One of the most profound moments in my life was found in silence. Or, rather, it was the silence itself.
Our school had just won the big game. With mere seconds left, Tommy hit the shot. A sea of blue and red clad fans flooded with the burst dam, encapsulating him in a bubble of euphoria carried on the waves. He was the sort of high you get when you are at the top of the world; your body exhausted to the point of collapse from exertion and running off pure painful adrenaline spikes and your mind beyond any capable thought aside from the singularity of nothingness and everything at once.
As reality set back down and students headed for home, Tommy remained on the court. Avid fan after game enjoyer after casual watcher shook his hand, patted him on the back, and felt themselves like doing such brought them closer to having been the star in that moment, a part of something larger than themselves. I had been in the back checking on our own supplies when I took note that the last person had left the gym--Tommy alone stood at the free throw line, the game ball in his hand, staring at the rim with a sense of loss about his being. He shuffled for a moment as though trying to grasp back time which had slipped away, before himself leaving and heading to his 95 busted pick-up truck and driving off campus with one headlight out, trying to drown thoughts with scratchy country music.
The silence that hung over him in those final seconds haunts me even still. He had been nothing short of a god in his own mind during those minutes; he had experienced an incredible high and been sent crashing back down to the icy reality of silence in quick turn. To have that enigma of fleeting glory come so unexpectedly and be tossed away never to be recovered in such a short span--this was perhaps more cruel than never having had the experience in the first place.
His story, that moment, resonates with me in the realm of travel. The thought that perhaps my years of working abroad, traveling, being high on the nomadic life are behind me, only to be viewed with a bitter nostalgia that bites with the ferocity of a thousand flames is terrifying. When I recall him looking back and realizing he was alone with nothing ahead of him except to repeat the same stories over and over to increasingly distant friends and family who care less and less with each retelling, it isn't always the 6'3 boy who stands on the court. Often, it's a shadow of myself that's left in his wake.