court. And the girl turned her back to me and disappeared into the exiting crowd as I stood at the line alone.
And in that magical moment, I think I accepted it. I agreed to it. I was conscripted to it, with no recourse.
That was to be my path in love.