The Indiana Story

I’m about to give this a shot in one sitting. For some of you who know me, the following story might be familiar. I have a few blockbuster stories in my repertoire. The Slide Story is a humorous tale of clumsiness and one lapse in judgment one of accidental and intentional falling from playground slides. A comparable one is The Powerline-Dodgeball Story, featuring two scrawny 9 year olds, Sunday afternoon dodgeball, and a 6 foot, 6 inch raging demon. This is the Indiana story. It is a more suspenseful tale, yet still tends to abstract many laughs in recent years. In fact, I often get tired of having to tell the freakin’ thing, but I haven’t in a good while. Additionally, there are many I know who have never heard this tale, including my parents, of whom I did not dare to tell given the fact that it took place in a time of my life when anytime I went on any sort of trip they gave me a harder time about caution than most 21 year old adults received.

I’m not sure what kind of style or tone my written form of this recollection will hold, though I have a feeling I am going to be bland and drawn out but without further ado:

The Indiana Story

The Indiana Story.

Apostolic Basketball. Apostolic Basketball Tournaments. They don’t really mesh with the month of November, especially not for a young college kid. Apostolic Basketball Tournaments have two idiosyncratic rules: one, no matter how sexy they are, you can’t show your legs, which might I add leads to most player wearing pajama pants. It is always an entertaining sight seeing a bunch of men running around competing on a basketball court with vibrant, polka-dotted PJs, or even a set featuring the infamous Elmo. In theory, I’d think that the Sesame Street star serves as a formidable distraction for defenders trying to check the guy donning them. The second rule is that facial hair isn’t allowed.

It was a third of the way in to No Shave November when my friend Kyle approached me about going up to Indiana with him over the weekend to play in a basketball tournament. Really, I am sure he just wanted to take me to his home to meet the parents, but he never would fess up to that. I remember thinking to myself, “a basketball tournament? I love basketball tournaments.” A profound thought. Unfortunately, every thought that proceeds most thoughts is immediately about money. I didn’t really have any, and never liked asking my parents for any more than they already supplied, especially with stuff that didn’t pertain to school. Combined with the fact that I was hot on the chase (a 3 month, exhausting chase) for the girl of my purest dreams, and there was competition cornering her from every angle, I tried to get out of it.

Kyle is a very persuasive lad. I actually call him Tree, usually, because he is a thin man equipped with long limbs that expand seemingly into the heavens. This is particularly annoying when you are playing basketball against him, because passes that are no-brainers get ripped from their trajectory and turn into layups for the other team. I should also note that I occasionally refer to him as ‘Kermit the Frog from Indiana’, also, but I’m not going to get into why.

“It is No Shave! You really can’t expect me to shave, can you?!”

“You only live once, Jimmy,” Kyle has a bad habit of calling me Jimmy, but he is one of a few people who manages to get away with it.

First line of defense down, time to take phasers off of stun, “I can’t miss class on Thursday or Friday, I have to check, but I think I have a test,” I knew that I severely weakened that one with the ‘having to check’ bit, but most people would back off at the school excuse, though.

“I’m not buying it. It sounds to me like you’re making that up. See if you can take it early, then.”

I was making it up. Combined with his persistence, I let him pass that obstacle, but it was time to hail marry.

“I have no money,” I’d gripe.

“You can work at the recycling junkyard for day, and I’m driving, so gas is taken care of.”

“The recycling what?,” I was so perplexed by his solution and how confident he was in it, I couldn’t fire back.

I have this tick in my personality where I tend to be resistant to doing things a lot of times, but really, I think I just want to be chased, coerced, or simply, wanted. Kyle had won me over, and even despite the ridicule I’d receive from my comrades about shaving in the middle of November, and my selfish desire to stay at Belmont for those 3 to 4 days so I could hopefully get to see a girl, I was going to Indiana.

If memory serves correct, we left on Friday morning– but it may have been Thursday morning, in fact, now I think it was because I was slated to work all day Friday. Tree is 6’4″. He is notorious for driving little girl cars, as I call them. So there we were, two men stuffed into a black little convertible, beelining it North, talking about life, reminiscing on our dark days of having to video homeschool through Pensacola Christian College, and making a stop a Dick’s Sporting Goods looking for yellow jerseys. We were not successful in our shopping endeavor.

That Friday was one of the most interesting singular days I’ve ever had. I literally worked at a recycling junkyard. On top of being an old timey preacher, Tree’s dad owned this scrapyard of which was located 30 seconds down the street from his parent’s house. Most of my time was spent disassembling various mechanical devices in a quasi-assembly line format.

The Recycling Junkyard

Shooting the breeze with Tree, a guy everyone called Squirrel, and various other characters. After this day, the tournament began.

I don’t sleep well, and I especially don’t sleep well in an unfamiliar bed. There is something about the discomfort of different ambiance and sounds through the night. In your own bed, you know what to expect, it almost becomes a sleep inducing song, of sorts. Under foreign covers, the hum of cars occasionally sweeping by enters the ears disguised as a screeching chalkboard, or my least favorite combination of sound and sensation; a flimsy metal rake on concrete. After what felt like the duration of the first half of my life played over again, the morning came. I took my razor to my face, wiped off the dirty, patchy scruff and became a boy again.

This efficacy was only helped by the huge shirt I was given to wear for our team uniforms, but it would only continue to be a theme of the trip.

Basketball was played, and the day was finished. Nothing of relevance occurred, but I did thoroughly enjoy the chili dogs Tree’s mom made for dinner. The next day came, and we had to play early again. It wasn’t long before we were through that day, and we were left with a full Saturday to waste. Tree had been seeing a girl named Sarah for a long time, and Indiana was where Sarah was, so naturally, Kyle hoped to score some time with her. Luckily for me, my old best friend Jonathan went to school in Bloomington, and he had been wanting to get me up to his much loved Indiana for a couple years now. There was no time like the present. Tree was happy to lend me his girly car, and I was happy to let him get some alone time so he could get his hormones in check for our car ride home. Everyone wins.

I can’t remember what life was like before navigation systems were commonplace. I even use the darn things when I know where I am at, and where I am going. I think my phone at the time had one, but they weren’t always reliable enough to put addresses in and cast your fate to the wind. I am severely navigationally challenged. Luckily, Indiana isn’t a hard state to find your way around. It is just the backroads that will get ya.

Jonathan is something like a Magellan reincarnate. I remember the first time I ever drove outside of Fairview. I was to go to the Green Hills Mall to volunteer at the Nashville Film Festival with him and a couple other friends. Not only is Jonathan a human compass, but he is also a prodigy as giving directions. In that case, he drew out a map in MS-Paint, and though I drove in the opposite direction for 30 minutes, his directions got me there, which was more than we could have hoped for 17 year old James. Likewise, this time, while I didn’t get any illustrations, I made it to the lovely town of Bloomington with no driving errors.

It was interesting to see Jonathan in his new natural habitat, and meet his then girlfriend Sarah (too many Sarah’s in the world, I know). I might have only one other friend who was more transformed in his/her college years than Jonathan, but then, and to this day, he will still be much like a brother to me. I remember walking around the town and the campus of Indiana University as I rambled to him about my trip to Israel as a 13 year old, which, coincidentally enough, was where he ended up living that summer.

A meal and some quality time later and it was time for me to head back to the Seymour area. I was feeling cocky about getting back with no problems. Tree knew that I get lost as frequently as I turn my head, and was talking trash about me getting back without trouble. Without trouble.

The autumn sunlight had almost entirely faded by the time I headed back, and much of the drive from Bloomington to Kyle’s felt like backroads, and the inbred cousins of backroads. It was a nice drive, though. I spent most of my drive to Bloomington appreciating the superior fall to the one back home. I remember being a naive kid, looking at the changing leaves, and their beauty making me think about how beautiful Kara was. I came up with all sorts of schemes, ideas, and things I could say to her when I got back in an effort to win her over. It was literally all I could think about. On the way back, I abandoned the whole thinking gig, I was tired of agonizing over this girl, it was time to jam to some Kanye. I had yet to give Graduation a proper listen.

Maybe an hour and fifteen minutes later and I was getting near my destination. I had perfectly traced my way through the odyssey I set upon, but as I got to the main road that Tree lived off of, I realized that this place wasn’t recognizable at all at night. The roads were literally numbers.

348, 351, that one didn’t have a sign, that crossroads looks familiar, but that school doesn’t– I was calculating everything in my head. If there were a physical feeling that correlated with the sensation of trying really hard to remember location, and visual proximity, it’d be taking your eyeballs and pressing them up against the frontal lobe of your brain. With each mile, I hoped that some synapse in my brain would fire, and trigger like an exploding M80, alerting me that I was at my turn. In the mean time, I was just enjoying the liberating feeling of being somewhere foreign on my own, and playing music really loud.

“If I don’t see the turn after 15 minutes on this road, I’ve passed it,” I told myself.

I remember thinking to myself how obnoxious the amount of traffic there was on the road for that time of night on Saturday. While this was a highway off of I-65, it was a pretty remote, sparse area. I know from being on the other side of it how annoying it can be when a car drives 15 under when the driver obviously doesn’t know where they are. Despite this, I had no choice. Both oncoming and stalking lights blinded me, playing games with my pupil dilation as I struggled to make out street signs. The time came, 15 minutes and I hadn’t turned. I overshot it.

From this point it was a matter of turning around. Growing up in a rural area, I consider myself experienced at driving backroads– it is a hobby of mine, after all. Traveling into obscurity requires mastering certain maneuvers, such as quickly pulling in to unknown driveways and whipping out. I’ve mastered the move, but the problem I had encountered was that there was nowhere to turn. No church parking lots, no houses, no roads, nothing. I drove another 10 minutes at my obnoxiously slow pace until I found the lost rural traveler’s oasis; a school. I sped up and whipped into the parking lot– for all the grief I gave it, I was enjoying driving the ‘girly car’.

Driving back from Bloomington

As I was pulled in an horseshoed my way in and out of the lot, a SUV hastily pulled into the lot, as well. It was weird, but I figured it was common for people to get lost out here as the car’s lights shrunk in my rear view mirror. I challenged myself to find it successfully this time, and I was confident I would. I knew that if I reached the interstate exit, I had gone too far, but I wasn’t going to make it that far.

I had a burning suspicion on the location of my coveted turn, and from there, I only needed to find his house. I was driving significantly faster on this attempt, confidence is like free horsepower. The problem with gained momentum is that as soon as you speed up, you are more prone to mistakes– especially when you are looking for something, but you aren’t quite sure what, and like that, there it was. Passed it.

Naturally, this was a point of celebration. Plus five to volume, singing, and dancing. The only thing keeping me from being proud of myself was turning onto the next road, whipping around in someone’s driveway and making my victory lap onto Kyle’s road; boo ya.

Two minutes down the road was the fabled Road 348. I don’t know what the road was actually called, but I am sure it was similar to it, so it is now Road 348. I got on to Road 348, which cut through a farm. I’m still surprised it was paved.  I came upon a gravel driveway which led to this very farm. It was fenced off, and barely fit the small convertible I was driving, as soon as I stopped, put the car in reverse, I turned around and was greeted with one of the most bizarre images I had seen.

It was a literal flash from blackness behind me to a blinding light and a bronze SUV emerging from the dust. I didn’t really have a thought. In my mind, a departmental crisis began. The CEO, brain had gotten a report of a high speed object appearing behind my car and stopping– effectively boxing me in this fenced off driveway. Immediately upon catching wind of this, the brain sent a memo to my eyes:

“Hey eyes, this is brain. Read this report about a car blocking us in, can you confirm? Surely must be a mistake, but shareholders are worried.”

“Brain, definitely big object behind us. Got our best men crosschecking the data, will let you know if anything changes.”

At the same time, head of HR Gut Feeling chimed in.

“Hey Brain, things are a mess down here. Half our employees are feeling sick, but the other half are getting upset at the prospect of having to work overtime. CC’ed this to everyone.”

I still assume that at that point, my reality department got laid off in what turned into a frenzy. In real time, maybe only 5 seconds had passed, but I was still doing that thing where you blink exaggeratedly as if your eyes are playing tricks on you, and they just need to be jarred into behavior.

Was I actually pulling into this driveway to turn around at the exact moment the farm owner was perhaps getting back from an evening out? But why would this guy had so hastily and aggressively pulled behind me if he lived here?

Shot that possibility down.The mind proceeded.

Had this person been following me, figuring that I was lost and wanted to help me find where I was going? I’d think that someone would just keep following me and wait for me to pull into somewhere public if this were actually happening. Things like this don’t happen unless it is someone who is up to something– that’s what I kept thinking. There was no way this was someone coming in peace.

As time continued to compress, I waited. I felt like I had been holding my breath for half an hour. I was expecting this Suburban, Tahoe, or whatever it was to pull away at any second now, to which I was going to whip out of that driveway and floor it to the main road. I don’t know why I expected the vehicle to leave, it just seemed like it had to happen, because whatever was happening couldn’t actually be happening. It had to balance out, but the longer that moment never happened, the more it set in that it wasn’t going to. Whatever was happening, was very real.

I had been very actively texting and driving, like any responsible undergrad student would at the time, and my phone was in its nest, right on the seat next to my crotch. Most men are naturally gifted at touching themselves, and I have never had any difficulty directing my hands to that area, but this time was like trying to control one of those claw games– the very rigged ones. I kept overshooting the crevice between my legs, banging into my legs, jamming the outside of my fingers into my phone, fumbling about, and this was before I heard a car door shut.

BLOOMP — that’s the kind of sound the door slamming made. A bludgeoning, almost-deafened slam 15 feet behind me. There was no reverb, no echo, it was as if I had heard it in my head. I redoubled my efforts, and clasped my hands together, picking up my phone, I didn’t know what was going on, but I needed to dial immediately. I looked in front of me. I could likely hop this fence and outrun pretty much anyone if it came down to it, but how would I get out of the car. That’s when it dawned on me that I wasn’t in my own car. And by the twisted reasoning of the moment, my priority became protecting Tree’s car over protecting myself.

Shadows danced upon the girl car and I as a figure emerged from the dust and overbearing headlights behind me. Whoever it was, was walking with purpose. My thumbs were the only cool part of my body, as they had managed to navigate my archaic, first generation smart phone to the dialer as I scrolled around for ‘Kyle Franklin.’ I picked my head up for just a second and looked up.

There he stood, outside my window. He was hunched over me, with his face frozen in a very expectant expression, as if I knew he wanted me to get out of the car, and would, without qualms, do so. He couldn’t have been taller. than 5’9″, had a gloss of sweat that made his forehead shine in the headlights. Part of me wants to say he had a hat on, just so I could say he smashed it into the ground, at some point, but I don’t really remember. He had his hands tucked into one of those brown work jackets. Strangers make me nervous. Strangers and pockets send me into fits of panic.

It really was an intimate moment. Face to face, on opposing sides of glass, staring at each other for 10 seconds without saying a word. I feel like from his view, I must have looked like I was staring up at an alien, but I don’t think that’s what he saw.

I didn’t say anything to him, in fact, I basically ignored him. I turned away and looked back down at my glorious crotch. My thumb danced up and down. I knew one thing, and one thing only: I had to get to dialing.

He had lifted our treaty of silence, but nothing he had been saying was registering to me, yet. In fact, I should note that Kanye West was still blasting through the speakers, as him and T Payne welcomed me to the good life. Thanks Mr. West and Payne, it was great to finally be here.

“Get out of the car,” he instructed me. “Get out of the car,” he was imperative. I was imagining myself being somewhere in Hickman County right now. Hickman County is exactly as it sounds, a barren land of poverty and rednecks, which sits a few minutes down the road from my hometown of Fairview, Tennessee. Despite there being plenty of perfectly fine, good people there, it is also the place you would expect to get into an unfortunate tiff with in the dark of night for no reason that any rational person could understand, and to follow the stereotype to completion, a place you might not come back from if you manage to offend the wrong person.

I’d get out of the car and fight this man.. if this were Hickman County, I thought to myself. But then I tallied it up: I was 4 hours from home, I was not in my own car, and I had no earthly idea where I was. I glanced down.

Now dialing… Kyle Franklin

Call Duration: 00:00

At that moment, I slipped the phone into the last of my thoughts, which was a bit too pre-emptive of me, for all I know, he might not answer.

With the phone out of my mind, my next great revelation arrived. I knew that I was not getting out of that car.

He tapped on the window again, “Get out of the car. Get. Out. Of. The. Car.”

I negotiated by presenting the most bewildered look my face has ever made– I’m pretty sure there are special muscles in your face that remain dormant until such emergencies arrive.

“Uhhm…,” that’s all that came out of my mouth. I could force air through my vocal chords, but my tongue and lips had already entered the bunker.

I spoke, but it wasn’t English. It wasn’t gibberish, either, it was just sound.

“I can’t hear you, just get out of the car,” he was telling the truth, I needed to turn the music down, but I wasn’t getting out of the car. I wasn’t processing anything about this guy. I had forgotten about his concealed hands, his large vehicle idling behind me, the vast field in we were parked in front of, his demeanor– I simply couldn’t process in that manner, I had become a very archaic machine. I could only process one thing at a time. Now, I needed to be able to communicate with this guy. I needed to know what he wanted, maybe he could invalidate the awful feeling that had impregnated my stomach.

I turned away again. It was like being a baby all over again. If I couldn’t see him, he didn’t exist. What did exist was an unfamiliar panel of car gadgetry. The first thing I did was crank the heat up all the way. For some reason, my brain and hands agreed that would turn the music down. They didn’t get my memo about that being an awful idea. I could hear very loud muttering outside. To my ears, it was like an old jalopy engine sputtering, aggressively trying to keep itself pumping as it cursed the air around it. This dude was pissed, but it didn’t matter to me in this moment.

Now I couldn’t even turn the heat off, so I re-prioritized. I’m not getting out of the car, and I can’t turn this music down, but maybe if I can crack this window he can hear me better. I felt around with my forearm for the window buttons. He wasn’t outside my window anymore, he was on the other side. He started circling the car like a shark with the fresh taste of blood. He started his tirade.

“I can beat this window in, no, yeah, I oughta slash these tires. Or maybe ram it into the fence.”

It was like he was a kid whirlpooling in the water. As he gained momentum with the growing current, thus did his fervor until he was shouting and screaming.

“AND THEN I’M GONNA RIP YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT AND BEAT YOUR ASS, AND–AND–NRHHR, MAYBE I SHOULD JUST LEAVE YOU ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD–” all of these thoughts excited him, I’d even say they seemed to give him pleasure. With his crescendo came less intelligibility, and a loss of ability to properly express himself. With what seemed to take all of my ingenuity and efforts, I managed to crack the window, and I immediately interjected, yelling to him–

“LOOK, MAN, I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU THINK I DID, BUT WHATEVER YOU THINK I DID, I’M SORRY. I’M VERY SORRY! I–” he cut me off to inform me.

“YOU YOU!,” he pointed at me and let the next one hang a little longer as if I was the only ‘you’ who had ever existed, “YOOOOU!,” he was talking so fast at this point that everything seemed to be one really long word, “FOLLOWEDMEANDTAILEDGODDAMMITME– BRIGHTLIGHTEDBEHINDIWASGOING15OVERDAMNIT– ANDYOUWERERIGHTONYMYASSBRIGHTLIGHTEDFUCKIN– AND YOU WERE RIDIN MY ASS THE WHOLE TIME,” he paused, “AND YOU PISSED ME OFF!! NOW GET OUT OF THE CAR SO I CAN KICK YOUR ASS!”

I can assure you, I was not riding anyone’s tail, I was going 15 under most of the time, but I would never have tried to tell him that. I just agreed.

“LOOK, I’M SORRY,” none of this stuff was having any effect on him.

“I STILL CAN’T HEAR YOU, TURN YOUR MUSIC DOWN.”

Welcome to the good life.

I pulled away from our conversation again, and gave the neon hieroglyphics another shot. Eventually, it occurred to me that my most familiarity was with my iPod, and I managed to turn the volume mostly down on the device. This milestone colluded with a couple of additions to the cast.

First off, I immediately heard a high frequency murmuring from my crotch. I’m assuming it was in the middle of me and this guy yelling to each other that he had picked up. I could make out a couple words here and there as my phone dimly relayed, “Hello? Hello? Jimmy?!”

With the music down, I was about to continue explaining my situation to the madman before me.

TAP TAP

I turned around. There was a hooded man at the passenger side window.

OH SHIT– that was my unfiltered, un-moderated thought of the moment. The hooded guys are always the biggest trouble. To keep tally, I was now 4 hours from home, in my friends car, completely lost, boxed in a driveway on a backroad at night, with at least 2 total strangers, one of whom had announced his intent to at least beat me to a pulp. In the back of my mind I was re-reviewing strategy.  Maybe I was going to have to find a way out of the car and run, after all.

The hooded man was calm. That only made things seem more dire. He was that unsettling calm that often covers up something much scarier, like trying to hide a dinosaur under a trap; you can still see it protruding. I could make out just enough of him to see he was another late 20’s male who looked grizzled, and very tired.

He tapped the window again, and leaned in to better project, “Open your door.”

I looked at him and just shook my head. I cracked the other window and continued my defense.

As I was doing this, Madman had disappeared, but I could still hear his screams nearby.

“LOOK, MAN, I’M LOST. I’M NOT FROM HERE, I LIVE 4 HOURS AWAY, AND THIS ISN’T MY CAR. I’M TRYING TO GET TO MY FRIENDS HOUSE HE LIVES NEARBY HERE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME.”

In this moment, I heard Tree on the line, it was like he was talking with marbles in his mouth.

“JIMMY, I’MCOMINTOGETYAMAN JUSTHANGONILLBERIGHTTHERE ILLCOMINGGETTOYOUJIMMYHOLONILLBLBLBL!”

It mainly just sounded like he had taken lots of meth and was scatting on the phone, to me. He was freaking out though.

I continued to try to explain my situation to the hooded man, but I made even more of an effort to give any clues as to my whereabouts to Kyle.

“LIKE I SAID, I WAS TRYING TO FIND HIS ROAD, BUT I PASSED IT HEADING TOWARD THE INTERSTATE, AND I TURNED RIGHT DOWN THIS ROAD AND WAS JUST TRYING TO TURN AROUND IN THIS DRIVEWAY.”

The hooded man just looked at me and let a subtle grin slip out.

Back inside the office of my mind, I was thinking that maybe I could get out of this situation, but I was afraid that the other guy was in his car preparing to do something to the car. What if he comes back with a baseball bat? I tried to not think of the next thing, but I had to; what if he comes out with a gun? I think I had some sort of plan that involved me flooring it in reverse to try to buy time to spread them out so I could jump the fence, phone in hand, and inherit the wind in my legs as I would head to a large barn that was about 200 yards away. For now, I talked to the hooded man, and tried to stare at him, and the rearview for Madman.

“I’m sorry, my friend is a little crazy.”

I gave him a blank state, “really? You think?”

He continued, “He just got back from Iraq, and he’s pretty messed up right now. I’m supposed to be deployed myself next week. I have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid or crazy.”

He was doing a fine job.

Yet, as soon as he said those words, everything else I had been feeling kind of faded out– even the survival instinct, though the adrenaline was still there, all I could feel was sympathy. I had never encountered anyone with PTSD (which I have been told is not the term for it anymore) first hand. In whatever vacant space of my mind that remained, I thought about what the hell that guy must have gone through, and how colorless and tasteless his life must feel to have to had to serve his country in that capacity, and not only have to live with whatever he went through, but return to a life with little to no fanfare, and nothing but slow living and hard, likely unrewarding work. Granted, I was making lots of assumptions, but that was how I was imagining it.

Hoodman went on to tell me that he and Madman live at a house that is right down the street, giving me the address and everything. In retrospect, I don’t think I should have so easily bought his sincerity, but I did. Lucky for me, he was being sincere, and we had a brief chat about all these things and anxieties he was facing.

“I’ll certainly be praying for you guys, and I know that my words don’t mean much, but I really do appreciate and respect you for putting your life on the line. I just hope more than anything that you don’t come back like that [Madman].”

We connected in silence for a few more moments, and he thanked me. I saw Madman emerge from the SUV, empty-handed. I turned to him. He was out of breath.

He stumbled toward the window, panting, pointed at me, and peered into my eyes, “I want you to know.. I’m going to let you go this time. but if I see you around here again I’m surely going to kick your ass. Remember that.”

I would be remembering, but not that specifically. “Sorry again,” I conceded.

He stormed back to his car, and I looked back to the hooded man and nodded a farewell. Madman had taken to yelling at him now, and started speeding off without him.

The last I saw of either of them was the hooded man running after the car, jumping into the SUV, and the pair speeding off into the darkness of my memories. From time to time, I wonder how each of them are doing, if the hooded man made it back in one piece, physically and mentally, and if Madman ever recovered his wits.

With everything clear behind me, I immediately put the car in reverse and got the heck out of that gravel lot. Before I drove off, I stopped, took a deep breath, and put the phone to my ear, “Kyle, you’re not going to believe this…”

I’ve not been back to Indiana since.

This about sums it up

emotional pavement – memories of times I’ve been lucky

I hate writing something and feeling like there was just a vacuum that sucked out all of the eloquence, coherency, and poignancy I was hoping for, but it is an unfortunate result of writing that we sometimes all encounter. Oh well.. here we go:

Being emotionally flattened is an interesting thing. From what I hear, it is common with people who have gone through long phases of depression.

I’ve talked about being emotionally flattened quite a bit– it was well chronicled in that year long period where I was incapable of tear shed, and though I had numerous events that should have drawn tears, everything was muted. Firstly, as if it weren’t evident enough (especially by my mid-February, 4 am meltdown of tears and vomit in my yard), I emotionally three dimensional again (mostly). The thing that has sparked this current thought line is not the depression I’ve waded through, or the emotional steamrolling I’ve recovered from, but more of a reflection.

Battle of the Boulevard

I realized, perhaps more fully, just how flattened I had become. My emotions were like paved asphalt, just a highway for a soulless machine to go through the motions.

I am not a particularly lucky person. I have few recollections of winning any type of contests, drawings, raffles, sweepstakes, or anything that could be heavily luck based, but one of them sticks out if I think about it.

Most sporting events run intermission based contests and activities for fans. Belmont was no different. The most famous of which is the half court shot for tuition that takes place at half-time for the men’s and women’s basketball games. It is funny I mention my luck, because a few of my friends and I always made a point to go to as many games over winter break as possible, because the attendance is thin while everyone is home for the holidays, and it is favorable to get drawn for the tuition shot. In all those times, and the other games I went to, I never got my number called for anything, not even the small contests, of course, until that changed (so dramatic, I know).

It was 3 basketball seasons ago already, the biggest game we play every year– The Battle of the Boulevard. I showed up late, near the end of the first half. I went alone. I was still dating Kara at the time, and I don’t remember if she didn’t want to go, couldn’t go because she wasn’t feeling well, or if I just kind of snuck off and went by myself to get some time away from everything (I fear it was likely the last possibility), but alone I went– just an invisible observer of the game. I have trouble being an audible fan if I’m alone, or not in the right crowd. It is easy for me to slip into my ‘lover of the game’ mode and just try to process everything, almost objectively, rather than just a passionate fan. Regardless, I took a ticket for the contest drawing, they insist upon it when you enter for a big game like the Belmont – Lipscomb game.

I have a number of quirky paranoias. One of which revolves around public restrooms. I have to give the signs multiple passes. When I was in 9th grade, I didn’t pay attention, and, as insignificant as the event was, I entered the wrong restroom at a basketball tournament, got laughed at by two cheerleaders, and credit it as the most embarrassed I’ve ever felt (I’ve since matched it with a similar scenario). Ever since then, when I approach a bathroom, I check the sign, then with each step, I wash over what I just saw with a layer of skeptical disbelief.

“That said men? It couldn’t have said men. Check again. No dress? Are you sure? You should learn to read the braille.”

I continue this cycle until I enter the restroom and immediately check for urinals, and it is only then, that I really feel that I saw what I saw.

Take that concept, and apply it to having my number called on my ticket. The half was about to end, and suddenly I found myself reading a random group of digits instead of watching the game, until I mustered up enough confidence, certainty, and faith in my ability to be lucky at least once in a lifetime to actually go up to the table they hand out the tickets and proclaim that I am the chosen one.

For most people, it isn’t every day that you find yourself the focal point of a few thousand people. For some people, it is as terrifying a meeting death in a dark alley, while for others, it is as invigorating as jumping out of an aircraft and free falling at terminal velocity. It was really neither to me, but it should have been. I just remember seeing a person or two I know yelling out my name, a ball, an event coordinator and two baskets. The rest was shade.

The object of the contest was that I had to make 4 shots. I had to start on one end of the court, dribble the ball to the other end and bank it in (lay-up). I had to do this for my first 3 shots, coast-to-coast, and on the final shot, I had to shoot a 3 pointer and bank that in. If I did this successfully, I’d win $500. Big crowds are foreign to me, but I rarely mind talking in front of audiences, so I wouldn’t expect it to really intimidate me, and I knew that making the 3 layups was going to be a cakewalk. Essentially, I had good odds at getting a shot to win $500. I should have been wired. I wasn’t.

Getting back to the actual event– I infused a bit of drama into the whole affair. The clock started and they sent me off. I will admit, I had plenty of adrenaline fueling me at that point. Adrenaline works wonders for your legs. I was jumping well, so I took off from pretty far out and glided into my first lay-up. I was feeling cocky at this point, but I was excited to be interacting with a basketball with people actually watching.

Adrenaline works wonders for your legs. I might have,very literally, been flying. I was running too fast. I am a fast guy, but I am not always used to using all of my speed. I got to half court on the way to my 3rd layup. PLUNK! That may not have been the sound, but that was the feel of my shoe meeting ball, and kicking it 20 feet in front of me. I chased that thing down like a greased pig at a hoedown. I remember feeling a collective gasp from an arena full of people as it looked like I had horribly self-destructed. To them, I’m sure it was like watching one of those acts on auditions for Idol or America’s Got Talent that bombs. You can’t bear to watch, but you don’t want to look away.

Adrenaline works wonders for your legs. There I was, hunched over awkwardly, like some poorly designed, malfunctioning robot. My arms outstretched, reaching toward the ground for the ball, stick-like body at a 90 degree bend, while my legs propelled like I were the road runner, all the while, this ball skids beyond my reach like I were the guy who was always the butt of every joke. The ball passed the out of bounds point, and subsequently the goal, with myself in tow. I finally lassoed the darn thing with my hands, back tracked, then, if I remember correctly, missed an awkwardly attempted reverse lay-up, rebounded it, and got up to the rim to make sure I got it in. Things looked grim for me.

I must have had about 6-7 seconds left at that point, maybe less by the time I got headed toward my final shot attempt, but wait a second, I am a terrific athlete and basketball player. I wasn’t worried about getting that shot attempt off. I became the dark horse. I sped back into the mix of things, crossed half-court to the infamous sound of, “Threeeeee, twooo…,”

And right as my time of being lucky expired on me, I lifted a runner into the air. Let me note, it is actually a shot I usually am known for, and being a guard, it is important to have in your arsenal. Left leg like a pole vault, right knee rising into a perpendicular state beneath the right arm, bent, then extending at the peak of the jump and release. Really, it is a hard shot to not at least have on line. The buzzer sounded– SWISH

The crowd ignited into cheers– first we are playing our rivals, next, we get a buzzer beater contest, everyone thinks I just won $500 bucks. I didn’t bank it though, I knew this, but in retrospect, it is still flipping awesome. It should simply be impossible to not be excited, elated, caught in the moment somehow from that. How many chances do you get to hit a buzzer beater in front of a large crowd and do it– even if it doesn’t win you money?

I felt… almost… nothing. To this day, I can see and hear a lot of large bits, but it doesn’t arouse my emotions in any way. There is no nostalgia. There is just a memory that only makes me smile off of mere logic.

For the record,we lost the game, which I’m still bitter about, but they were all so excited about the shot that they still gave me $100, yet I just can’t get over thinking about it; the perspective. I can’t believe how emotionally flattened I was. Some things just ain’t right. This is one of them. What a travesty.

May I never be so paved again.

May I, at some point, be so lucky again. I’d much like to feel enjoyment from it this time around.

So say we all.