Taj Gibson walked to his locker after the game and felt his heart immediately drop.
His stuff had been gone through. The contents of his bag were strewn in the immediate area, but there was one thing he didn’t immediately see among the assortment of empty energy bar wrappers, crusty old socks, and fast-food receipts: his private notebook. He looked quickly around at his teammates to see if any of them was the culprit, and soon his eyes fell on Karl-Anthony Towns, who was holding the notebook, with its distinctive magenta floral-print cover, in his hands and reading it with growing delight.
Before Taj could confront him, Karl-Anthony stood up and tried to get the team’s attention. “Hey everybody! I just found Taj’s diary! Listen to this!”
As the rest of his teammates quieted down to listen, Taj was too mortified by the prospect of his deepest feelings being disclosed to the world to do anything but sit frozen.
“Taj has got this obsession with one of the cheerleaders,” Karl-Anthony continued. “Brianna must be her name based on all these crappy poems he’s written for her. Here’s the latest one:
‘You are the twinkling star in my night,
There has never been a pairing so right
As the eternal unity of you and I,
Or the locking gaze of our eyes
For you I will cater and care
No love from my heart will I spare
The purest stream, the brightest glade
My love for you shall never fade
Brianna, you are my only, my one
Like luxurious wool that was spun
Into finest silk, that is your hair
Which complements a complexion so fair
Please read these words and believe
That my love pours as if through a sieve
Into your outstretched palms to collect
And drink of, so our souls do connect.'”
Karl-Anthony read this poem with an exaggerated romantic voice which caused his teammates to whoop and holler in laughter as it finished. Meanwhile, Taj had his head in his hands, knowing that he was being stared at and mocked by the rest of the Wolves roster and even some of the Wolves coaches. He only looked up when he heard the rustling sound of the notebook being replaced in his bag.
“I don’t think she’ll need to see that poem anyway,” Karl-Anthony announced. “Because I’ve been banging Brianna for the past three weeks! Sorry bro!”
Taj could feel his face burning in sick shame as laughter again filled the room. Unbidden, visions came to his mind of his beautiful Brianna getting defiled by…he couldn’t continue with that terrible anti-fantasy. There were tears in his eyes, and he turned away from his teammates to hide them. He silently sat there for an untold amount of time, still wearing his game jersey as his teammates moved on to other topics and, one-by-one, left.
He was caught off-guard by a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Cole Aldrich’s apologetic face. Thinking he was about to receive some sympathy or friendship from his fellow big man, Taj smiled.
“Sorry, man. I banged her too. I thought you should know,” Cole said softly, wearing a pained expression. Then, with no further words, he, too, left.
Once he was finally alone, Taj allowed the bitter tears to pour out of him in earnest.