Friday, November 09, 2007

My losing season

Leave it to Pat Conroy to be able to sear into my soul, penetrate that part of me nobody sees, expose my hurts and fears, force me to be honest with myself.

Didn't go to the UT opener tonight. Didn't feel well. Came home from work, curled up in the easy chair, and slept.

I did watch the game. The Vols look good, even if Chris Lofton didn't. It's going to be a fun year. Temple has a couple of players that are darn good, I'll tell you that.

Anyway. Enough of that. I didn't come here to talk hoops.

Watching that basketball game tonight reminded me of a Pat Conroy book I read a few years ago, back during one of the worst bouts of the Black Dog I've ever experienced. Called "My Losing Season," the book chronicles Conroy's senior year at The Citadel, when youthful dreams of basketball glory gave way to the stark realization that this shy, insecure boy was destined to become a writer.

It isn't as good as Conroy's masterpiece, "The Lords of Discipline," but it's pretty darn near wonderful. If you love sports books, or basketball, or reading a wordsmith at the top of his game, run don't walk to Amazon or some such place and find a copy of "My Losing Season."

Conroy says he's haunted by the boy he used to be. And, in a lot of ways, one can relate. To this day, I can't pass by a group of people and hear a gaggle of laughter without wondering if it's me they tease. I watch baseball on TV and remember a forgotten summer at the community park. Every time I gaze at a photograph of a woman I loved and lost, I'm back there, too. Isn't that silly?

But look at it like this -- if I'd gotten the girl and been able to hit a curve ball, I wouldn't be a writer, would never have gone to work for a newspaper. I know that just as sure as I know the sky is blue. Happy people don't write. They raise a family or make money or attempt something normal.

I get irritated at Conroy because I think he keeps writing the same book over and over. Dad was bad. Dad beat boy and mom and siblings. Boy gets pissed. Boy goes nuts. Charleston looks beautiful in the moonlight. Yada, yada, yada...

But he writes so well and with such honesty; that makes the nervous breakdown that is reading one of his novels worth the arduous journey. I'm remembering a poignant moment in "Lords of Discipline" involving an envelope of broken sea shells and am having to fight this strange wet sensation around my eyes. Read that book, too, by the way, if you've never gotten around to it.

I remember where I was and what I was doing a year ago tonight. And I miss that girl more than a thousand words could ever tell and a lifetime of trying will never forget. Why do we forever love the ones that got away, or never were quite in one's grasp?

I don't know, but I suspect that the answers lies with that shy, awkward little boy -- be his name Conroy or Mabe or whatever.

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