I had forgotten the chill of waiting for the bus early on a Saturday morning. I had forgotten the stamping of feet, the craning of necks, and the rising panic that unites silent strangers when the bus does not appear at its scheduled time. I had forgotten the existence of real relief until the bus rolled up and we all smiled at each other and felt we were all going to make it.
I had forgotten the peace of walking the last mile through sleeping neighborhoods.
I had forgotten my neurosis automatically factored in an early arrival time. I had forgotten how much I liked fast food sandwiches with their questionably fluorescent “egg” and chewy “sausage patty” the color and texture of scorched earth. I had forgotten that iced mochas, crowned lavishly with whipped cream, would swagger past my blood-brain barrier and paralyze my eyelids with too much wakefulness and now being an hour too early for practice was total bullshit and there was nothing to do but shake, shimmy, and jitter until the doors opened.
I had forgotten how dark poolrooms could be, and when I looked around for a trash can for my empty coffee cup (which I had conscientiously not wanted to toss on the ground outside like so many others) and the man behind the counter yelled angrily, “NO OUTSIDE FOOD!” and I yelled peevishly back, “I’M JUST LOOKING FOR A TRASH CAN, DAMMIT!”, I found I had forgotten every poolroom was a suspicious, heavily fortified city unto itself, and everyone not a regular was a threat to homeland security until enough consistent, non-threatening interaction conferred a wary and conditional citizenship.
I had forgotten dealing with me was rather like that as well.
I had forgotten there were people I liked and missed. I had forgotten it was easy to tell I was not a pool player because I wore knee-high stiletto boots. I had forgotten I should have put on unwashed gym clothes and camouflage face paint and then just stayed home.
I had forgotten there was a little bar a hundred meters away from the increasingly claustrophobic poolroom. I had forgotten how much I liked vodka, Kahlua, and cream topped with a giant dollop of rumor mill coffee grounds.
I had forgotten how excessively inconsistent this thing called my “game” could be. I had forgotten how often I missed ball-in-hand. I had forgotten the last time I played a big-table tournament. I had forgotten I was short. I had forgotten the closest I could come to the exhilaration of driving a fast car without a speed limit was letting the cue ball run six rails and still get position. I had forgotten some men will not move aside for me when it is my turn to shoot. I had forgotten some men playing a neighboring match will sit on the rail of my table during my match while they consider their shot. I had forgotten how much that shit makes my eye twitch.
I had forgotten I had willingly paid ninety significant dollars for this douchebag safari.
I had forgotten how great it is to play an opponent as serious as I am. I had forgotten how this is a game like no other in the world, a game of millimeters, and that one millimeter between frozen and not-frozen is immeasurable light-years of difference. I had forgotten how redeeming it is to kick out of two-foul jail. I had forgotten how calm I could be looking at a long bank to make it hill-hill and I had forgotten how electrically sharp the pins and needles in my fingertips could be when I made it. I had forgotten what it was like to laugh in apologetic disbelief. I had forgotten how it was like to lose hill-hill because I chose a safe over a shot and scratched instead. I had forgotten how useless, yet oddly satisfying it was to tell that treacherous, rat-bastard of a cue ball to go fuck itself.
I had forgotten what it was like to fail but not be defined by failure.
I had forgotten how it was like to lose a whole day and win a whole lot of nothing. I had forgotten that bus service is reduced on the weekend. I had forgotten there are nice people who will drop me off on their own way home. I had forgotten the unmatched feeling of finally getting into bed after a long day on my feet and right before I rolled off into the abyss of sleep, I found I had forgotten the last time I was this tired and still looked forward to doing it all again.