This essay was awarded a Notable Mention in the Best American Sports Writing series 2018
BY ELISA HAGGARTYIt's been years since I gave myself to you, worked with you, for you. It's been years since my days were consumed by you. I remember when we first met. I was young and you, old and wise. What you had in store for me, I didn't know yet but I was drawn to you. Call it passion, call it lust, call it infatuation, whatever it was, I was hooked.
I dreamt about a future with you, planned how you would help me reach my goals. I felt at home with you, comfortable and dare I say, normal by your side. Even when we were apart, you were in my thoughts bouncing around, tempting me for just one more rendezvous.
At midnight I'd sneak out, dressed in layers to weather the cold. We would meet at our spot, where the moonlight reflected off the snow and the icy gravel. I'd hold you and tell you how far I planned to go with you. I knew we'd be together for quite some time. And while everyone was tucked away under the covers or consumed by some TV drama, I would find a small patch of dry gravel and begin again the love affair that has yet to end.
"The way you made me fall in love with hard work, pain, joy, triumph and the priceless sound of the ball swooshing through the net was enough to keep me up at night."
Drop, bounce, dribble, bounce, touch. The ball danced around my body, moving effortlessly and gracefully to the rhythm and sound of the ball pounding the gravel. This late night rendezvous became a constant, we were going steady. But while others tossed their worn and tattered basketball out, I would covet mine. I knew all that wear and tear held hundreds of stories only you and I knew about. The countless hours of dribbling and shooting were visible on every crack and crevice. I've always been attracted to the ones that age with beauty and grace.
If I had known then how strenuous this relationship would be, I may have taken things slower. But the truth is from a young age I knew you would bring me places I had only dreamt about, and open doors that are closed to most.
If I had known that long after we parted you'd appear in my dreams night in and night out, that I'd wake up in a sweat because the heartache of our last few years together still makes me wince, perhaps I would have taken things lighter.
If I had known that at 27 I'd still be scrambling to accept the way we ended, to come to terms with the way you so coldly turned your back on me, perhaps I wouldn't have put all my eggs in one basket.
I drove past an abandoned, beat up city street hoop the other day and for the first time in years I remembered why I loved you. It lasted for only a few seconds, but in that time I remembered why I stayed up past midnight to be with you. It was clear that I chose you as much as you chose me. The thrill of feeling that old leather ball caress my hands and come right back to me after dodging cracks and uneven gravel was enough to convince me then, this was a game worth falling for.
The way you made me fall in love with hard work, pain, joy, triumph and the priceless sound of the ball swooshing through the net was enough to keep me up at night. And, while everyone else was chasing their happiness through a TV dreaming of what could have been, you were busy showing me what is, molding me and preparing me for struggles in my life I never thought I'd encounter. You see, you knew it all along...you knew the what, the why, the how, the could, long before I did.
"[...] Dodging cracks and uneven gravel was enough to convince me then, this was a game worth falling for."
I thought I had made peace with you, but my dreams at night tell me differently. It's always a struggle, an anxious race to get to the gym on time, a scramble to find my uniform, and the very real heartache of waiting in vain to get into the game one last time. I wake up sweating, sometimes with tears in my eyes and ask why you've come back this way. Is this your way of asking me out again? Is this your way of telling me I'm not done with you, with us? Is it because, after I hung up my laces, I've dated around, intrigued by other games? You know there is no comparison right? Or is it because you still have so much more to teach me?
I trusted you once and you broke my heart, jaded was a look I thought I wore well. Yet in all fairness, despite our struggle, I should admit you saved my life.
Wise beyond your years, you've come back for a reason only you know. I'll keep my eyes and heart open, but this time around, I'm taking it slow.
Elisa Haggarty is a Functional Nutritionist & Lifestyle Expert and founder of Culinary Farmacy. Elisa practices root cause resolution which means she works to find the triggers of disease in the human body and provides practical action steps on how to address health goals. Elisa played college basketball at The College of St. Rose and majored in Secondary Education, English. She taught high school literature in New Jersey for two years and in Hong Kong for another two. Elisa lives in Brooklyn, NY with her two sweet kittens.
The Awesome Sports Writing Contest is an annual writing contest to inspire voices in girls’ and women’s sports. Our winners have been announced, and we will post them one-by-one over the next couple of months. Check them out and be sure to submit for the 2018 year!
This contest was made possible by the generous donation of the Jackson family in Edmonds, Washington, and Basketball Education in Action.