Fuck. What the fuck? I can’t believe it. Do not cry here. Do not cry here. God damn it. Didi slaps the hands of the winning team…all of them seem just as stunned as she is that they handed her team their second loss of the season. As she walks off the court, Didi can’t help but hang her head a little.
The noise level in the place has risen to the point of sheer annoyance and it’s still ringing in her ears when she finally makes it to the bathroom stall. She takes a seat on the toilet and plants her elbows on her knees. She closes her eyes and tries to breathe deeply enough to keep the tears back. She fails at that tonight, too. The tears fall, and soon, she’s wracked with them.
Her shoulders shake with the emotions that need to be spent, the pain she’s been carrying for 2 years, the pressure of being not only the spokesperson for the team, but the star player, too. Her back muscles are wretched in spasms and her ankles ache from 40 hard minutes of basketball. When the crying is done and she’s spent all she has for now, she exits the stall and splashes her face with cold water.
She doesn’t have to look up or even ask “What for?” when Maria comes to tell her that coach wants her. She looks at herself in the mirror, right into her own eyes. I will go out there and tell them that I failed. I will shoulder this one more time. I will tell them that I still believe in this team and that this loss doesn’t matter. I will tell them that 2 losses in the regular season don’t mean we won’t bring home the championship. And I will act like I believe it. She wipes her face dry. And then I’m going to go back to the hotel and get this off my mind.
Sue’s been waiting for the call for 3 hours now. Ever since the game ended she’s been pacing the floor. Somewhere between crying her eyes out and taking a shower to kill time she’s managed to work out exactly what she’s going to say to her.
I’m going to tell her that it doesn’t matter. It’s one game. She’s got …how many more? Like, 8 or so, right? And then I’m going to tell her to rest, God dammit. I’m going to tell her that she’s still the best player on the best team. And then I’m going to ask her what the problem is. Why isn’t she shooting? What’s going through her mind? I’m going to ask her if coach told her not to shoot, or if she’s just lost her confidence. I will figure out what’s going on and I will fix it. Not matter what it takes. When the phone finally rings, Sue’s jolted so badly she spills her drink all over herself.
“Hello.” she says quickly in to the phone.
There’s a pause, “Hey.”
Immediately and without warning, Sue’s whole speech dissolves into thin air, forgotten, like the new stain on her shirt. “Oh, baby. I’m so sorry.” Her hand goes to her mouth as the tears slide down her cheeks, following in the footsteps of those that have come before.
“Hey, it’s just one game, right? I got, like, 8 more or something. ” She pauses, but not for an answer, “I’m still the best player. And I’m playin’ on the best team, right?” Didi gulps, “I just need some rest. I don’t know what my problem is. I’m not shooting and I don’t know why. It’s like my mind just….shuts off or something. I don’t ‘feel’ the game anymore. It’s not fun anymore. Coach begs me to shoot, but it doesn’t come to me as easy as it used to. I know I get looks and I waste them. And once the pass is out of my hands, I want to fucking kick myself. I know I can make the shots, it’s not that. I just don’t take them.” Her voice is gone, unlike the tears, and she stops to wipe her face.
Sue sighs and smiles, “I was going to ask you….I mean I was going to say all that. And you just, spilled it out…..all of it…..right there.” She sighs again, “I wish there was something I could do. I want there to be something that I can say that can give you this game back and let you replay it. But I can’t do that. I can only tell you what you’ve already said….what you already know. And that’s not going to do you any good right now. But I don’t know what will.”
Didi nods. “Just hearing your voice is good right now. Just hearing you breathing is good.” She bites her bottom lip and blinks through the tears, “I just miss you so..fucking…much.”
“Is that what’s doing this? Because I’m out here coaching and I can’t be with you?”
She considers this as she takes a seat on the bed, “I don’t think so. I just know that if I don’t have your arms wrapped around me soon, Sue, I’m …I’m gonna go fucking nuts! I can’t do this alone anymore! I don’t feel like me! I don’t feel the same when I haven’t seen you! And I haven’t seen you in…God…months!” Her voice is on the verge of shouting, she’s frantic now, “I need you! Don’t you understand? It’s not supposed to be like this! You’re supposed to be here when I need you and you’re not! You’re out there with those kids, doing this marketing bullshit, and working out with your little team and I’m here trying to carry a dozen other people to a championship I don’t even care about anymore. Because I…..because I can’t share it with you. Fuck knows you’re not going to be here for the final game! You’re not even here when you’re here. You’re somewhere else in your head. Rehab or training or God-only-knows where. When I have you here, I don’t really have you. I need you, Sue. God damn it, I need you!” She screams the last sentence before collapsing onto the pillows.
Sue is dumb-struck, madly searching for the words to soothe Didi, but coming up embarrassingly short. “D, I …I don’t know what to say. I need you, too. And I didn’t know …I didn’t know this was what was on your mind. I didn’t….mean to cause you any pain. When I’m there I know it’s kind of haphazard and strange, but I promise you that I’m always there in my heart. I swear. I’m sorry, baby. I’m sorry that I can’t be with you and I’m sorry that I can’t hold you tonight. It kills me to know that you’re going to go to bed alone with no one to hold you while you cry. And I’m dying inside knowing that you need me so badly and I can’t be there. I’m sorry.” Sue’s own voice cracks under the weight of her emotions, “I’m sorry, D. I love you.”
Didi shakes her head, “That’s all I want, Sue. Just don’t give up on me if everyone else does. Don’t stop loving me, ever, okay?”
“Never, Didi. I will never, ever stop loving you.”
The green light flashes and Sue smiles at the young girl before whispering, “Thank you.”
Marcie nods and tip-toes back to her room. Sue very carefully puts her things on the floor just inside the door and walks softly and slowly, letting her eyes adjust to the lack of light. The curtains are drawn in the room, but she can just make out the outline of a lump sprawled across the bed.
Didi’s lying on her stomach, facing the window. She smiles and removes her shoes and jacket. Her heartbeat quickens as she lifts the blanket and crawls across the bed towards the sleeping woman. She snuggles up beside her, lays her head on the pillow beside Didi’s outstretched arm, and drapes an arm tightly over Didi’s waist. It takes all of 30 seconds for the exhaustion of a long flight to take over and send her into sleep.
Didi stirs just a little and comes out of sleep enough to know that someone is in her bed. She blinks a couple of times, trying to get accustomed to the lighting. Before even looking, she sniffs the air and realizes that it’s Sue. She turns her head and comes face to face with the sleeping figure. She’s cried so much tonight that no tears come, though she feels the emotions of weeping.
All of the tension, all of the worries, every goal and pressure and media question seep into the recesses of her mind and out of her body as she closes her eyes. This is all I needed.