First it was
my dad’s thing. Then it was my thing. Then it became her thing. And I hope
today she’s missing me, remembering who gave it to her.
Yesterday it was our thing, me and the man sitting next to me. We’d never speak nor encounter otherwise, but we were both there.
Today again it’s my thing. I’m there alone, alone in the way one can be amongst thousands, a crowd peppered with familiar faces but no names. Alone, I can see with the sort of intensity that allows for more than just Now: I see the future; I watch with the sort of concentration that tells you what’s about to happen. And I don’t speak, I listen: To fathers telling children the script of their future memories. The children don’t know this yet. They know: Concessions, souvenirs, the names of stars. But I can tell them what’s coming: Their first ball, an eventual sense of outcome, victory or loss, and feeling it; recollection of a particular performance, the best year, the worst year; alienation from their father, hopefully brief, and a return to him, and this, always this, a constant language and safe harbor; the repetition of someone else’s memories until they’ve become your own; and later, becoming a father, repetition of your father’s stories – sacred now that you’ve lost him – and repetition of your own, until your own child has become you, and you have become him again.
Because our lives are sedimentary. And this game is reliable. And sitting now near a child is yourself as a child. And sitting near an old man is yourself as an old man. And sitting in you is the disbelief that you will become old, and the hope that you will, and the disbelief that you’ll die, and the hope that you’ll die having won it all, even once. Or better, twice.
The perfect game, the cycle, division, pennant, championship, the triple play, stealing home – once, maybe twice.
I was at that no-hitter. I remember the pitcher trembling in the ninth, so small. I remember the face of the stranger next to me, so huge, beaming, ritualistically patting my head twice after each pitch from the seventh inning on.