The anxious chatter of the crowd fills the small, dimly lit space of my dorm room. My laptop is open in front of me, the flickering image illuminating the fluffy corners of the blanket I’m clutching to my chest.
My heart pounds and my hands shake as I stare at the screen.
This is it. At seventeen my brother is only ten points away from making one thousand points in his high school basketball career. Players don’t usually make it to that milestone point, and if they do, they don’t even make that one-thousandth point until their senior year. But here my brother was in his junior year, once again, defeating the odds and breaking records one shot at a time.
Being two hours away from home, I don’t get the latest basketball news from my brother every night. When I talk to my mom on the phone, I get a summary of the latest, but it’s never the same as hearing my brother relay the details through excited or disappointed retellings. When it comes to his own game, my brother has always been humble. The one-thousandth point had been mentioned a few times, but I hadn’t realized how close he was until my mother texted me the night before: “Fyi, I saw on fb that the game will be live streamed tomorrow night. He needs 23 points.” My brother’s average was around twenty-five points a game. This was it.
With each basket he makes, the crowd goes wild, causing the speakers of my laptop to screech with an electronic buzz.
Every dribble, pass, and basket feels like an eternity, the clock ticking down slower and slower with each second. I frantically text my mother to make sure I’ve counted correctly.
I keep my eyes on number thirty-five, the red and white uniform blurring in a clump of pixels.
I double and triple check my WiFi connection.
The blanket I had been clutching to my chest falls away as I lean closer to the screen. My legs have fallen asleep, protesting against the criss-cross position I had been sitting in for the past thirty minutes, but I don’t risk moving.
White and black uniforms run down the court, the camera failing to fluidly follow the players’ movements.
Through the pixelations, I see he’s standing tall, moving freely with his teammates. No sign of stress or anxiety. His shot has been perfect the entire game. Whenever he gets the ball, it soars through the air in a perfect arch, swishing into the basket. My brother had the weight of the school and game on his shoulders, yet he held it with grace. He runs down the court as if this is just another game, as if nothing extraordinary is about to happen.
My heart stops as my brother is intentionally fouled at 998 points.
He moves to the free-throw line, arms swaying casually at his sides, as the other players take their positions in the paint, forming a pattern of white, black, white, black on either side of the basket.
My brother wipes the soles of his red shoes with his palm as the referee dribbles the ball.
Each thud of leather against wood sparks the thought of a different shoe.
My brother is suddenly six-years-old wearing black, bulky hip-hop shoes hopping across the stage. Another year goes by and his foot is slightly larger as he kicks a soccer ball with neon green cleats across the grass. The next year rushes by with a thud. He’s eight-years-old bringing up dust as he steps up to the plate with mud-stained baseball cleats. The mud and dust wash away as his cleats become shiny, black dress shoes. He’s nine-years-old balancing a double bass between his feet, delicately swinging the bow across the large instrument’s strings.
Over the years, he had tried on many shoes, but he had only ever asked for new basketball shoes.
A silent murmuring settles over the crowd, and suddenly I’m sitting in the bleachers. “Come on, bud,” I whisper as gossip-like mutterings wisp around me.
He kicks the floor, getting his feet into position, and practices his form.
My heart races as I watch his chest rise and fall. He’s calm and collected as his eyes move away from the basket and to the referee still dribbling the ball. My brother nods and the ball bounces across the paint into his hands.
He licks his lips and dribbles the ball at his side, taking in the basket before him.
Suddenly, he’s three-years-old and his little hands are now dribbling the tiny rubber basketball on the carpet as he licks his lips in concentration. He dips and dives in his dinosaur pajamas toward the blue and yellow Fisher-Price basketball hoop. He dunks the ball, standing on his tiptoes, pretending to hold onto the rim. “Beat that!” he says with a beaming smile and a gusto other three-year-olds could only wish for.
The small ball rolls across the carpet and hits my knees. I pick up the ball, which fits perfectly in my palm, and say, “Bet I can!” I toss the ball between my hands as I ponder my next trick shot.
He bends his knees and lifts the ball up in the air.
A perfect arch.
I can imagine the bleachers vibrating under my feet as the crowd hollers, the electronic buzz of the crowd from my laptop’s speaker filling my ears.
My brother puts down his arms and shakes them out at his sides. His teammates step over to give him high-fives of encouragement.
Because my brother was fouled intentionally, the referees move the other players to the half-court line, leaving him alone with the basket.
A hush settles over the crowd as the ball is tossed across the paint to him again, the echo surging through us all.
The ball bounces next to his red basketball shoes as he dribbles.
I hold my shaking hands to my pounding chest. “You can do it, bud,” I whisper into the two-hour distance between us.
Everything goes quiet as my brother bends his knees and lifts the large, leather ball into the air. The ball lands into the net with a swish. He pumps the air victoriously with his fist.
Robbie Rusciano has made one thousand points.
A sob escapes my lips as I watch the crowd stand and cheer. I scream and clap, disrupting the dark quiet of my dorm room.
Robbie jogs to his coaches and teammates, doing a different personalized handshake with each of them.
The pixels of the livestream and my tears blend together as a warmth spreads across my chest.
Robbie’s beaming smile reaches me from ninety miles away, and for a brief moment, he’s three-years-old again shooting a rubber ball through a plastic hoop in dinosaur pajamas.
Aly Rusciano is a twenty-two-year-old recent graduate of The University of Tennessee at Martin, where she majored in English while focusing in Creative Writing and minoring in Theatre. Aly can often be found reading outside or typing away at her computer. She has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil. Aly’s love of books and passion for writing continues to positively affect her life as she pursues a career in the publishing industry while simultaneously chasing her dream of being a published author.