When I was seventeen, a man approached me as I was shooting baskets outside the Dennis-Yarmouth High School on the Cape. It was midsummer and hot, and my family and I were staying at our cottage over in Dennis, about five miles away. I wanted to be in great shape and was even toying with the idea of starting on the Guilford basketball team the next season. Or maybe I could get to play every now and then. I was always on that fucking bench!
As I was dribbling around, I could feel the stare and could tell that I was being observed. But I couldn’t figure out who was doing it. I glanced around and then walked over to my car, my mother’s car, that same canary-yellow Mercury Lynx wagon I’d driven the summer before. I didn’t see anything so I walked back to the court and shot some more baskets. That’s when I turned again and watched a large man bike past about one hundred yards away. He eventually stopped in front of me.
I took a few steps back and put on my T-shirt. He looked to be in his fifties, very portly, and was wheezing. The bicycle was too small for him and had a little emerald basket that held a ruby T-shirt. He wore a tight, shiny blue wrestling uniform with one of the straps off his arms. His face was flushed, and beads of sweat collected on the blacktop at his feet. I couldn’t see what color his eyes were, but I thought, What the hell is this?
“How we doing today—shooting some hoops, huh?” he said.
“Yes, but I’m tired, going to be getting on my way,” I said.
He cleared his throat, tugged at his crotch, and dismounted from the bike. “You don’t know wrestlers around, do you? People who might be interested in getting pinned and grappling with me?”
I shook my head and picked up the basketball at my feet. “No—I’m not from around here,” I said. “Just a summer person.”
“What about yourself, son?” he said. “Son, just a moment, won’t you? Would you wrestle with me? Don’t be so rude—wouldn’t you like to do it now?”
I hopped in my car and took off as quickly as I could. When I came to the main road, I looked in the rear view. He was waving at me from his bike. You must do your best to never be by yourself, I scolded myself as I drove away. Bad things follow you around here.