The streets of Downtown Detroit were buzzing with faces from all walks of life; from the rich to the poor, from the sad to the happy. You could find all different types of people roaming around this bustling metro city. Jamal wasn’t quite sure where he fit in there. He definitely wasn’t rich and he wasn’t sad, nor was he poor or happy. There didn’t quite seem to be a niche that he fit into or felt comfortable in. For this reason he spent most of his days alone, wandering the downtown streets and watching other people living their life, since he felt he was missing out on his. Since his brother Marcus left for college he felt even more alone. At least when he was home they would play a few rounds of basketball in the evening before the sun began to set.
“You’re getting pretty good there, little man, you should think about trying out for the basketball team,” Jamal recalled Marcus saying a few nights before he left.
“Nah, man, I just don’t fit in with them. I’d rather be here playing ball with you anyway,” he replied.
But now he couldn’t do that anymore either. Just as he was about to pity himself even further his phone began ringing. He checked the caller ID and saw Marcus’ face lighting up the screen. Jamal’s spirit lifted almost immediately as he answered the phone.
“Hey, man! How’s it going over there in Chicago?” Jamal asked.
“It’s going great. I really love it here, good dorms, nice looking girls… you know,” Marcus said with a chuckle.
“Yeah, I know,” Jamal replied, joining in on the laughter.
“Are you keeping those courts warm without me, little man?” Marcus questioned.
Jamal sighed not knowing how to answer the question. He knew he should tell him the truth, but he also didn’t want his brother to worry about him.
“I haven’t been there yet, Marc, I just haven’t been feeling it,” Jamal replied with a groan.
“That’s because you need someone to play with, Jamal! Listen to me, go down to your school and go talk to the coach. Trust me on this. Will you do it for me? Please?”
The tone in Marcus’ voice was that of genuine concern. Jamal had looked up to Marcus since they were little kids. He set the example for how a man of the house needed to act. Since they never met their father, Marcus was like a father to Jamal, and he hated to hear him so upset.
After letting out a long sigh Jamal replied with a drone tone.
“Yes, Marcus. I’ll go, I promise.”
“Good choice, little man, you won’t regret it, I promise. I have to get going; I got a test to study for and girls to meet!”
Jamal couldn’t help but laugh again at his ever distracted-by-girls brother. “Alright, man, call me soon, love you.”
Jamal looked at the empty basketball court around him. Somehow he always ended up here every day. He figured it was just a habit that was hard to break, or maybe one that he didn’t want to break. He pondered the idea of going down to the high school while he rolled and dribbled the ball against the pavement. Looking up at the empty court one more time, he knew his brother was right. He stood up from the sidewalk, picked up his backpack, and headed off to the school.
He arrived as the sun was starting to make its way down. Assuming he’d be alone he put his headphones in, put on some music, and decided to go shoot around by himself. He was in for quite a surprise though as he walked onto the court to find at least 10 other kids playing. He pulled off his headphones just in time to hear one of them ask, “What’s up?”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t think anyone would be here. I’ll just come back later,” Jamal stated and began to walk away.
“Hey, man, wait! Why don’t you come play a couple of games with us? We’re down a player and could use an extra person,” one of the boys said.
Jamal took a minute to mull it over. He had seen a couple of the kids around before, in fact he was pretty sure he had a class with at least one of them. What would Marcus want me to do? He thought to himself.
After a long pause he blurted out, “sure! I’ll play.”
Half way through the game he realized he was laughing and smiling again. He felt himself start to feel alive and filled with hope. He had missed this.
“Are you going to try out for the basketball team, man?” one of the boys asked him as he passed him the ball.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to.” Jamal replied with a smile as he threw a 3-pointer and landed it.
“I’m going to.”