September 17, 2002

Thing

There was once a basketball player named Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek was ugly but a very good shooter. Whenever he shot free throws, he would bounce the ball a certain number of times, then rub his cheek with his right hand. The gesture was a message to his kids; it meant that he loved them. He did it before every free throw he shot.

If you had never seen Jeff Hornacek shoot free throws, you would have thought the gesture unconscious. A man gazes at something, directing all his attention on it, trying to reduce the world to just this thing and him, and then, without thinking, he absently strokes his cheek as though to brush away a small irritant, or more likely as an accompaniment to his thoughts, which are focused on the thing before him.

I’ve been wanting to find a symbol, a word, a gesture, anything that might stand in the place of the things not said. It would be for you, and it would mean a thing that only you would understand. To everyone else I would appear to be a man, the same man as always, absently stroking his cheek.