IT WAS ALMOST ten-thirty in the evening and Brian Rogelio was still stuck in his seat at the dinner table, picking at his food while the storm banged on the windows. The room was dim but he did not bother to turn on all the lights. This way, he thought, he could appreciate his food better–free from the discriminative taste of sight.

The dinner would have been perfect, if only he wasn’t repulsed by the photograph that was slightly illuminated by the moonlight next to a signed basketball that adorned his father’s wine cabinet.

It was a picture of his father, Benedicto, all smiles as he shook the hand of his close friend, the Leader, awarding him a trophy—a basketball. As he swallowed his meal along with his thoughts, he heard the muffled sound of footsteps pattering on the Narra stairs. A clicking sound followed and soon the entire room was engulfed by a yellow glow. He recognized his father’s silhouette wobbling across the dining area, as he tried to grope for the light switch.

“Hijo, did you return home late again?” His voice raspy and rumbling in the shadows. The old man wore thick-rimmed glasses and an open robe that revealed his potbelly.

“Just another night out with friends, papa.”

The old man reeked of alcohol and seemed to have not heard his son’s words as he made his way toward the wine cabinet and probed for a bottle of vodka and a highball. He looked impatient, pouring out the vodka in haste and spilling some with his shaky grip. He quickly brought it to his mouth and felt god-like as the alcohol traveled down his throat.

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“Ah, I bet you were playing basketball! You were mopping the floor with them, weren’t you?” as if he didn’t hear what his son had just said.

Basketball—the mention of the word stirred his insides so severely that he felt nauseous. The past weeks had been toxic to him–intense training hours, article deadlines, and heaps of homework.

Graduation was still two months away, yet here was his father, heavily delusional, not because of the alcohol, but because of his expectations that were too high even for a six-footer like Brian—who wanted to settle for a pen and paper.

He just wanted to break loose. “Papa, I want to write,” or “Papa, I don’t like basketball,” were what he wanted to say. But his father’s lilting hiccups decimated his thoughts.

As his father was getting more intoxicated, Brian felt a bump in his throat and was about to vomit–not the beef he ate a while ago, but the thoughts he had long wanted to say.

“Papa, I don’t want to play basketball anymore.” The words slumped from his mouth and he saw his father’s basketball frenzy grin contort into a misshapen frown. “I want to write. I can get work in the national dailies or perhaps a broadcaster on the radio–”

The smashing sound of the vodka glass ended his sentence. His father was all red from anger and the alcohol.

“What will writing ever give you?” he said as the fire of inebriation finally took over. He sluggishly clutched what little hair was left on his head, circling his glass with his hand and gripping it. “I only ask you to continue my legacy, and you…” he crumpled his lips and heaved a sigh.

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Brian’s father felt his heart tighten and his head thumped with an aching pain. He glared at Brian as he stood up snatching the bottle of vodka before throwing it to the floor that sent the shards flying across the room, some, Brian thought, pierced through his ribs and into his heart.

His father hung his head, slackened his shoulders, cracked his knuckles and stretched his neck—some of his mannerisms whenever he got pissed. He took the basketball that adorned the wine cabinet and headed off to the old-man couch where he spent most of the time watching reruns of basketball games—to calm himself down.

As he picked up the shards of glass on the floor, one punctured his hand. And like water slipping through the cracks of the wall, the thought of basketball suddenly dawned on him. Among the pieces of broken glass were droplets of blood, scarlet under the fluorescent light and circular, like basketballs.

He didn’t love basketball the way his father did; the politics of it was repulsive—everyone was after the ball, and anyone would do anything to get it. The ball was everything to them; nothing else mattered except scoring, and ultimately, winning. For him, it was oligarchic–whichever group had the ball, had the power. They only had to steal from each other the ball to reclaim that “power” before the time runs out.

The wild cheering of the crowd on the TV set snapped Brian back into reality. And as he let the blood fall off his hand, they seemed to him, little scarlet balls, dribbling on the floor.

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“Pfft, it even runs in my blood,” he thought to himself.

He decided to retire to his room, not bothering to clean up the mess he and his father had made.


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