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reaching for rachel
more personification for your nation
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)
6.24.03
sports


I was in the fifth grade when I first met Rachel, and it was not love at first sight. I remember hanging out with her because all my friends were enamored with her, as was my older cousin Orlando, who was like my big brother, and because I thought it might impress Kristin Carter, who was the most beautiful 6th grader in the world. I tried my hardest to get Rachel to like me, but she dissed my friends and I hard that year. We barely spoke for a year, to the point that when we met up again in 7th grade, it was like we were meeting for the first time. I didn't have much to offer her then, but she kept me around because she thought I had potential.

By the time I hit freshman year, we had become much closer. Rachel responded to my determination, to my inability to let my limitations keep me from winning her heart. She told me we needed space, so my Dad cemented the backyard, and she was there all the time. And once my friends knew that Rachel was at my house, they were there all the time as well. It's because of Rachel that my backyard was the center of my neighborhood from the time I was in 8th grade until my sophomore year of college. And it was through her that I gained many friends that I might not have known otherwise. There was no greater joy for us than exploring the endless limits of her world, always learning something more about ourselves in the process. When I saw how my boys treated Rachel - to the point where I knew what they were going to do before they did - it gave me so much more insight as to who they really were.

After 9th grade, Rachel told me I was going to have to make some changes if I was going to be the one for her. She said I'd have to grow, which I thankfully did in the form of three inches that summer. She demanded more of my time, which I was more than glad to give because she was so cool to have by my side. When my first girlfriend dumped me suddenly, Rachel was the only person I could go to. When Magic announced he had HIV and would have to retire, she cried on my shoulder. She was the one who told me that Reggie Lewis had died, that Drazen Petrovic had been killed in a car wreck. As a matter of fact, I was chilling with her when O.J. and Al decided to flee. When my parents started arguing, Rachel told me to go outside, where she'd always be waiting. By the time we parted ways, my parents had smoothed things over.

By 10th grade, we were inseparable. I took Rachel to school, to the barbershop, got my hair cut at her suggestion, put pictures of her in my locker. Me and my boy Reshard were the starting JV backcourt that year and we called ourselves "Thrill & Chill", "Fire & Ice", "May Day" and any other cliched early 90s era nickname we could think of to announce our undying love for her. That summer, I went to work for her in the hot, humid Ohio sun. I opened up my backyard from noon till dark all those blistering days as various cohorts came in and out: Octavius, Cat Eyes, Toby, Blackbird, Slim, Ramon, Buck, Emil - it's amazing in retrospect how many of Rachel's admirers sounded like comic book characters. Everyone was into MJ, but I was a Reggie Miller and Joe Dumars fan, so that's whose professionalism I came at her with. (Why be like Mike when you can be like the people who antagonize and irritate him?)

Right before my junior year, Rachel told me that she loved me. She said that she appreciated the time that I had spent with her, the sacrifices I had made and that this would be the year that we could proclaim our feelings to the world. The long time that she'd spent with me had paid off. My body had now caught up with my mind and surpassed it. I was doing borderline Pistol Pete moves on the court - moves I had practiced all summer to please her now were coming as a reflex in real situations. Rachel and I had big plans: I was going to grow a few more inches, take Syracuse to the Final Four, then replace Joe D. in Detroit. It was set, we just had to get her pop's permission. Her pops said yes, but when it came time to seal the deal, he told me to stay on the bench.

He let other classmates court her, some were qualified, and some of them weren't. But we all wanted her. Hell, everyone wanted Rachel. Some because we genuinely loved her, and others because they knew she'd be a nice trophy to put on the mantel place, next to the others. Folks started whispering in my ear, bragging about how they were misusing her, disrespecting her, neglecting her. When I stepped up for my chance to try to right things, she looked worn out and tired. She treated me like we had never been cool. She even mentioned suicide once. We tried to make love a few times but neither of us was into it. The rhythm was all off. Each of us was lost.

I stopped loving her, began resenting how she betrayed me. That summer, the backyard was open and she'd drop by, but it was more because people kept expecting it, not because our hearts were really in it anymore. My senior year, her pops tried to make nice and let me spend more minutes with her. Rachel and I tried to patch things up, we even had a child called Honorable Mention All-Conference. But by then, Wendy had caught my attention and Wendy told me to stop fighting nature: to go with my choicest prose as opposed to my chest pass.

In college, I began to see Rachel for who she really was, because for the first time, my primary access to her was from afar. She had always been popular but now I mostly saw her through television, magazines, and arguments about her amongst my fellow co-eds. That was when I learned to let the bitterness over how her pops treated me go and appreciate the good times we'd shared. When I graduated and moved to Los Angeles, she was already there, superstar that she was. It was awkward being around her for the first few years because it's hard to see someone sporadically that you once loved daily. She looks better than she has in years though she still has her problems. She lets greediness cloud her decision-making process and still keeps trying to date all these young boys fresh out of high school, who aren't as smart as her and don't respect her. But, like I said, I love Rachel for who she is, not for what I want her to be. And as I get older I've learned that's the only way to love somebody.

We are friends again. Some Saturdays, we go up to Rogers Park in Inglewood or Dearborn Park in Northridge to see what's new. Everytime I turn on a TV, I'm looking to see if she's on. My fiancee's even getting into her, though that's still an uphill battle. She'll always be taken care of and it looks like she's in good hands, with her sons doing as well as they have. Kobe, T-Mac, Shaq, AI, KG, Dirk, GP, J. Kidd, please please take care of your mother Rachel, she's been so good to us all. For all the times that she's broken our hearts, she's given us twice as much joy.

And that's why I still love her.


ABOUT JASON GILMORE

Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

more about jason gilmore

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COMMENTS

michelle von euw
6.19.03 @ 9:39a

Everyone was into MJ, but I was a Reggie Miller and Joe Dumars fan

Aw, yeah. I was a KJ fan myself -- the '93 finals were tough times for me.

jeffrey walker
6.24.03 @ 4:12p

There was a girl named Erica, whom I first started lusting after on the bus in 7th grade. We kept running into each other in my first high school high school (until I was asked to leave), in college (where we lived in the same dorm for 1 year), and finally post-college life where I was able to get her to date me and move in for a few months in 1998. Time from lust initiation to getting her naked: 11 years.

Turned out we weren't as compatible as I had thought. But it was fun while it lasted.

[edited]

tracey kelley
6.27.03 @ 3:01a

In my early 20s, I had, um, a, um, liasion with a guy I had a massive crush on in junior high.

Imagine my disappointment when it wasn't all that. In fact, it was less than all that. Worse even.

He seemed so studly, walking the halls in his Rush t-shirts and tight Levi's and dashing little smile. I always thought he was out of my league.

Funny how things change.



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