August 1995 and I came back to the apartment I shared with my UNM basketball teammate, friend, all-WAC first teamer, Marlow White, because I'd forgotten my company cell phone, one of of those big black brick Motorola ones that were the first "handheld" back in the early 1990s. Across the sidewalk lived my teammate, friend, first round draft choice of the Miami Heat, Charles Smith, and a kid who'd sat out that year for something or another.
To be clear at the onset, I was resentful of all of them (not to mention my girl friend at the time who was on scholarship with volleyball team, if I'm to be perfectly honest with myself frankly) for being on scholarship and being from out of state but being able to live rent-free with a per diem on scholarship while I was working 50 hours a week saving up money for school and rent working at a civil engineering firm.
I'd come home as I was wont to do and had bagel dogs with Ranch Style beans, a banana and celery and watched bad talk show TV for lunch. Marlow was coming in to pick up some books or something as I headed out not realizing I'd forgotten that brick.
When I came back, it wasn't in the apartment. I was running very late to get back to the office now, and so I figured I'd just find it later. Ah, but as I headed back out the door, I saw through the glass doors across the sidewalk that our sat-year-out friend was chatting away on my company phone sitting on his lazy boy. He saw me as I stormed towards the door and he hung it up, waving with a hopeful grin on his face. I came in grabbed the brick from his hand and asked him what the hell he was thinking.
"Relax," he told me, cool as ice, given he had five inches and thirty pounds on me, "It's just your company phone. It don't cost you nothing. I just used it to call my aunt in Dallas."
Of course my company checked the records like a hawk given that the charge per minute for local calls were like 10 cents a minute and long distance was on top of that. I'd never made a long distance call on the thing. And told him all of this.
He got defensive and came back with a "don't whine" kind of comment.
I was really late for work at this point and turned to the door, saying, "Man, you'll never steal anything from me again. Seriously."
I turned back, foolishly like a kid who's resentful and now angered by his team-mate who has that scholarship and guaranteed chance on the team and who just caused him some serious problems at work and is now talking trash, and said, "You'll never steal from me again. Seriously."
He lunged at me and slammed me to the ground, throwing punches to the side of my head with his left fist (he'd always been easy to cover because he so favored his left so). I used the force of the landing to free myself from him and jump back up. He tackled me again and as we both threw punches back and forth as we wrestled on that horribly stiff carpet as Marlow and Charles came back in and broke us up.
I changed shirts and headed straight into the office where they were waiting for me to pick up a package to take to a downtown client. That drive in was a trip -- the adrenaline was still flowing and things moving in slow motion as they do when you've been pushed to the fundamentals of violence like that. My boss, a pretty 30-something divorcee who was very nice but didn't like her job because she didn't have a clear career path, saw me as I tried to sneak in and grab the package and head right back out. She could clearly see that I'd been in a tumble of some sort, as my eye was scratched and puffy.
I told her what had happened, and of course she felt horrible for me and was very nice and even sent me home early with pay before the day was over.
Tensions ran pretty high around the duplex after that, as you can imagine. The summer ended just a couple weeks later and me and UNM Coach, Dave Bliss parted ways...which only increased my resentment of course. I still can't bring myself to watch college basketball. And when I look back at that fight, which I do believe is my last one, though I did get suckerpunched a year later in the gym getting stitches in the lip and everything, I wonder about this quote from Yoda:
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
What is it I feared that day, that summer? Resentment and then theft leads to anger too. That doesn't sound quite wise enough for Yoda though, does it? And really, I have to say, there wasn't that much suffering out of that fight either, though neither of us looked or felt better.
And, yes, I lost the fight.
PS. I feel rusty, writing.