How long has it been? Every footstep, every breath echoes in the empty gym. I step to the line, lift the leather sphere, the familiar heft, the firm dimpled skin. A few quick dribbles, the pulse attuned and finally the ball still in my hands, fingertips resting on the black meridians, an easy stance, a flex to the knees, breathe out, draw in one slow clean breath - And then, cradling the ball on my right palm, steadying it with my left, I raise it higher, higher chest, shoulder, head, above - And as the knees dip and spring, the arm surges, the wrist snaps up and out and the ball rolls crisply back, palm to fingers to fingertips' release - And there it is, rising like a sun, morning, breaking the horizon, arcing higher, noon, ascending toward the crest, then cascading down like evening, the orange sun sets through the white cloud of the net, with no more than a whisper - And the day is complete. Day after day after ten thousand days, each like the last or the first, the practice, the touch, the dream of perfection - But this was the best.

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