sometimes nothing



mundane moments in a mundane life
...can be a real cool hand.
I began to shake. I had a new appreciation for ballerinas and those people who acted like statues for tourist dollars. Every muscle screamed rebellion as I held this awkward position.
The pointed tip of my right shoe grazed the floor. My left leg, folded on the edge of the table, protested with pins and needles. My left hand balanced on its last two fingers. My right arm rose up above my shoulder and bent back. Any movement threatened to collapse my spine in its unnatural curve. Everything hurt as I breathed in. I prayed to all the gods and dropped the cue.
The crowd went wild.
The crowd went wild because I missed.
He was where I had left him hours earlier: playing his video game. I walked in and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning my case against the wall. I took off my shoes.
“I lost,” I said with some effort. “I’m out.”
“One outta the money. There was a big crowd. For the other girl.” I spoke in fragments because I had too much to say. I did not want to ask about—or for—things most people took for granted. I sat there twitching with disappointed silence. Eventually, I told myself what I did not want to hear: Everyone plays alone. I put on a different pair of shoes and picked up my case.
“Where you going.” His eyes were still on the screen.
“Second chance. Single elimination.”
“ ’Kay.”
I hesitated in the open doorway hoping he had more words than just the eleventh letter of the alphabet. Buttons clicked faintly. He did not. I closed the door and breathed out. I let the handle go and the bolt shot home.
I stared a thousand yards away at nothing in particular. A foot kicked my foot. I looked up. The foot belonged to a friend of mine with a drink in her hand. She was slightly tipsy and in a very good mood. “Hey!”
“How’d you do?”
“I won.”
“Oh my god! No shit?!”
“No shit.”
“Oh my god, that’s fucking awesome! You’re my freakin’ hero! How many players?”
“I don’t know.”
“Shit, let’s find out!” She bounded toward the charts. I got up and followed. “That many players and you got it? Good job! Where’s your man? He’s gotta be way proud of you!”
“He didn’t come to watch.”
She glanced at me sideways. She crunched thoughtfully on an ice cube before downing the rest of her drink all at once. Moving closer to the chart she said, “Check it out. They got your name wrong.”
And so they had.
Tracing the brackets back to the beginning, we saw my name gradually misspelled—a letter at a time, a letter with every match—all the way to the end. “How ’bout that,” I marveled, amused.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake—I’m gonna tell ’em.” She marched, sparkling with outrage, toward the tournament desk.
“Eh. It’s not a big deal.”
She stopped mid-stride and looked at me curiously. It suddenly occurred to me: I had been sharply defined for many years by my desire for recognition. I had that desire when I entered the tournament. I did not have it now. I had been cut open, eviscerated, and bled dry. I felt empty, but the feeling was not unpleasant. I could not explain this to my friend so we continued standing awkwardly in shared confusion.
“They paid me in cash,” I finally said with a forced smile. “Not by check.”
Relieved to return to simplicity, she said brightly, “Oh, good! You really don’t need them to fix your name!”
“Nah, I got the money. Glory is good, but cash is king.”
She laughed and rattled the remaining ice cubes in her cup. Our eerie moment of clarity fled toward a distant horizon. Heading for the door with a skip in her step, she began the saying we had for when life was beyond our control or understanding. “Fuck this shit,—”
“—let’s go drink.”



cool hand luke

8 Replies to “sometimes nothing”

  1. I could say the usual that he is a idiot…but does he know its ok to come watch? or does he think it would affect you?

  2. Yup. I like it. Actually makes it better that there is no time, place, or names.

    My wife has absolutely no interest in pool or whether I won or lost. Just cares what time I get home, so if I lose fast, for her that’s a “win”. She should care at least a little bit because the win or loss is usually still affecting my mood the next day. She actually doesn’t have to ask to know. Although I don’t always bother to say, she can tell by my demeanor how well I did.

    Anyway, not actually a requirement for a good relationship, so assuming that was a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, if everything else is going ok, I’d cut him some slack for not coming to the tournaments, and even for not showing much interest.

  3. Good Stuff! I like how you captured the state of mind shortly after a challenge has been met and overcome. Often its not exhilarating – and there are some things about it that can seem like melancholy. Not sure what that emotion is- exhausted relief doesn’t seem to encapsulate it. It’s almost like a state where you can be left wanting, because those feels and that focus can never be as visceral and sharp as they were when you were engaged in the challenge. The thousand yard stare part nailed it. Like CJ Wiley says: “The Game is the Teacher” 😛 Thanks for the great read!

  4. Great read. These are really amazing. Really capture the essence of what it is to be a pool player.

    Good shit!

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