Get-together yesterday


- The sharp staccato clacks of stiletto boots on polished tile - The animated chatter of friends long not met - The buzz of a crowded mall even on a Monday afternoon - The clatter of pins knocked down by a bowling ball inexpertly sent down the lane; more often, though, the steady rolling that accompanies a gutter ball - The blare of an arcade basketball machine counting down the seconds, the clang of balls bouncing off the rim, the swish of a rimless throw, the indistinct blur of points and misses lost in the intensity of the game - A quick, friendly "You're good" mumbled by an onlooker - The rustling of a crowd gathered around the Dance Maniax game - The whoosh of the MRT on the commute home


Sweat trails down my forehead as I start my fourth game of arcade basketball. I'm slowly figuring out a technique: how and when to breathe, how to spin the ball to dispel the excess force I put in due to excitement, how to adjust my direction or velocity. The rewarding swish of several consecutive baskets thrills me. For a confirmed computer science geek who was never fond of basketball in school, this is a discovery - I may not have been as bad at hand-eye coordination as I thought.

Breathe. Ignore form. Ignore time. Nothing exists but this ball and the basket. I don't need to impress anyone by jumping or twisting or pitching the ball with a certain style; I just need to relax, breathe, and let the ball go. Slow down. Better to have a few balls go in than have many attempts fail. Learn control. As I become accustomed to the game I will be able to go faster. Till then, better to learn how to control the ball.

I go to the arcades for physical exercise. Dance Dance Revolution for agility: this gives my feet a workout I can't match elsewhere. Dance Maniax for fun and for more coordination: buffering future moves. Basketball is a recent addition, discovered recently when I saw Eric playing and - competitive streak! - I challenged him.

One of the most euphoric moments I had was right after a particularly strenuous DDR and basketball session. I was so tired, I found it only natural to speak slowly and in a low voice - although I shifted into a childishly high voice from time to time. That was fun. I felt profoundly relaxed.