February 12, 2017

 

 

 

‘Bien con muchas armas fundo
que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
pues en promesa e instancia
juntáis diablo, carne y mundo’

-Juana de la Cruz, excerpt from a poem

My six month battle playing the ghost had finally come to an end.

Playing my ghost meant I got to break and take ball in hand. And though I had been running racks since September, my success felt anything but.

You see, my ghost was legendary. Beautiful and familiar, her reputation preceded her, and overshadowed me.

With every rack and every shot the pressure only mounted. And I was suffocating under the weight of it. She had beat me before, and she would beat me again. Or so I was told over and over again. My mastery of the game, far from rewarding, had become a source of increasing fatigue.

That night, above the usual noisy crowd (I never knew whether they were jeering or cheering), I listened in for Don. He had wagered quite heavily in my favor, and had exclusively reaped the considerable return from my unprecedented winning streak. It was easy for me to tune into his voice beyond the noise.

“Miserable. Miserable. I should never have done this,”

I heard him whisper under his breath, his fists clenching.

“I wish I was anywhere…..this was a mistake.”

The streak had taken a toll on him as well. But he hated her even more than he hated losing. I felt my eyes water as I took in a deep breath. I straightened my back and gingerly raised my head above the exquisitely set rack. I looked absently at the wooden triangle I was expected to have lifted in that moment, then I looked up at my ghost, who was peering back at me with a perplexed look in place of her usual mischievous and playful grin.

“I don’t want to play anymore,” I announced to a stunned and silenced room. “I am done now.”

I’ll never forget what happened next.

My ghost began to cry. I watched as her confused look turned into her knowing look turned into her true look of melancholy and understanding.

Then, I saw a gentleman break through from a crowd that was otherwise fading fast from the pool hall. He appeared to be comforting my ghost. I scrunched my eyes to make out the strangely familiar figure.

It was my dad!

But how could that be?

I scrunched my eyes again in disbelief. The scene was now utterly fantastical. My father (who had been paralyzed in a hospital bed and unable to attend a single match over the past six months) had run up to comfort my ghost.

“Fuck these guys, you don’t need any of these people. You are better than all of these people. You are the best. You’re the only one I can never beat. You are perfect.”

I witnessed myself floating toward them in disbelief, initially determined to touch the hologram in an effort to return me to reality. I also wanted to hug and comfort my sobbing ghost.

Instead I occupied her space, in my father’s embrace.