by John Saward

Allen Iverson, jubilant, at the end of the 2001 NBA All-Star Game; young and fierce and shouting
Screenshot: YouTube

A couple months ago I did some kind of damage to my pinky finger playing in a Thursday night basketball league, trying to wrench a loose ball away from another guy who grabbed it. It swelled up into this little boiled sausage with no visible knuckles and bruised a swirl of yellow-green and purple all the way down to my palm. I was in a splint for a few weeks and since then I’ve been wrapping it with sports tape, the kind that you can buy for a few dollars at Target. Each morning I decide it’s getting better in some barely perceptible way, giving myself progress tests and fudging the results, and anyway there’s “nothing you can really do for a broken finger,” which is what you tell yourself when you don’t have health insurance. But there’s something not right about it; a restriction, a malfunction, some bad elastic in there now.

It's all a familiar zone, the not-ideal, the been-better, the cold faint aches of a 37-year-old. The ongoing calamity of your lower back. The diligent pre-sports hydration routine that cannot be disturbed. Pains that linger, radiate, dull and then intensify again, disappear altogether and then ambush you as you try to put the air conditioner in the window. Your hamstrings just feeling like that all the time now. Your body no longer functioning as a synchronized, whirring machine but a mess of parts and piles and pieces that jostle strangely now, each with a specific individual weight that you are vividly and separately conscious of, running to make it through a crosswalk before the light changes. And what about how your hair never gets “long” anymore in that handsomely negligent way, it just grows at wildly different rates in different places on your head so that you always look sort of mid-crisis. These are your precious pre-washed days, with your orthopedic desk chair cushion, hoping the man you’re guarding decides not to run the fast break this possession.  

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