“You must learn to control your anger,” said the withered old monk, who sat across from a man much taller and stronger than him.
“I understand, master,” replied Bobby Portis. “But it is hard. My emotions are too intense, and they don’t allow themselves to be bottled up within.” He remembered all the times in his life where his anger had gotten the best of him, how he almost relished the sensation of ceding control to the rage.
The monk’s voice could barely be heard above the howling winds which swirled around the remote Tibetan temple. “Through the power of meditation, your mind can be expanded to contain, and later disperse, these negative emotions.”
“Teach me,” Bobby said reverentially, leaning forward in submission. “I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore.”
The monk nodded once, slowly, in assent. His eyes were mere slits in his wrinkled face, but his thin smile gave away his pleasure at having a new understudy. “If you are happy to learn, I am happy to instruct. Let us begin the first lesson. Close your eyes, now, and let your mind enter a place of absolute calm…”
Bobby walked into the Bulls’ locker room feeling nothing but total serenity. In the days since he had returned from his pilgrimage to Tibet, his life had been marked by profound peace and unassailable positivity. Three or four times a day, he would find a quiet, dark spot, anywhere that reminded him of the inner recesses of the temple, and do his meditation. It allowed him to clear his mind of all that was negative in his life.
“Hey, Bobby’s back!” Robin Lopez said. “Coach said you went to find yourself in the mountains and learn Tae Kwon Do or something.”
“Yeah, it was about like that,” Bobby replied, smiling but not willing to go into more detail about the mind-altering spiritual experience he had just returned from.
“You do seem more…in control, or whatever,” Robin mused. “But you’ve still got those crazy eyes that make you look like you’re on the verge of snapping.” He made a gesture with his hands in front of his face to demonstrate how far Bobby’s eyes protruded from his face.
Denzel Valentine joined the coversation. “Yo, don’t make fun of him, remember what he did to Niko? He’s still in the hospital!” Denzel and Robin then re-enacted the post-practice fistfight between Bobby and Nikola Mortis by exchanging exaggerated blows. After a particularly devastating fake punch, Denzel dramatically flopped to the ground and yelled “Ow! You broke my face! You broke my face!”
Bobby could feel a slight annoyance creeping in to his mind, but he tried to push it away. His teammates were just taking part in some good-natured ribbing. There was nothing malicious about their actions, even if they were somewhat juvenile.
“Now I’m concussed forever!” Denzel wailed, rolling around on the floor of the locker room while Robin planted fake kicks to his forehead. He seemed to be taking Bobby’s placidity as an invitation to continue with the joke. “They’ll have to trade Bobby for sure because he’s such a maniac and loose cannon!”
Other teammates began to join in the laughter, emboldened by Bobby’s calm demeanor. “I’ll put you in the hospital, Niko!” Robin shouted gleefully, getting on his knees and throwing more fake punches into Denzel’s nose. “I’m an out-of-control madman who isn’t even good at basketball so I have to take it out on players who possess latent basketball talent!”
“Okay guys, that’s enough, we have to focus on the next game,” Bobby said quietly, sensing with unease that his anger was growing towards the tipping point that was so familiar to him.
“My face! My face!” Denzel wailed theatrically. “I may never play again! Bobby, you idiot!”
“I said, THAT’S ENOUGH!” Bobby roared, forgetting in a single instant all the teachings that he had internalized while in Tibet. Charging at the prone Denzel, Bobby jumped onto Denzel’s chest and raised his fist. “Maybe they’ll give you a room next to your pal Nikola while you recover from this,” he growled, his vision tunnelling from the rage.
The rest of the Bulls players stood frozen, not believing that they were witnessing another fight between teammates. Denzel himself immediately stopped his joking and stared wide-eyed at his attacker. It was only after Bobby’s fist was brought down in one crushing motion right into Denzel’s jaw that there was a reaction from the rest of the players. Bobby was pulled off Denzel and restrained by several pairs of hands, but the damage had been done: Denzel’s jaw was clearly caved in, and he was moaning in agony.
The monk had told him that, through meditation and strength of will, he could achieve anything he wanted. But Bobby knew that violence was a much easier means to that end.