Robert Sacre is a center for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to a Canadian mother and an American father, Sacre graduated from Handsworth Secondary School in Vancouver before attending Gonzaga University from 2007 to 2012. Sacre, by all accounts, is not a very good professional basketball player. He was a fine college basketball player, and there was no doubt about it, but you should have seen him in Secondary School, for the behemothic man stood as tall as Andre the Giant and had the enigmatic sleekness of a wandering genie.
I went to school with Robert in these formidable years when I was writing for the Handsworth Herald, the school newspaper. My instructor asked me to profile Robert and the prospects of his NCAA recruitment, but when I attempted to contact my subject via email and voicemail, he was all too shy. After seven long years, Robert emailed me back, welcoming me to finish my piece. This is my story.
Robert Sacre invited me to his luxury apartment in Fresno, which he said he lived in year round despite the fact that the drive from Fresno to Los Angeles — the location of his employment — takes three and a half hours, not including traffic. Robert opened the door with an orange in his hand, not something I would typically be concerned with until he started eating the round fruit as if it were a Granny Smith apple. I said nothing, internally insisting that Canadian politeness trumps every expanse of curiosity.
He walked me through his front door and directly to his expansive kitchen, where he would grab an apple and a potato peeler, never offering me even a glass of water, a very un-Canadian thing to do. Grasping it with his insanely massive hands, Robert began slicing the skin off the apple. I shot him a curious look that was accompanied by silence, but he stared back at me and explained that the apple skin “gives him the gasses.” He proceeded to give me a tour of the kitchen, which would give me time and space — oh, the precious space — to ask him a few questions about how basketball changed for him at each level from secondary school to college to the NBA. I asked Robert, “How did you adapt to life as big man on campus?”
“Great question, Sam!” Robert responded, but he followed that exclamatory statement with absolutely nothing but a loud smacking of his peeled apple.
“Okay … How did your recruitment shape your views on basketball in the States?”
“You know, that question really reminds of something that inspired me to continue my basketball career,” Robert said as he threw away the apple core.
I was intrigued. Hoping to get my first real material to write with, I asked him to elaborate.
“My cousin Bruce grew up with me in Vancouver,” Robert declared, “He played basketball for Handsworth just like you and me. He wasn’t seven feet tall like me, though. No, he was only 6’5”, that punitive tike. He had no realistic shot at playing basketball at the next level so he went into the food industry, working his way up from busser to waiter to sous-chef to head-chef. Bruce is an amazing cook with a penchant for filleting and flambeing the best Pacific Cod in British Columbia. What a lad!”
“And how does this relate to your basketball prowess?” I begrudgingly inquired thanks to my general lack of writing content.
“Well you see, Bruce is a great cook. He makes the best cod in the world.”
“Robert, I need you to talk about basketball, not your cousin, no matter how good of a chef he is.” This was the first time I addressed Robert by name, but he was none too comfortable with my gesture.
“Please, call me Bobert.”
Robert proceeded to open the refrigerator and grab the milk from the door. He took a couple swigs straight from the encrusted lip before offering me a drink. I say no (but thank you) but he insists. I glance at the writing on the carton and despite the faded black ink entrenched in milky condensate, I manage to read the expiration date: Feb 09/14 the carton reads. Today is the 6th of October and the Lakers are scheduled to play the Denver Nuggets in preseason action within the next half hour. I take a look back at the massive man, mouth covered in chunked liquid, hands encompassed with various citrus juices. He reaches out to me with the milk carton in his left hand and whispers softly, “C’mon, take a swig. It will make you stronger.”
I turn and head for the door but the floor is covered in a lubricious substance. He yells to me, “You’d butter run for the door, my boy!”
The atrociousness of the pun penetrated my soul and left me with a lost sense of purpose in the world, for the aggregation of confusing emotions inspired me to find a way out of this god forsaken condominium just for the sake of washing away the bad word play that slithered into my consciousness. I writher about the wooden flooring in a mad effort to the door, but I feel the powerful grip of a determined man embrace my ankle. “Here, let me lend you a hand!” Robert shouts.
I kick at his face until his clench is no more. My shoe is gone with his grip. I raced past the door to the elevator, but from whence he appeared, Robert inserted himself betwixt the closing doors. The small space between Robert and the elevator door allowed me to see a large masked man approaching at a quick pace with due diligence to spare. The mysterious man crushes Sacre’s ribs with an iron cast and delivers another blow to my assailant’s balded cranium. My savior turns to me, now unprotected from the steel cage of the elevator that had bought me time, spoke in a protruding harmony of perfect French, “Vous êtes en sécurité.”
You are safe.
The large man leaves his leather gloves and weapon behind; the former of which reveal hulking hands darker than any I’ve seen. He turns to me briefly, speaking in English this time, “He is not a true Canadian.”
He flees from where he first appeared, leaving me distraught and perpetually befuddled. “Joel?” I manage to conjure, but he doesn’t turn back nor he does he reappear. I’m left to ponder over the distinct Canadianness that was so distant from Robert Sacre, but at least I know one item of trivia.
I am safe.