Here is a passage from my upcoming book, Overtime: A Basketball Parable. The story is told by a long-time, high-school basketball coach who is looking back over his life. All rights are reserved.
In January of 1980, with my team eight and three on the season, Esther Gomulka walked into my classroom. It was between classes. The hallway was filled with hurrying students and my room empty but for me. She gave no indication that she appreciated the strangeness of what she was doing or how out-of-character her visit might seem to me – or anyone else. Although I was genuinely surprised, I did have some inkling of to what I owed this honor. More than likely Miss Gomulka had taken note of my morning sessions with the cheerleaders. Admittedly, they were more and more extensive as the season progressed. I guessed that she might have doubted the propriety of this and might have been contemplating some report of it. She was here, I was sure, to threaten me away from them.
After coming into my classroom and realizing that she had gotten my undivided attention, she took one step back into the doorway and gestured for me, swinging her arm east and west with the flow of the traffic in the hallway
Do you see this building, these people around you? All with their classrooms and offices?
It looks permanent, doesn’t it?
At this point I was looking for a way to flee the room. But I nodded again.
It isn’t. It will all fall away and sooner than you think. They think I have been here forever, that I am permanent, but in ten years you will not know a single name on any doorplate on this hallway. More than that. Someday soon there will be nothing here but a field. Nothing about what this place thinks about you will last. Its judgments are false. Those judgments are very clear and pronounced. You do not have to wonder what they are, but they are false. They do not matter.
I still did not understand the point of this sermon. I was sure that I was about to get the benefit of her judgment, but I nodded as if in agreement with whatever she was saying and I began to sidle slowly, as if starting out the door.
You know that girl who talks with you every morning?
I was ready to defend myself here. They were never inside my room. My door was never closed. I was never alone with any of them.
The cheerleaders? They all talk to me – about the team. The upcoming games and all.
You don’t believe that. They are not there to talk about the team. They may talk about the team, but that isn’t why they come to you. And you know which girl I am speaking of. She is a woman, even now. You do not fool me. You are neither too young nor too blind to see this.
That she is exactly what you need. You are a poor man. You don’t think of yourself as such, but you are poor. Very poor. Poor, wretched, pitiful and blind. This girl is what you need. She has all that you need. Everything. This world around you will tell you no. It will tell you not to pursue this. But she is exactly what you need. There is no one else like her. Maybe another, here and there, but very few. You are very fortunate in this.
That she is in love with you.
It would be impossible.
You think I don’t know you and that I don’t understand the world you live in. But I know and understand you very well. And I know that if you are honest with yourself, you will agree with me about this one thing: anything worthwhile is impossible. You know what is possible, Mr. Campbell? You want to know what is possible?
I had no response, but stayed put then, allowing her to continue.
This right here, right now. This is what is possible. More of the same. The same losing seasons, the same loneliness and frustration. The same disappointment. You meet someone for whom this world tells you you are right. She may fit every category – education, money, good sense, good looks. But she won’t be what you want. What you want is impossible. It always is.