I reached the door of my car as Kristen, our trainer, honked her horn on the way out of the parking lot. I acted like I was inserting the key into the door and watched as her taillights disappeared down the road. Once I was sure she was gone, I turned around and walked back into the arena. I dropped my book bag onto the carpet in the locker room and belly-flopped onto the black leather couch. I stayed like that for a few seconds, as if I’d been shot in the back and fell where I landed, then flipped myself over and stared up into the darkness, waiting for my eyes to adjust. The room gradually began to take shape; first, the framed pictures hanging over my head, featuring our basketball program’s best teams; then, the outline of the dozen stools, sitting like little chess pieces in front of our lockers; and finally, the plush CU emblem emblazoned in the middle of the carpet. I laced my fingers behind my head and began thinking.
Be Gay. Or Be Christian.
If I was gay, I would become an outcast, someone to be whispered about. Just that fall I had hosted a recruit, a guard we really wanted to come play at Colorado. She was on her official visit to campus, and Coach Barry had put me in charge of her for the weekend, to introduce her to the team, answer her questions, make her fall in love with the Colorado Buffaloes. On the final day of her visit, I had joined the coaching staff as they gave the player and her mother a tour of the Coors Events Center. At one point, the coaches excused themselves—they were going to program the scoreboard to announce the player’s name and number—and the recruit lifted a ball off the rack and walked onto the court, dribbling. I found myself sitting alone on the bench with her mother.
“I have a question,” the woman said, clutching her purse tightly to her chest. She looked around to make sure no one else was in earshot.
“Anything,” I said, because I really thought I could answer anything.
She leaned into me and said, “The other teams recruiting my daughter have mentioned that CU might be hiding a dirty little secret . . .”
“Okay,” I prompted her, as she had trailed off, apparently thinking I was on the same wavelength as her, which I was not.
She leaned in closer, and I could see the exact shape of her earrings: They were small crosses, with a shiny little aqua jewel at the center of each one. “I’m asking if there are any dykes on the coaching staff,” she said. “I don’t want my daughter coming to a school run by dykes.”
I instinctively leaned back, against the cushioned chair, as if I had just played the most exhausting game of my life. “Wow,” I said.
She appeared anxious for my response.
“All I can tell you is that the coaching staff here is amazing,” I said. “They are disciplined and professional, and they care about each of us.”
She waved her hand, pushing my words aside. “But there are no men on the staff,” she said, incredulous, like she had uncovered a damning clue, the smoking gun, the bloody knife. “Not one.”
I had not thought of this before, that No Men might be an important fact to some people. To me, it meant we had four extremely qualified women coaching us, all of whom had played Division I basketball. To this mother, it meant that our coaches must hate men, and that they probably wanted to turn all of us players into disgusting, man-hating lesbians, too.
“Our staff is awesome,” I said, which really wasn’t answering her question about why we didn’t have any men. I shrugged. “If I had to do it all over again, I would choose Colorado again.”
She leaned back now, unsatisfied, still clutching her pocketbook tightly. The coaches appeared from around the corner a few seconds later, all of them pointing up at the scoreboard to show this woman what it would look and sound like if her daughter’s name was announced in the starting lineup.
As I was lying atop that black leather couch in the locker room, I also pictured Cass and allowed myself to feel the excitement that ignited my senses whenever the thought of her entered my mind.
Or be Christian.
I draped my hand over the side of the couch and rummaged through my backpack. I pulled out my leather Bible and held it with both hands, lifting it up in front of me as if it were Baby Simba. Then I rested it on my chest. If God wanted me to reject myself, he would need to do something spectacular to make his wishes for me known.
I fell asleep a few minutes later.