This hurts. Why would Luke send me that?
“Haha,” I type back. “You love me, don’t you, K?”
He doesn’t respond.
I keep walking. My mom calls me. Apparently a bunch of elementary schools in North Carolina have banned students from wearing my jersey. She says it’s because I’m a bad role model for young athletes.
I ask my mom for advice. She says I should lay low for a while, try not to do anything awful. That’s a good idea, I say. But it’s hard. It’s not hard, she says. Just be a normal human being.
She doesn’t get it.
No one gets it. I just want to go home.
A big group of people steps in front of me. They’re whispering. Amile Jefferson is there. “Hey, Amile,” I say. But he doesn’t respond. “Say it,” a short blonde guy says to Amile. Amile’s face seems pained. “Say it,” the little one says again, louder. Amile looks at me. “You’re bad at basketball,” Amile says. “And you look weird.”
They all start laughing. They don’t stop laughing for a long time. Amile just looks sad.
I keep walking. I know what Amile said isn’t true. He just said that to be cool.
I decide to stop at Coach’s office before going home. Maybe he’ll talk to Luke and Amile for me.
When I knock on his door, he’s watching a video on his computer. He tries to close it when he sees me, but he can’t.
So we watch the rest of it.
It’s the scene from Star Wars when Obi-Wan cuts off all of Anakin’s limbs because Anakin is on his way to becoming a Sith Lord.
Except, in this video, my head is on Anakin’s body and Coach’s head is on Obi-Wan’s.
When the video ends, neither of us speaks.
“Did you make that video, Coach?” I finally ask him.
Coach doesn’t look at me.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” he says. “It’s probably best for you to leave.”
So I do. I keep walking and walking. Eventually I get to my apartment. I open the door, walk in, close the door. It’s dark.
Bracing myself against the wall, I start to cry.
Why does everyone hate me so much?
I just want to play ball. All I’ve ever wanted to do is play ball.
Sometimes I just get mad and hurt people.
Why do I have to get so mad?
A tear slides off my cheek. I reach down and catch it before it hits the floor.
I am so fast. I am a ball-handler and a tear-handler. It doesn’t matter what object is falling. I can catch it.
Another tear falls. I reach for it. Splash. Damn. That one was really fast.
I turn on the TV. “Burn Notice” isn’t on, but “Aladdin” is.
I love “Aladdin.”
Not the character. The movie. Aladdin is a thief. Jafar is the hero of the movie. I like when he turns into a big snake. Sssss.
I wish I could turn into a snake.
I’d slither away from here and go somewhere else.
I change the channel. ESPN is playing highlights of the UNC game. Apparently Luke Maye hit a buzzer-beater to beat Kentucky.
He looks so happy on TV.
I decide to text him.
No reason to be bitter about this. “Nice job against UK, man,” I write. “I know we’ve had our differences, but you’re a good guy and I look up to you a lot. Let’s shoot around some time if you’re free. Maybe Thursday?”
I send it. It feels good to be nice.
Why do people have to be so mean all the time?
Maybe Luke and I could do an interview together. It would be like, “Even the Duke-UNC rivalry can’t stop these two great players and better friends from hanging out. Luke and Grayson are everyone’s favorite best friends. We can’t even remember hating Grayson.”
That would be nice.
That would make things better.
My phone buzzes. Luke texted me back. “Thanks!” he says. “By the way, who is this?”
I put my phone down. All the objects in the room start moving away from me.
I can’t see anything. All I can hear is Amile and Kennard and Coach and my mom yelling.
So much yelling.
Why are they yelling at me?
I crawl onto the floor. Turn “Aladdin” back on. Jafar is hypnotizing that fat sultan.
“Ssssss, I’m a sneaky little snake,” I whisper, inching my body around on my carpet. I’m crying again.
“One day I’m going to slither far away. Ssssssss. Just like Jafar. One day I’ll slither far, far away.”