Another dream. I'm playing basketball for a team with national recognition in a large sports arena. It's my big chance and, against all odds, I'm blowing it. The other team has almost completely fouled out and have given up hope of winning. They are all on the verge of going home and some of them have already gotten dressed in their street clothes. For some reason, most of my team mates are not able to be on the court, but they are cheering for me.

I get the ball and shoot for a basket. It bounces off the backboard and out of bounds. Disappointment begins to creep over me and my team like a cold fog. The other team begins to perk up at this point. One guy, one of the ones who is already dressed in street clothes in an outrageous club style that looks ridiculous on the court, comes out on to the court to play opposite me. He has on a long white coat edged in white fur and wears a white, old fashioned, hat. He is not really offering any defense. He is merely there to distract and maybe rebound the ball. I shoot again. This time the ball goes wide and misses the hoop and the backboard completely. The crowd laughs. The street clothes guy deftly recovers the ball and bounces it, delighted to see that I have messed up again so completely. I have one more shot, and to my team's utter shock and dismay, I mess that up too. We are defeated. Or rather, I am defeated. Entirely. The other team, delighted as only sports teams can be in such moments, rushes out on to the court, jumping up and down with glee and abandon, hugging each other.

All of this means that I am going to become homeless. I, of course, get fired from the basketball team. I have blown my big chance and will no longer be earning a paycheck. I can pinpoint the cause of my homelessness to the exact moment I missed that critical shot. It is humiliating in an expected way. I think to myself, "Of course I screwed up. For me, there isn't any real chance of success. Ever. Failure will always be my destiny." Metaphorically, I wear failure like a worn bathrobe, an easy fit that feels familiar.

In reality, I am wearing a black jacket with the hood down behind my shoulders. I shuffle through my old neighborhood. It is a poor neighborhood, but I used to own a house here. I am consciously trying to learn how to be homeless. There is a culture to it. If I don't learn what is expected of me as a homeless person, if I am not aware of my surroundings, I will get attacked I am sure. Thugs looking for an easy target will take advantage of me as a source of thrills and use me as a punching bag. I see other people with their hands in their coat pockets, so I consciously put my hands in mine. A few people still recognize me from the days when I was on the team. That protects me a little, but also brings up my shame again in a mild form.

I walk through people's backyards, ignoring the bits of trash blown into the grass, lifting the latches on dilapidated gates on rusty fences. Back on the sidewalk, I approach my old house. There is a new family living there. I can see a few kids' toys in the front yard. That's how I know it's a family. It looks like they fixed the porch where the railing was broken. They have made a few improvements, sturdy improvements meant to last for a long time.

I feel a mild jealously that this isn't my house anymore. I want to look inside, and when I get closer to the back stairs leading into the basement, I lean to peek in. All of my things have been packed into broken down steamer trunks of various sizes. One trunk is smashed into bits as to be useless. It is obvious they are clearing me out. Of course, if they saw me standing there, they would not know who I was until I told them. But, I wouldn't tell them. That would scare them. They would probably wonder if I wanted to take the house back, if I was going to cause trouble. I wouldn't cause trouble. I do want the house, but there is nothing I could really do about it. I have no job, no money, and no hope of getting either. Certainly never enough to reclaim what I have lost.

I shuffle off again, away from their basement, and I begin to think about where I might sleep. I think about crawl spaces underneath outside porches. Places where I would be hidden from view. Small spaces that would take some effort to crawl into. Places where I might be hidden and forgotten about. Hidden even maybe from myself. Asleep so no thoughts about failure could bother me again.

And then I wake up.

13 October 2009
Comments: Post a Comment