Maybe you don’t know why basketball was invented. Maybe you don’t know how many championships Michael Jordan won. Maybe you don’t know the geometry of a ball as it arcs towards a net. What you do know is how your father would always slow down when passing a game at the park, he’d stare at the players feet—how they moved across the concrete, the way they were planted in defense. Sometimes he’d say, that one doesn’t know anything about throwing up a block or that guy could hold for a charge. You won’t understand, but you’ll watch the players, too, for that moment, trying to take in the wisdom as if one day it will be worth something to someone, a currency only you are able to tender.

Your father used to play himself, but he rarely talks about it. That was college, just, haven’t done it since, he’ll say if you try to bring it up. You looked him up once, saw pictures of him young, in a jersey, hair much longer than you’d ever seen it, but you closed the tab. It felt like you were spying into a mirror version of your father. Not the one you had, not the one who did your hair for you when you were too small, not quick fingered enough to do it yourself, how you tapped your foot to keep from wincing when other people did it because they didn’t know not to pull, they didn’t know that it could be done with such gentleness.

Your mother left when you were a baby but it took years for almost anyone outside your family to know that. Adults at school would compliment your clothes and hair, your packed lunches with sandwiches cut into stars, and carefully cleaned fruit in its own compartment. It was always your father waiting at the gate for you, at the end of the day, three car lengths up, to give you room to separate out from your friends, to have that ten steps between school and car where you belonged to nothing and no one but yourself.

When you’re pushed to take a sport, because of your speed, your coordination, that a gym teacher spots, your father will tell you it’s up to you. You weigh the options in terms of each ones sounds: the way the crack of a baseball bat sounds like the hands of a giant clapping and how it snaps your eyes closed, the slide against grass on the soccer field itches in its whoosh, the way a basketball dribble sounds closest to music—the rhythm and snap of the ball from hand to floor and floor to hand. Your father listens to your reasons, closes his eyes when you talk about the sound of basketball, a slight smile on his lips. It always sounded like echoes to me, he said, but didn’t say more. You skipped joining a sport and he bought you a drum set, lessons, instead. You listened for the rhythm of stick to drum. You heard the ocean, the stars, the whole history of the universe in the sound.

Older, after college, at a job doing sound editing, you’ll sometimes bring mics when you go to visit your father. You’ll record him speaking, the sounds of his every day life, how he always tapped the coffee tin against the counter as he made it, the sound of his slippered feet against the floor. Once you asked him about basketball, but he started talking about music. Asked you how knew so much about sound.

When your father begins to forget, small things at first, then big things too, you watch the world pulling away from him. You come home one day and find him watching a basketball game, he points at the screen, says, look at the way he’s playing the triangle, its all wrong. So you sit down and watch with him, hear him explain all the ways the game might have went with slightly different players, slightly better movement. It’s all there is, he says, the movement on the floor. There’s no stillness there.

Eventually, your father remembers your name and his name, and sometimes the name of his nurses. Somedays he remembers his life and others there are just pieces scattered in a sea, post it notes of places he once knew. One day he looks at you and says, you know why I was so good at defense? And you shake your head, sitting down beside him, taking his hand so soft with age. I listened, he says, I just listened so damn hard. And you know what he means, you know how the sound can fill up everything when you pay attention, how it points you to where to go. But you don’t say it, don’t tell him, you just look at him and let his voice be the only thing you hear.

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Chloe N. Clark is the author of Collective Gravities, Your Strange Fortune, and more. Her next book, Escaping the Body, is forthcoming. She is co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph, can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes, and her one true basketball love will always be Rasheed Wallace.