After Hakeem Olajuwon annihilated David Robinson in the Western Conference Finals, they sat in the Houston Rockets’ sauna together. Hakeem had invited David. He had something important to say. David wore a towel around his waist, because he was shy. Hakeem did not. Robert Horry stuck his head in. “Am I interrupting something?” he asked. Robert was so polite. “Yeah, it’s kind of private,” said Hakeem. Hakeem went on to say a number of important things, things of such a bewildering nature, David was stymied, once again. “Fuck it,” David said, getting up. He wanted to strangle Hakeem. David thought about it. Strangling Hakeem would only serve to increase Hakeem’s legend. It wasn’t worth it. Hakeem felt a lump in his throat as he watched David leave. Hakeem brimmed with a magisterial pity.
Meanwhile, David stopped eating and his physique shrank. He stopped going to movies and he gave up chess. He no longer sang in the shower. He had once loved singing in the shower, but not anymore. Not after Hakeem. There was a pre-Hakeem David and a post-Hakeem David. “I don’t like this post-Hakeem David,” David’s wife said. “In fact, I hate him."
Hakeem had destroyed him, except in David’s dreams. In his dreams, David had a normal life, things were the way they had been, pre-Hakeem. In his dreams, he played chess, he went to movies, he sang in the shower. He made dazzling moves in the paint, moves of such exquisite, painful beauty, the NBC camera was unable to capture them. David went on to have a number of these wonderful dreams, while Hakeem’s stature flourished, expanded and took over David’s waking life, until pre and post-Hakeem David were both totally, completely, and relentlessly obliterated.
Patty Yumi Cottrell is working on her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.