Three ten-year-old boys are shooting hoops. It is mid March, 1995. With bowl-cut, shaggy hair and Nike Jordans on their feet, the boys laugh and talk as they bounce the basketball and over-shoot the hoop time and time again, as usual. But today, the conversation gets deep.
One brave kid steps out of the normal humor about teachers, hallways, and imaginary catastrophes overtaking both, and poses a question. Who is your crush? The only sound at that moment is an airy bounce of the orange rubber ball hitting the driveway. Admit your crush? Her name? For everyone to know and hear? This is absolutely uncharted territory, something everyone knows exists, but no one ever speaks aloud. The she-who-will-not-be-named.
Breaking the silence, Tim laughs, and bounces the ball once more, posing for a shot. He shouts, “I have a crush on Shelley Tiner!” then releases the ball, making a perfect swoosh through the shorter-than-regulation hoop. Catching the rebound, Patrick laughed in disbelief. “Shelley Tiner?!” A corporate animated groan rings out, but Tim holds his ground. “Well, then who’s yours, Patrick?” he asks and takes another accurate shot. “Mine is Heather Winkefield,” Patrick says with relief, taking a pass from Tim, and noticing a twinkle in his friends eye. “Really? What do you see in Heather Winkefield?” Tim shrugs it off. After that, the floodgates opened. All four boys shout out names with abandon. And then the game got fun.
If you make that shot, Emily will be your girlfriend. If you make two in a row, you’ll get married! But, betting on their future bliss was short lived. The sun set, and worry rose within them. The next school day was fast approaching. What do you do as a child when you’ve opened yourself to the vulnerability of truth? What do you do as a child when you’ve been given the burden of another man’s deepest secret–his crush?
At school, the boys pretend that the revealing basketball game never happened. They go back to discussions of aliens, television and food-fights. Until, one day, Tim doesn’t show up to play basketball after school. “Where is he?” asks Patrick innocently, shaking his red bangs out of his face. “Don’t you know?” the others laugh, “He’s with his girlfriend!” Patrick stands stunned, “You mean Shelley?” Patrick looks to the others for confirmation–certainly his girlfriend is Tim’s crush from a few days before.
“No,” the boys say, “Heather Winkefield.”
Et tu Brute?