Allegro, con brio
Stacy didn’t get the promotion to New Jersey. By my reasoning, that was just fine. It wasn’t the action that mattered, it was the fulsome granite heft of the offer itself. In any case, it was after this that the good times began.
We wake up in her condo, a sweet little slice of building just off the harbor. We make slow morning love upstairs as the sun cuts through the curtains. As Stacy builds to orgasm she faces a dilemma. She rents the room down the hall to a couple of college kids, and she’s a little bashful about making loud animal noises when they’re around. When they’re not here, she’ll scream into the next millenium; when they’re home, she will grip the backs of my shoulders until she draws blood with her nails. It’s worth it.
I leave Stacy in her mid-wakefulness and visit the bathroom, then I head downstairs to brew some coffee. The smell brings her downstairs; she greets me with wet hair and a kiss. We lie side by side on the sofa, sipping coffee and being lazy as the tiny movements of football flash across the television.
We eventually prop up our hung-over bodies and suit up for softball practice, a short drive past the ocean and into the foothills to a little elementary school with a backstop of antique wire. After warm-up, we head quickly into batting practice, where I take pleasure watching her beerball friends retreat further and further in pursuit of my drives. The ball hangs in the sky and drops in, three feet beyond their grasp.
Stacy’s buddy Kenny plays second base, and has his own brand of self-motivation. He places a cold can of beer directly behind his position and spends the afternoon protecting it, as a knight would protect the Holy Grail. The wonder twins Monty and Marty like to hang out in right field, taking turns shagging balls and bowling them back at Kenny’s can. By the end of practice, all the booze and running has everybody winded and red in the face, so we head to the Hind Quarter for a restorative beer.
One time, Stacy and I headed home and up to the bedroom, where she stripped off her shorts and demanded I make love to her. We didn’t even take off our cleats. We staggered downstairs for pizza, then collapsed on the sofa with her stereo tuned in to a jazz station, saxophones burbling us to sleep over the hum of the aquarium.
I guess late September and all of October went that way, and I had never known a life so focused. I was unemployed, I was in a place away from home, and I was intensely in love, with no plans for changing any of it.
It is Sunday, noon. The ritual begins
The players pair off and toss balls at each other, filling the air with the pop of leather on leather, the groan of arm muscles lubing up after Saturday night and three months of play. We head to our positions and Joe dings grounders, chanting the bases: “Go for one! Shoot for two, shoot for two. All right, third and one!”
Our practice field – William Frawley Memorial – is about as smooth as a war zone, but we’re too emotionally attached to go elsewhere. It’s also good practice, because once we report to the professionally tended fields of the Capitola Park and Rec Dept., we can handle anything.
After that, it’s time for batting practice. Magic time. Hundreds of ball off of hundreds of swings – countless opportunities for minor greatness. Toby hits a fly into shallow right, where there is precisely no one. I rocket out there, blind to the ball, and when I think I’m close I look back and get a faceful of sun. I’m lost, I’m dizzy, surrounded by gopher holes, that soccer goal down the right field line, where am I? At the last possible moment, an arc of shadow separates from the light, like a partial eclipse. I reach out at a contortionist angle and puph! – ball hits leather.
Perfect. Shouldn’t have had a prayer.
Afterwards, we sit around, drink beers, bitch about the heat and occasionally discuss strategy. Then I take off down the road beeping and waving, off to the beach. Our beach.
“Yes you are.”
She flops over like she’s been shot. “You never miss a chance, do you?”
“Never. Hey, see that boat out there? Red running lights?”
“I love it when you talk New Yawk.”
“Can’t help it.”
“Wouldn’t want you to.”
“I love you, Michael. You know that, don’t you?”
“Give me a kiss.”
The initiate carries his gray-blue gym bag to the public restroom, where he strips off his muddy, sweaty shorts and replaces them with canary yellow swim trunks. He trods around the lagoon and finds the fine, dry sand where he spreads out his gear: a basket of strawberries, a wind-worn dragon kite, and a paperback book. He dons dark glasses and reads a chapter, then he naps. When the sun presses too heavily on his skin, he heads for the water, jogs past the rocks (their rocks) and on to the cliffs at the far end of the beach. He touches a hand to the barnacles for closure, turns around and runs back, lactic acid biting at his muscles. He slows to a walk and comes even with his towel, then wades into the water up to his knees.
He feels the wind blowing through him, and he envisions the moment two months past their parting when he first felt this, when he knew he would make it, he would be all right. And now the initiate reaches into the water and scoops it in handfuls over his head. The water runs the length of his spine. He shivers.
Photo by MJV