The lights over the top of San Antonio’s AT&T Center parking lot hummed as the silver Toyota Tundra crawled and screeched along, zig-zagging toward the street exit. Inside the cab of the truck, dealing with what had just happened, were Matt Bonner and Stephen Jackson.
Popovich had sat the team down a couple weeks prior to tonight and told them he’d be pairing them off with people they didn’t normally hang out with. Their instructions were simple and plain: bond.
Bonner had been in charge of planning the evening’s festivities.
After a quiet dinner at El Chico’s, they headed to the Coldplay concert.
Jackson had been unsure, asking Bonner, “This ain’t like that Radio Bread trash Brent Barry used to be listening to, is it?”
“Radio Bread?” Bonner had asked with a laugh, “I think you mean Radiohead. And no. This isn’t anything like Radiohead.”
The concert was over now. Horns honked and concert goers shouted and guys in jeans with designs on the back pockets and flip flops sang “Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry” loud enough so girls walking a few feet away could hear them.
Bonner and Jackson sat in silence, not wanting to speak for fear of ruining the moment.
The air conditioner was on high and a group of girls walked by and giggled when they realized who was in the truck.
The silence got too loud. Jackson’s knee was bouncing and Bonner popped his neck. Jackson couldn’t take it anymore. He had to say something.
“Yo, Matt, I ain’t even gonna front,” said Stephen Jackson, “That was incredible.”
Bonner held the wheel in his right hand and finished off a bottle of Cherry Coke with his left. He nodded as Jackson spoke.
“I told you,” said Bonner.
“What’s up with that one joint they was playing when they was dropping those big yellow balls filled with lights?” asked Jackson.
“Yellow,” said Bonner.
“Makes sense,” said Jackson, “I’m saying, Bon Bon, that stuff made me feel a way I haven’t felt before.”
During Yellow Jackson had become emotional. They had box seats and the rest in the box were standing. He had been standing with for the whole concert. During Clocks he had even began jumping. He pulled out his phone and waived it back and forth over his head.
But Yellow awakened something in him. He was overcome. He had to sit down.
When Chris Martin sang, “You know I love you so”, Jackson had to excuse himself. Bonner stopped him on his way out and asked him where he was going. Jackson turned around and Bonner saw the tears. Jackson didn’t bother wiping them because sometimes men, even captains, cry.
Jackson looked at Bonner. Then the stage. Then the ground. Then he stared Bonner in the eyes. Bonner could see Jackson was holding his phone.
“I gotta go call my girl, man,” said Jackson.
Bonner let him go.
He hadn’t asked him how the conversation had gone and now, in the truck, his knee continually bouncing and him readjusting in his seat and checking his phone, he could tell that Jackson wanted to talk about it but didn’t know how to.
“Hey man, I know it’s none of my business, but how’d the call to your girl go?” Bonner asked.
Jackson’s knee stopped bouncing and he looked at Bonner for a second. Then he looked back out the window.
“Honestly, Matt, just had to tell her what’s real,” said Jackson, “That I love her. People don’t be doing that enough.”
The traffic was moving with greater ease now and they were close to the exit of the lot. The volume on the talk radio emanating from the speakers inside the cab of the vehicle had been loud enough to hear. Bonner turned the volume down to zero.
He let Jackson go on.
“You know that last song they played? The one about lights and guiding dudes home?”
Bonner pulled the truck out into the street and pressed the gas and the glow of the street lights faded in and faded out and faded in again above them.
“Yea,” said Bonner, “What about it?”
Jackson breathed out and took his time and looked straight out the front window at the headlights of the cars coming and going.
“That last line,” said Jackson, “Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you.”
They came to a stoplight and the truck stopped. Bonner looked at Jackson. Tears glassed Jackson’s eyes once more.
“What is it, Jack?” asked Bonner.
Jackson looked at him.
“My bones ain’t been ignited by nothing in a minute.”
They rode the rest of the way in silence and only listened to the buzz of the tires on the San Antonio streets. They each thought of what life was and if they were really living it.
Then, as they turned into Jackson’s neighborhood, Bonner grabbed his iPhone and plugged it into the aux chord. He hit the iPod icon and flicked his thumb on the screen of iPhone. He clicked Coldplay. Then he clicked Parachutes.
Then he turned to Jackson.
“They didn’t play this tonight,” said Bonner, “but something tells me you need to hear it.”
Then he turned on We Never Change.
They pulled into the driveway of Jackson’s home. Bonner braked and put the truck in park. The windows were down. Neither of them moved.
The San Antonio heat filled the truck but Jackson got chills. The song played softly and neither of them said a word because Chris Martin was already saying everything that needed to ever be said.
I wanna live where the sun comes out.
Then it was over.
Bonner turned iPod off before the next song began.
Jackson put his hands on his head. He exhaled.
“Wow,” said Jackson.
Then he opened the door and stepped out of the Tundra. He turned around. He leaned down and found Bonner’s eyes.
“Thank you,” said Jackson.
“No problem, man. I’m glad we could-”
Jackson interrupted him and stuck his right hand out for Bonner to shake.
“No,” said Jackson, “THANK you. Stars been shining for my girl for a long time, I just been to about me to realize.”
Jackson shut the door and walked into his house. Bonner sat in the driveway as the engine of the truck rumbled. Windows still down, wrapped up by the San Antonio heat, he heard the crickets sing. He looked up and out his driver side window.
The stars were out.