Lamond didn't lace up until all the other guys left the locker room. His knuckles brushed the rubber mat as he double-knotted his shoes, inhaling the bleach and the dirt and the sweat. He breathed it in like it was something that could sustain him. In a way, it could. Lamond had waited years for this. Senior night, varsity starter, Lamond Driver, number fourteen. His mother would be there with her handbag in her lap in the top back row where she always sat. His father wouldn’t be beside her. He’d never been. “He wouldn’t want to encourage you,” she’d told him once, in her quiet way. But it didn’t matter, Lamond told himself. They’d literally be screaming his name out there. And for once, he would let himself revel in that. He shook his head hard from side to side to stop the goosebumps crawling up the back of his neck.
When Coach walked in, Lamond was on his knees in front of the bench, laces tied, hands together in prayer. Coach stood above him, not interrupting, waiting. Lamond stood, faced the coach. “Big night, sir,” he said, looking just above Coach’s eyes, at the lines across Coach's forehead, where he always looked when Coach talked to him.
Coach nodded. “You’re gonna be great out there, Lamond. You just keep your head in the game.” Coach tapped his temple with is forefinger. “You’re gonna fly tonight, kid.”
Because that’s what Lamond always did, when the rhythm of the game started, when the shotclock became like the tick of his own heart beating, he did what it felt like he was made to do, he flew – the ball an extension of his body, the court like a field he could fly over, his eyes seeing everything, knowing everything. He knew it wasn’t right to think it, but for the hour the game lasted, it was like being God. “Still time to think it over, son,” Coach said, putting his hand on Lamond’s shoulder. “It’s not too late to reconsider.”
“Game on,” Lamond said, shouldering past Coach and out of his grip as respectfully as he knew how. And then they were walking through the gym doors, jogging next to each other across the floor, the stands exploding into sound around them.
There were his teammates on the bench, their faces turned up to him, light catching in their eyes. They were beautiful faces, Lamond thought, even though he knew he wasn’t supposed to think that, either. There wouldn’t be any reconsidering for him or for any of them, but they were beautiful in the light tonight and Lamond knew he would remember them that way forever, and in a way that made everything about the rest of his life seem okay, seem almost perfect.
At tip-off, Lamond sent the ball to the home court, made his shot in the first ten seconds, the swish through the net like an extra breath of air in his lungs. And it went on like that for the first three minutes, and then the next five minutes until Lamond felt his blood telling him they would win. Knowing it. The din of voices on all sides made to sound like music holding him up, the heat of the lights drawing sweat from his skin, his muscles, long, dark, lean, doing what they were meant for, doing this beautiful thing.
It was too late. And there was never any considering to be done. Next week the season would end, two months later high school would end along with it. And he’d start the week after that in the shop alongside his father and the hands that palmed the ball tonight would be covered in grease, hardened by metal, and this would all the dream that it felt like, something long ago, something he had for long enough to feel as alive as he would ever feel. So, it would end. But tonight, tonight, Lamond thought as he rose towards the air towards another basket, tonight he was beautiful.