The good-looking one, the one in need, the one that almost was
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Ross Gay is the author of four books, most recently the essay collection The Book of Delights. His book of poetry Be Holding is forthcoming in September. He teaches at Indiana University Bloomington.
Dear Ross: How can you miss on purpose? If I’m late getting back on defense, you’ll bounce the ball off the bottom of the rim and catch the “rebound” for a point. Alone under the basket. Missing.
Dear Noah: Bouncing the ball off the bottom of the rim is, as you say, a poorly missed shot, but also a perfectly missed one, because it results in a point in our game, which means it’s a way for me to stay on the court. If there were a way I could stay on the court without cheating — without those perfectly, beautifully missed shots — believe me, I would do it.
Among the more concrete ramifications of this corruption of the imagination is that when the police suspect a black man or boy of having a gun, he becomes murderable: Murderable despite having earned advanced degrees or bought a cute house or written a couple of books of poetry. Murderable whether he’s an unarmed adult or a child riding a bike in the opposite direction. Murderable in the doorways of our houses.