He checked the schedule for tonight even though he already knew it. The Warriors were playing Denver. A solid mid-season game. He looked out the window. A good game to get back on track before the break. The kind of game where a win could slide easily into remembering how he and Gina really did have fun together most of the time. When Steph and Klay had it going at least. When one of them was always setting up a good shot for the other, when you knew practically from the moment one of them passed it to the other that the shot was going in. There was something in their movement that was the same as the feeling of when he and Gina were going good. And the baby was someone they were always happy to be around. They could move like that on the court tonight against Denver. Denver’s defense was all right, but it had holes, just like anybody’s did when Steph and Klay were going good.
He thought of the movements that were necessary to play with a good chance of winning the game, and he felt them in his body. He felt the quickness and speed and precision. He wished that it was movements of the legs and arms and hands and feet that helped him remember how it could be with Gina. He would do them all the time. He would practice them all the time if he knew what they were. Still, you were crazy if you didn’t think that the most important movement in basketball was the inside thing, the thing you couldn’t see. The movement of seeing what was possible.
If they could play like that tonight, he would slide it right into Friday afternoon when he went to pick up the baby for the weekend. He would slide so well that he’d be a man coming home to his wife and baby after a day’s work, and not a man bringing the baby back with him to his mother’s house. Why not? That was how cleanly he saw the game. They’d laugh at him if he told them. His mother and sister would laugh. Gina would laugh if she had any laughter left for him. That was all right. He didn’t have to tell anybody. He could slide the way the Warriors could play tonight against Denver right into Friday afternoon and nobody would need to know what he was sliding or any of it. It was still him. It was the game itself, but it was him watching the game and seeing what he saw when he watched it. It was that private communication between himself and Steph and Klay and all of them, which was why he didn’t go down to Tino’s anymore to watch, but sat in his mother’s basement instead. They didn’t understand at Tino’s. They didn’t understand what kind of focus was necessary to slide the game right into Friday afternoon.
And knowing that he could slide it into Friday afternoon, he’d have it with him all day on Friday too, he’d hit that sweet spot where he could smile at the white men who came in full of insecurity about how they didn’t know how to fix their own cars, that insecurity that came out the same way it always did with them. That smile was Steph and Klay on the court – that decisiveness, that willingness to let you think you were in control, because action trumped ego every time. He’d move through the day like a man going home to his wife and baby, like their foolishness couldn’t touch him, not even needing to say it out loud, just keep it moving.
It was because he knew that all things were attached, and the way the Warriors could play tonight, the way they could win, because winning was its own thing, unlocked who he could be at work, who he wanted to be with Gina. He couldn’t tell it to his mother and sister. He couldn’t tell them when they yelled down to him in the basement that he was down there working on his relationship: Studying Steph, watching precision, the way he knew that there was a time to take and a time to give, the looseness in his body that allowed him to go in either direction, the humility of moving on to the next play no matter what happened with the last one, good or bad. He could take all that with him to Gina. He could take it so exactly that she would see it on his face as soon as he came to her place. She’d know. She’d know that all that trouble they’d had was because there was too much inside him, but he’d learned now that it wasn’t a matter of hiding from that, it was a matter of organizing it. You watched Steph and you saw how he had more basketball inside him than anybody should be able to hold, but he’d learned how to hold it. Which was, one play at a time. I see that too, he would tell Gina. I know what a day is now. I know how full it is when I come home from work to you and the baby.
His mother and sister would yell down to him in the basement tonight that he was hiding from his problems. They didn’t know he was fixing them.
It didn’t seem like there was any way the Warriors could lose tonight, not with the vision of Friday afternoon he had if they won, but he knew that was a foolish way to think. He knew Steph and Klay and all of them couldn’t think like that. He knew you had to respect your opponent. Jokic was a problem for anybody. He didn’t like the guys down at Tino’s who yelled and swore when they watched because they weren’t trying to learn anything. They didn’t look like they were trying to become better when the Warriors won. They did the opposite. The Warriors won and they used it to say they had been right about everything. They watched it all wrong. They didn’t learn anything.
He couldn’t slide a win into Friday afternoon and Gina if he watched with them. He couldn’t take the movements of Steph and Klay and all of them, the inner movements and the outer movements, and put them into his own body in the way he went to work, the way he smiled when the white men hated that he knew more about their cars than they did, and the way he could either carry all that with him or let it go on the way to see Gina. Just let it go and laugh, the way Steph and Klay knew you had to play the game like it was fun out there, like your work and your fun could be the same thing, like they could be happening right alongside each other, and Gina would see it on his face when he saw her, that he didn’t need to look for fun out there at night anymore, away from her and the baby, he didn’t need to think of work and fun as a world apart anymore because she and the baby were a part of both, she would see on his face that he had been learning, he had been learning from the best people to learn it from, even if his mother and his sister thought he was hiding down there, she would see it on his face if the Warriors could beat Denver tonight the way he knew they could.
Siamak Vossoughi lives in Seattle. His stories have been published in Pithead Chapel, Kenyon Review, Missouri Review, Bennington Review, Columbia Journal, West Branch, and Gulf Coast. His first collection, Better Than War, received a 2014 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and his second collection, A Sense of the Whole, received the 2019 Orison Fiction Prize.