NYAH: “I had fun.”
Joshua looked at me, and then he reached out and held my hand. We walked to the front of his car, and he lifted me atop the hood. I lay there, next to Joshua, watching the blanket of stars as they wink at us. “I had fun too,” he said after a very long while. He then lapsed into another episode of silence, which made me think as if he was brooding over something important.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, and he shook his head, his eyes on the stars. I moved closer to him and placed my hand on his chest, directly above his heart, feeling how it thumped against my fingers. He moved so that I was making a pillow out of his shoulder.
Joshua let out a heavy sigh. “I have always wanted to become a great basketball player, Nyah,” he said, his voice sounding serious all of a sudden. This is the first time I am treated to this kind of Joshua, and I will contemplate later on if I like this side of him. “You have the means and the talent to become one, Josh,” I whispered, and he forced a smile.
“How come Mom never sees that?” he asked me, and I was dumbfounded. “I saw you,” Joshua said, “when we were down by ten. Your hands were clasped together as if you were praying. You had faith, Nyah, and I saw how much you enjoyed the game. You were watching us, cheering at every point scored, booing at the refs’ bad calls, smiling whenever I made a nice offensive or defensive play. But when I looked at Mom, she had that stern face on, as if whatever I do it won’t be good enough. As if scoring 30 points a night won’t ever be okay for her.”
“Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood—”
“Nyah, you have to see my mom every time she watches games to know that this isn’t something new. She actually pulled me aside before they left to leave us to watch the seniors’ game just to tell me that I should have taken those two shots that I had dished out, and that I should have been more aggressive.”
I sighed. “Why is she acting this way, anyway?” I asked, hoping Joshua would fill in the gaps. He finally looked at me. “Mom wants me to be someone. She wants me to be better than Dad,” he said pointedly. I frowned. Be better than Dad?
“Ryan? Why does she want you to be better than Ryan?” I asked, confused. He smiled bitterly. “Ryan isn’t my biological father. He is Mom’s husband, yes, and I am carrying his name because he has adopted me and has stood up for my father ever since I was born, but he isn’t my father. I like Ryan, sure, and he loves my mother ever since they were kids, but he’s not my real dad.”
“Who is the real dad then?”
Joshua turned towards me, perching his head on his elbow. “My biological father is Patrick Woods.”
I cussed. “No shit? He’s your dad?” I said loudly. Every basketball fan in the entire world would know Patrick Woods. Aside from the fact that he is Mom’s favorite foreign basketball player, he is the greatest player the sport has ever known—aside from Michael Jordan and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, that is. He had made shots that were deemed impossible and made some in the smallest of time fractions, and had revolutionized the way of dribbling the ball and shooting it. He has made the most spectacular passes that even the most skilled player born today hasn’t ever done. Patrick Woods is the man who is art in action—every shot he makes, every steal, every rebound was just gloriously like art.
And what is amusing is that he is still playing in the National Basketball Association at thirty-three, now almost two decades of playing ball, wowing the crowds, and sharing his art to the people all over the world.
That was when it dawned unto me that Joshua had taken up after his father: the hair, the skin, the stance… even the way he shoots the ball and handles it.
“He and Mom had me pretty early—way early. They were just fourteen. Dad was making a career for himself, and he forgot about me and Mom the moment he left to play high school ball. I had never heard from him ever since—like I said, I grew up to Ryan playing the role of my father even when she and Mom weren’t even married yet. Mom wanted me to make a name for myself so that Dad would recognize me and own up to me. But seriously, I wanted to become a great basketball player not just because I wanted to prove something to my biological dad. I want to become a great player and to be remembered for it because I love the sport so much, and I want to be able to inspire people into thinking that they can do what I do themselves and be someone else. I want to inspire people, and not just play the game for the heck of it,” Joshua shared.
I was still silent, still not getting over the fact that hey, I am talking to the son of one of the greatest basketball players in the world.
I told myself to get back into the moment and be the person that Joshua really needs right now: his friend.
“How many people actually know you’re Patrick Woods’ son?” I asked, and he shrugged. “He’s the father that was listed in my birth certificate, so maybe my school and coaching staff knows. I barely hear about it, though, because I feel they partly wonder why I am here and not where my dad is,” Joshua shared.
“You know,” I said, squeezing his hand in mine, and he squeezed back, his grip warm and tight, “you should tell your mom how you really feel. She might go on believing that you’re playing basketball to be recognized as Woods’ son, you know? That you have the same motivations. You must tell her that you do this because you love the game, and playing it is your passion.”
Joshua turned to look at me, his eyes unfathomable, and then he raised our clasped hands and kissed my hand. “She doesn’t like me,” I said after a while, feeling the warmth of Joshua’s breath on my hand. “If it helps, she didn’t like any of the girls I had taken to meet her. She thinks they’re all distractions. So maybe that’s what she’s thinking about you too,” he offered, and I smiled bitterly.
“So how many have you taken to meet your parents?” I asked, and Joshua laughed. He paused when his laughter died down and then said, “I knew there’s some jealous bone in your body somewhere.” When I gave him a sharp look, he answered my question. “Three? Just you, Chloe, and Celine, my first girlfriend. Chloe and Celine were the serious relationships.”
“You’re betting I will be a serious relationship, huh?”
“I am hoping—not betting. For some reason, there might be a very good chance if I hope and not bet when it’s love we’re talking about,” he said, and when I looked into his eyes, I got lost in them again, just like before. “Nyah, I love you. I wanted to say that for a long time already. And I am willing to wait. No matter how long it takes for you to heal from your broken past. I love you, and I just want you to know that.”
I felt the intensity of whatever he was saying in his voice, and I almost melted. I moved in closer and hugged him. “Thanks for telling me how you feel, Joshua,” I whispered. “And even though I may not feel the same way for you right now, I promise to be here for you whenever you need me, okay?”
He kissed me on the hair and nodded. “I’m here for you whether you need me or not,” he said, and I smiled. I looked up at the stars, knowing that in somehow, some way, the heavens have given me the answer to what I actually had wished for a long time ago.