Shark Baby

For a stretch of time, my dad and I would watch old movies in the middle of the night. Somewhere in my college years, I think, when we were both trusty night owls. My dad flips through channels slowly, in a way that makes you think, “possibly we will watch this channel until the TV dies.” 

C-Span, PBS symphonies performing atonal horrors, closed-circuit county courthouse footage, anything really, my dad gives it a full chance. 

“Let’s just see,” he will say. 

We’d entertain a few lame options before the late-night, black and white movies would show up on the higher numbers. 

We watched Rear Window this way. And The Bad Seed, which in retrospect, was not a good choice for 3AM because it is scary AF. 

And, of course, The Hustler

This was a few years after my dad had taught me how to play pool. Taught me and then we didn't keep up at it, so my skills were rough-hewn at best, though this didn't stop me from being fully invested in the movie’s plot-line as if it were my written destiny.  

I have always wanted to be good at pool. In the same way I want to be good at knowing about cars or playing poker, neither of which are things I can do in any way. 

To walk into a room, (looking like me and not Paul Newman obviously,) pick up a pool cue and just nail it? That’s a kind of power they make (one very iconic) movies about. 

Instead, I can awkwardly hold a pool cue while wondering where to grab it, sometimes not hit the lampshade with it, and most of the time I don’t miss the cue ball completely. 

Last night I only lost by three, almost all of the times I played. The other time I lost by like the whole set of solids. 

There’s a Donald Duck cartoon about the math involved in billiards, that I think I also watched in the middle of the night, where he pictures all the angles in his head before the shot and it breaks down how it bounces. It is simultaneously overwhelming and triggers some kind of challenge instinct in me, wherein I think if I could just turn my brain off enough, I would be able to have geometric visions and suddenly become the pool player I’ve always wanted to be. 

This, however, works less well than just aiming higher on the cue ball, or, as discovered last night, looking at the ball itself instead of staring off into the distance where you’re hoping it ends up. 

But, let’s just see. 

My dad is now more of a morning person, while I have remained a night one. It will be my birthday in exactly an hour and a half - nearly 3AM. I feel like it is no surprise that I am so drawn to the quiet and spaciousness of that hour. It is how I came into things.