Photography by Dirt Gathers In the Corner

don’t rush to swish a brick

it’s easier to imagine personal failure as a conspiracy formed against me, rather than as operator error. “conspiracy” sounds a grand, powerful alarm that there’s an opponent capable of upending “perfection”. i remember being out on the basketball court, late at night, mosquitoes and headlights rolling by my head, and the front of the rim standing mountainous between me and the valley of the net. shot after shot would bite at the rim, lose its rotation, and skip as far away from me as possible. on the walk back from retrieving the basketball, and after stubbornly replanting myself at the same spot on the court as all previously missed attempts, i would pray to the onlookers: my ancestors, god, the spirit of duffy the family poodle (shot dead under a stop sign at the corner of our street [i had never confessed to my uncle about being the one who let duffy out of the house that night. how was i to know that, of the man’s many neighborhood beefs, it would be the one over a stolen lawnmower that proved too dangerous for our dog?]) — still, the balls sailed short and long. i was hungry, it was dark, i had school the next day, and my accuracy was not improving. so, i turned up the pressure, “you can’t leave until you make one.” this caused me to blend profanity with prayer, out of desperation to escape myself, “pleeeeease, god. come on! fuck, what are you doing?!” as another rebound dribbled itself pitifully off to the left. i began hurling the ball at the rim with ferocity, louder and loud enough to make mrs coffey peak out between her kitchen curtains. my eyes filled with salty tears as hope abandoned me. it was clear whose side god was on: the devil’s.

“evil” is just a flower.

the sun doesn’t shine to make the flowers grow. the sun emits light. the flowers turn toward the light and take it; making use of it simply because it is there. the step-by-step process goes too slowly for anyone to track how it becomes a mile. one day you look up and your line is a circle. like the robin’s nest. and time makes it all appear the work of genius. genius working for or against you. my jumpshot was a program with bad code. if my coach had been there, he would’ve taken me back through the steps: don’t rush. proper stance. knees bent. ball positioned at the hip. elbow tucked. pull the release. follow through. it would have been just the break in the loop i needed. i would return, errors corrected, run the program, and the first seven shots would all swish through the net while giving a middle finger to the front of the rim. but, standing there alone, my ego fed the “evil”, and the “evil” blossomed.

everything happening all at once.

that’s what history, time, and distance protects us from. in the mounting terror of an instance, these are our gentle saviours. they stretch the wrenching pain out over space — where memory can revise it into something more manageable. those who seek radical change through peaceful resistance and negotiation learn to bide time through these space cycles until, step-by-step, they reach transformation. but others suffer the violent tearing and ripping apart of flesh in heat turned higher; because they’ve given up on peaceful means of negotiating existence. so it’s a fight to the death, or submission; and that is a form of change. in fact, a fast death is life’s most radical change. a slow death being normal. standing there on that basketball court, i was detached from the patient processes that birthed my skill set. before, i had taken full credit for my success and soon came to believe that i could summon success, at will; which ironically made me powerless. i called out to god because i wanted him, or anyone else but me, to take responsibility for my failure. for my growing pains. growth is corrupted by impatience. a penchant for skipping steps is the force in nature. make it your operating system, and soon history becomes the past you regret, and the next shot, the future you dread. you cannot escape the process. even when you do, you’re just getting out of line to get back in line.