“Um, hello, is this Chris Hancock?”
Said the voice,
Soft as velvet and raspy from living well.
“Yo, Heard, what’s up?”
Thirty years were gone, but I was in tenth grade again,
My old, yes, still older, mentor,
Was putting in a call.
We laughed about early practices
And getting stuck in one on one.
We laughed harder about Maurice who was
The police, prosecution, judge, and jury
In pre-practice study hall court.
Then it got sappy,
Because that year was so important to us,
Because Heard had let me in
Making sure I never felt alone
Or out of place with my difference
From the rest of my brothers,
Who, treated me better than I’ve ever been treated.
They made me earn their respect.
They allowed me to appreciate everyone.
They were all more important than those who weren’t there can understand.
We endured sprints.
We survived a Thanksgiving practice.
We spoke about being there in moments of tribulation.
We spoke of hanging at each other’s homes and
Our families accepting us because we made it clear
We were friends and that black-white bullshit wouldn’t be tolerated.
“You know, you were like the only white kid on the team,” said Heard.
That was kind of true,
Although that first year there were three of us.
Two quit, playing time disputes I think,
But whatever, I was a skinny kid with brown hair then,
Sitting at the end of the bench
Hoping to get a couple of minutes of court time in practice
And maybe even a few seconds in a game.
“It was cool, though, Heard. I loved being on that team.”
I don’t know what the color of ONE is.
I suppose it’s somewhere between blue and gold
Because black and white came together
Under the uniform of Lafayette High School’s basketball team that year.
We won some, we lost some,
Not getting as far as any of us thought we should have,
But for me, the life lessons were more important than any win,
Any Monkey drill, or all the splinters I picked from my butt that year.
Thanks, 22. (Say that loud and enunciate the two’s with gusto and respect!)
Two years would follow,
The lessons being the same
The shared experiences being the same
Man, I miss that…
Really, everyone, thank you.