learn from the mistakes of others



mundane moments in a mundane life
"...you won't live long enough to make them all yourself."
This match was it. The winner would cash. The loser would not. No one knew how I managed to sneak this deep into the tournament and there was only way to disprove the loudly whispered theories. I had to win this match and earn the right to return the next day with all the proven players.
After the last ball dropped, a spectator swiftly approached the table and took out a few balls from the ball return. This was not surprising as my match had been on the marquee table and this particular spectator was a famous player, one of the favorites to win the tournament. He probably had action lined up and had been waiting for us to finish. He impatiently gestured me over.
After a moment spent grasping for words, he looked me in the eye and said, “You play like me.”
My heart stopped.
When it jolted back to life, it was accompanied by a flustered stammering of embarrassed thanks mixed with an upwelling of relief and vindication. The pain of loss was forgotten.
He listened, concentrating intently. Then he cut me off with a brusque wave. “No. NO. You like me, you—short. Cannot reach because you SHORT. You play bad position. Is why you lose!” He took my cue and angrily drew a shape in the air above the table before shoving the cue back at me and walking out in exasperation.
I looked back to the table.
At a key point in the match, I had played a solid safety, one that had sent appreciative murmurs through the crowd, and been rewarded with ball in hand. I made the first ball but had set up poorly for the next. I could not reach it, poked at it, and left the ball hanging. My opponent had run out. Murmurs went through the crowd then as well. After that miss, my opponent had ceased playing tentatively and simply run me over.
I had made a beginner’s error and proved the whispered theories right.
There was much mocking laughter but I did not answer. I stared at the table, seeing the shot he had set up again, and seeing again the boundaries he had inscribed in the air. Within the boundaries were all the shots he could easily reach—and all the shots I could easily reach. I was like him. We were the same size. I closed my eyes and shook my head, struggling to reconcile how I could simultaneously be so wretched in the present and yet so full of hope for the future.


groucho marx