Fade Away Page 35

Myron nodded.

“Look, I ain’t complaining. Don’t get me wrong. This is a whole lot better than pumping gas or working in a coal mine or something. But I always got to remember the truth: the only thing that separates me from any nigger on the street is a game. That’s it. A knee going pop, like with what happened to you, and I’m back down there. I always remember that. Always.” He gave Myron hard eyes, letting his words hang in the crisp air. “So when some hot babe acts like I’m something special, it ain’t me she’s after. You see what I’m saying? She’s blinded by all that money and fame. Everyone is, male or female.”

“So you and I could never be friends?” Myron asked.

“Would you be asking me that if I was just some ignorant fool pumping gas?”


“Bullshit,” he said with a smile. “People bitch about my attitude, you know. They say I act like everybody owes me. Like I’m a prima donna. But they just mad because I see through them. I know the truth. They all think I’m some ignorant nigger—the owners, the coaches, whatever—so why should I respect them? Only reason they even talk to me is because I can slam the ball through the hoop. I’m just a monkey making them money. Once I stop, that’s it. I’m just another dumb slice of ghetto shit not fit to sit my black ass on their toilet.” He stopped then, as though out of breath. He looked back at the skyline. The sight seemed to rejuvenate him. “You ever meet Isiah Thomas?” he asked.

“The Detroit Piston? Yeah, once.”

“I heard him doing this interview one time, must have been when the Pistons won those championships. Some guy asked him what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a basketball player. You know what Isiah said?”

Myron shook his head.

“He said he’d be a United States senator.” TC laughed hard and high-pitched. The sound echoed in the still night. “I mean, is the brother crazy or what? Isiah really believe that shit. A United States senator—who the fuck is he kidding?” He laughed again, but the sound seemed more forced now. “Me, I know what I’d be. I’d be working in a steel mill, the midnight to ten A.M. shift, or maybe I’d be in jail or dead, I don’t know.” He shook his head. “United States senator. Shit.”

“What about the game?” Myron asked.

“What about it?”

“Do you love playing basketball?”

He looked amused. “You do, don’t you? You buy all that ‘for the love of the game’ bullshit.”

“You don’t?”

TC shook his head. The moon reflected off his shaved pate, giving his head an almost mystical glow. “It was never about that for me,” he said. “Basketball was just a means to an end. It’s about making money. It’s about setting me up for life.”

“Did you ever love the game?”

“Sure, I guess I must have. It was a good place to go, you know? But I don’t think it was the game—I mean, not the running and jumping and shit. Basketball was just what I was all about. Everywhere else I was just another dumb black boy, but on the basketball court, I was, well, the man. A hero. It’s an incredible high, everyone treating you like that. You know what I mean?”

Myron nodded. He knew. “Can I ask you something else?”

“Go ahead.”

“What’s with all the tattoos and rings?”

He smiled. “They bother you?”

“Not really. I’m just curious.”

“Suppose I just like wearing them,” TC said. “That enough?”

“Yes,” Myron said.

“But you don’t believe it, do you?”

Myron shrugged. “I guess not.”

“Truth is, I do like them a little. The bigger truth is, it’s business.”


“Basketball business. Making money. Lots of it. You know how much money I make in endorsements? A shit load. Why? Because outrageousness sells. Look at Deon. Look at Rodman. The more crazy shit I do, the more they pay me.”

“So it’s just an act?”

“A lot of it, yeah. I like to shock, too, just my way. But mostly I do it for the press.”

“But the press is always ripping you apart,” Myron said.

“Don’t matter. They write about me, they make me more money. Simple as that.” He smiled. “Let me clue you in on something, Myron. The press is the dumbest animal on God’s green earth. You know what I’m gonna do one day?”

Myron shook his head.

“One day I’ll get rid of the rings and shit, and I’ll start dressing nice. Then I’ll start talking polite, you know, giving them all yes-sirs and yes-ma’ams and start spitting out all that team-effort bullshit they like to hear. You know what’ll happen? These same fucks that say I’m destroying the integrity of the game will be kissing my black ass like it’s the Blarney Stone. They be talking about how I went through some sort of miraculous transformation. How now I’m a hero. But only thing that’s really changed is my act.” TC gave him a big smile.

Myron said, “You’re a piece of work, TC.”

TC turned back to the water. Myron watched him in silence. He hadn’t bought all of TC’s rationalizations. There was more at work here. TC wasn’t lying, but he wasn’t exactly telling the truth either—or maybe he couldn’t admit the truth even to himself. He hurt. He truly believed no one could love him, and no matter who you are, that hurts. It made you insecure. It made you want to hide and build fences. The sad thing was, TC was at least partially right. Who’d care about him if he wasn’t playing professional basketball? If not for his ability to play a child’s game, where would he be right now? TC was like the beautiful girl who wanted you to look down deep to find the soul within—but the only reason you’d bother trying was because she was beautiful. Get rid of that physical beauty—become the ugly girl—and nobody gives a damn about scratching the surface to find the beauty within. Get rid of TC’s physical prowess and the same thing happens.

In the end, TC was not as off-the-wall as he appeared in public nor was he as put-together as he wanted Myron to think. Myron was no psychologist, but he was sure that there was more to the tattoos and body piercing than making money. They were too physically destructive for so pat an explanation. With TC, there were a lot of factors at work. Being a former basketball star himself, Myron understood some of them; being that Myron and TC came from completely different worlds, there were others he could not so readily grasp.

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