Tinnitus

Any rookie would tell you, the pressure or demands of the league can be intimidating. It's been a year since Derrick signed his professional basketball contract and he's having a hard time adjusting to the league.  BIX was designed to provide professional and personal direction, but what happens when you ignore the voice in your head and listen to the people talking in your ears.

The Morning Of
“Derrick, it’s 4am. Time for your morning workout.”

He slammed his hands against the pillow. It was another sleepless night and BIX was a rude awakening.

“Please floss this morning. From your latest dentist visit, your gum disease has gotten worse over the last few months.” The system was part of his contract. In fact all rookie professional basketball players were required to use it. The owners decided this would be extremely helpful in ‘directing’ their new players with the transition to the big leagues. The coaches, dietitians, managers, lawyers and publicists all had 24/7 access to him. Voicing their instructions right into his indestructible, waterproof, cutting edge ear implant. As much as he wanted to rip it out, it required surgery to remove and it would be a breach of contract that would send him to court.

“I know motherfucker. Don’t you know I know by now. You’ve been in my fucking head for almost a year now.” Derrick said with frustration.

The system wasn’t designed to interact with the players only provide guidance. Unlike the other implants recording his vitals, BIX’s input was created by his team of handlers. There were no user settings that he could change, he had to adjust his mind to handle it.

 

The Drive
“Derrick, it’s 1pm. Time for your protein drink. Your vitals are low. You need B12. Make sure you take the shot 2 hours before the game. You have to stop visiting that soul food shop. Fatback and collard greens are not a professional athlete’s diet. The saturated fat and sodium have your levels spiked.” BIX’s tone mirrored a Southern black mother. It was programmed that way to never change. The words coming from the key stakeholders were translated into that familiar voice, someone who would demand respect and instill a sense of urgency.

“Derrick, you’re driving too fast. We don’t want you getting a ticket after your last citation. Slow down or we’re going to cap the vehicle speed.” The lawyer and publicist would often talk as one.

“Your look is unusual. These high plaid shorts don’t match with that leather vest. This outfit is not trendy. I am making an appointment with a new stylist. We have to uphold a certain standard of professionalism on and off the court.”

“Fuck you. I wear what the fuck I want.” He spoke as if BIX would care or respond. His tone like a teenager full of angst.

Derrick pressed the auto drive button on his Bugatti, reclined his seat and leaned back while browsing his phone.

“Derrick, don’t get caught up with these THOTS. I’m going to recommend you disable your social media accounts as a high number of women are following and messaging you.”

“Fuck.” Derrick continued to browse the scantily clad women popping up on his timeline. “I hate this shit” , he whispered. There was a slight ringing in his ear.

The passenger seat was rotated to face the window. “Aye, aye, aye. Dam check this chick out. Crazy, stoopid thick.” His friend said while bouncing his shoulders to the beat of the music. The image of the buoyant buttocks bouncing individually in sync with the bass covered the entire passenger side LCD window.
His friend’s head twisted around. “You OK Derrick.”

“What did you say?“

“You good?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” he said while shaking his head attempting to get rid of the ringing. It would start and stop in rhythm with his friend’s talking.
“I don’t how you do it bro. Having somebody always in my ears would drive me crazy. You better than me, I know you can’t wait until you can renegotiate your contract.”

Derrick grabbed both sides of his head, fighting the sensation that he was falling. His balance was off and the ringing was constant now.  Then suddenly it went away. He opened his eyes to see his friend staring.

“Brah, you might need to see somebody. Did you hear what I said? Niggah ?”
“I’m good man. We good. I need to get to the stadium and I need to take my B12 shot,” Derrick said as if reading a script. “I’m just trying to make my mark on this league maaan. Start my legacy.”

“OK,” his friend said with doubt while enjoying videos playing on the touch screen.

 

The Warmup
“Derrick. The layups look extra today, stop will all that JELLY shit. Did you get enough quality sleep last night. You need to restrict your alcohol consumption and have less sex.” His workout coach wasn’t keen on Derrick’s robust sexual life. He felt it altered his mood and energy levels. The publicist agreed. They didn’t want any baby momma press ruining his brand at such an early stage.

“Run the triangle 3. Derrick, you play the key and set the back pick.” BIX spoke into his head routed from the coaches sitting in a remote location. He ran the play, but wasn’t able to get set in his position.

“Derrick, what the fuck are you doing?” BIX screamed in his ears.
He ran into a teammate knocking him down on the floor. Derrick attempted to help him up but his hand was swiftly swiped away.

“Dude, learn the fuckin’ plays before you come out here. ROOKIE. You need to prove yourself before you end up in the D league. You ain’t like me, you never gonna be me. Get that out of your head and focus. That BIX got your ass confused.” His teammate’s voice was loud and condescending.

The ringing in Derrick’s ear was loud this time and accompanied by indiscernible chatter; a cacophony of voices from his childhood, words from inadequate male figures.

“Move.” His teammate bumped through him, knocking Derrick back a few feet. Derrick swung reactively and hit him in the back of the head. Putting the 4th year star player in a chokehold. He tapped Derrick’s forearm to signal hat he was on the verge of passing out. The other players quickly came to his aid and untangled the two men.

“Derrick, sit on the bench and get yourself together. We can’t have this kind of erratic behavior. It’s undermining our sportsmanship and program ethics. Take five.” BIX was loud and clear.

A man came into the gym walking with intense energy directed toward Derrick. He grabbed him by the waist and guided him to the bench.
“What’s going on, you good?”

“Not really? This fucking thing is driving me crazy. I can’t fuckin’ think,” pointing to his ears.

“Listen, it’s part of the protocol coming from management. A mandatory part of the contract you signed. Remember, you’re in a position people would die for. This is a minor thing and most likely temporary. You should be able to negotiate a new contract pretty soon. BIX is made to help you learn the ropes and set a strong foundation for your career. I recommend you embrace it and take advantage of the advice.”

Derrick looked at the man, exuding all his pent up disgust. He gave his freedom away as soon as he signed on the dotted line. He realized he was dying slowly for the game.

“You need to go back out there and get in line. We want big numbers tonight; 25 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Get your shit together. Don’t make us regret our decision. DAM.”

He stormed away and Derrick walked back onto the court to finish the pregame warmups.

 

The Game
The coaches put him at forward to start the game. He needed to get a triple double today to ensure his worth and maintain his position. The other team was playing excellent defense. Stealing the ball several times from Derrick. Blocking his layups with ease.

“You not ready for this, bitch. Welcome to the league. Go sit your pussy ass down.” the defender mocked him while wiggling his tongue between two fingers.

The trash talk was on another level, when you’re one of the highly recruited and deemed as the second coming of Christ people want to take you down, especially the players who’ve been in your position. This level of trash talk was new to him, but he did all his talking with buckets. Was is all that mattered.

He aggressively took the ball up the court.

“Awh dam.” The crowd laughed, some covered their eyes as he broke his defenders ankle.

The defender buckled and fell to the ground in a semi split. Another defender stepped up but he was met with a crisp cross over that left him skating to the sidelines. Derrick saw a path to the hole, he took a quick first step and flew to the hoop. Dunking the ball with both hands. Hanging on the rim for punctuation. Staying focused on the game, he immediately came back on defense. He played D like a rookie trying to prove something. He anticipated the pass and positioned himself in-between; looking for the easy steal. The crowd stood up as he grabbed the ball and ran towards the goal. He stopped sharply at the 3 point line and let it fly. The ball hit the back of the rim bouncing out of bounds.

“Derrick, look for the open man. Stop shooting and pass you fucking selfish bastard.” Derrick paused on the court, processing the belligerent words coming from his coach on the sideline.

He shook his head and clenched his teeth from anger. The opposing team shot a brick and the rebound came straight to Derrick.

“Don’t fuck this up, make a layup,” BIX yelled into his ear as he dribbled down court slowly. Controlling the pace of the game. “Pass the ball. Pass the ball.” BIX repeated in his ear. Derrick passed the ball hastily under pressure from the voice blasting in his ear. The other team easily nicked the ball causing a turnover.
“What the fuck, you coon ass monkey. Should have just signed a baby gorilla out here.”

He paused like before, but something clicked inside of him. Realizing that there was a real person on the other end spouting racial slurs into his required earpiece, he ran to the bench. Sprinting in the opposite direction of the players.

“Derrick. Pass the ball. Derrick stop shooting. You’re off today, you’re on fire. Fucking pass the ball.” Derrick chanted while pressing the larynx of the coach. His freakish hands covered his whole neck, squeezing the soul of out him. He zoned out. The players grabbed his arms causing the coach’s body to hit the maple with a thud. The other staff members ran over but it was too late. They performed CPR with no success as Derrick stood frozen in a trance. He only heard a jumble of words coming from the publicist, psychologist and lawyer all talking at once.

The coach’s empty eyes stared into nothing with his mouth agape. A mixture of saliva and blood splattered on his neck and button up. His body lay on the hardwood floor, still like 4am Sunday. Derrick’s fingernail reached inside his ears and pulled out the earpiece along with flesh and blood. He instantly fell to the ground in pain. The ringing in his ears was unbearable, setting his nerves on fire. Then everything went black.

 

The Cell
“Inmate 502101, lay on the ground. Hands behind your head. You know the routine,” the CO said unimpressed by the ex NBA player.

“Pass the ball, smile for the paparazzi, don’t fuck her, chew 33 times, sit, stand, kneel, NOW.”

Derrick was spewing out remnants from the system of voices that overshadowed his thoughts and clouded his mind while following the CO’s instructions. Now he was locked up like a manimal. Caught up in the system for 15 years. Systems that were said to help society had failed his 6’10”, college educated, Gucci pants wearing, Maybach driving black ass two times over.


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