From that day forward, thoughts of the dunk club consumed more and more of Greg’s thoughts. The hardest part wasn’t the idea that he was taking part in an illegal activity; no, the hardest part was taking part in something so meaningful, so invigorating, yet not being able to share it with the people he was close to. All his buddies from the courts, from work, from school…none of them could know.
But getting to that run-down old gym in the poor sector of the city was a challenge. Greg was well aware of how easy it was to arouse governmental suspicion, how even the smallest deviation in expected patterns would raise red flags that were impossible to shed. He worked for that unit.
It had never previously bothered him that he was helping the government pry into the populace’s private lives, because it had never occurred to him that anything done in private would be something that was a worthwhile activity in the first place. He could feel the disillusionment growing, slowly and steadily, but it was tempered by the fact that the arrests he initiated through his surveillance were always for serious crimes; so-called “culture crimes”, such as listening to banned music, were rare and seldom-prosecuted simply because those aspects of the culture had been suppressed to the point where the average citizen didn’t remember that they had ever existed.
It was another two weeks before Greg could come up with a suitable excuse to give to his wife. He told her that their apartment’s TV receptor unit had a faulty codec transcoder, and that it would be cheaper to take the device to a specialist in a different sector than have a repairman sent out. His wife, who was technologically ignorant but always eager to save money for meaningless status purchases, agreed to his suggestion without argument.
After a thirty-minute bus ride which seemed to take twice as long due to Greg’s paranoia at being recognized, he was once again in the alley adjacent to the dilapidated gymnasium. After giving that week’s password, “Half Man Half Amazing,” he entered the familiar gym; now that his presence was commonplace, his entry did not prompt much reaction.
Subconsciously, he looked around to see if that reporter from last time was around. There was something about her that was compelling. Maybe they way she stared intently at the athletes through her glasses. Or the way she studiously scribbled longhand notes in a yellow legal pad, brushing strands of hair out of her face with distracted annoyance. He spotted her sitting in one of the front rows of bleachers, and felt compelled to sit next to her, even though they had not so much as exchanged words on the last occasion. If she was going to get their story, he might as well get hers, right?
“Hey”, he said lightly, sitting down next to the woman. “You’re Emma, right? I heard you’re writing about these guys.”
Emma looked at him quizzically. “I am, but it’s odd that you don’t seem to count yourself among them.”
“Oh, I’ve only been here a few times, and I can’t dunk yet,” he replied, as the sound of a softly-popping rim and a swell of subdued, but heartfelt, whooping drew his eyes to the court. “I don’t know if I’ll ever do what these guys do.”
“And your name is…?” Emma asked, quickly jotting down a note.
He had to stop himself from giving his full name, as he was used to in the very formal setting of his workplace. “Greg.”
“The dynamic of this place is so interesting,” Emma said. “You would never find anything like it…” She gestured vaguely towards the grimy windows that were above them. “…Out there. Everything’s too controlled. It’s too restricted.” Then she smiled. “But none of you men care about the philosophy of it. You’re just playing your sport the way you want to play it.”
Emma’s words echoed some of the thoughts that Greg had been having for the past few weeks. “I guess it’s something exciting, you know,” he said, wistfully looking around at the decaying, old, but still beautiful, structure. When he turned back to address Emma, she hurriedly looked down and began writing more notes. “I think we all need a little bit of risk, a little bit of adventure in our lives.” He realized that it felt good to talk about his feelings honestly with somebody that would take them seriously. It was almost like therapy.
Judging by how fast her pencil was moving, his words were making it to her page verbatim, or close to it. This observation brought another question to Greg’s mind. “What are you writing for, anyway? There’s no way to publish something like this, not even if you marketed it as fiction.”
Emma looked at him in the eye. “Maybe, someday, the world will be different, and it will be these exact things which need to be looked back on, to remind us of the folly of tyranny.”
Greg was saved from having to give a response by J.D.’s beckoning voice. “Hey Greg, we wanna see if you can at least throw an oop!” Greg walked over smiling, but his thoughts were a hundred miles away.