Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Basketball Bully

Sporting stinky mesh jerseys of either red or blue, we play basketball scrimmages in the high school gymnasium of orange, black and white rubber; florescent lights and varnished bleachers stacked for the summer custodial cleaning schedule. This league of pre-teen girls probably only includes two teams. I can't recall. At the time I am ten, maybe nine years old. My little sister, Samantha is two years younger. Besides lay-up lines, bounce pass practicing and full court dribbling drills, I remember one scrimmage in particular when Samantha must be covered by the biggest girl we had ever seen. She is not fat, this girl, but hefty and a few inches taller than Sam and I. Amongst the clumpy polite usual play of young girls, her rectangle face grimaces, while her thick ankles and wrists speak a sign language of fearlessness and strength. Throughout the scrimmage, the coaches call a few fouls on the girl's aggressive approach to defense. I try to help Sam with sloppy standing picks and close hand off passes, but by the end of the game, I have reached my limit of passivity. 

As Sammy steps back up to the free throw line, the resounding pound of my pulse alerts me that I am about to say something to this giant girl. 

"Quit fouling my sister." I shudder. 

"It's called playing basketball!" She shouts back, her face flushed, her tone resentful. 

Then the ball bounces off the rim and she boxes me out with her wide hard ass. We finish the game. I don't remember who wins or if we even keep track, but as my team of scrawny sweat-drenched girls packs up water bottles and leaves for afternoons of cartoon reruns and summer reading, I hear my little sister's bully bawling by the bleachers. It is a deep wail of sopping shamelessness. Her mother consoles her. I have caused her to cry, I realize, cowering away, escaping the dark gymnasium for the bright sunlight of the parking lot.