Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Baseball, Black Sheep, and Black Sheets

The noise of the baseball game is emanating from different rooms in the same house. The sound flows out of the respective rooms and follows me into the room I have chosen as my room of retreat. It reaches a piercing level when the occupants of the two rooms yell to one another with pride and amazement or, even better, with bitching and moaning over a play that they personally would never have allowed to take place if they were in charge or actually playing in the game. But the crescendo, the height of the baseball chatter, the ultimate noise of all noise occurs when they decide that my life is lacking because I wasn't witness to the phenomenon of a particular play or a particular ball flying through the air. "You should have seen that play, mom/Penny! Shouldn't she have see that, John. Oh wait, they're gonna replay it. Hurry! You're gonna miss it. Wait, wait. Here it comes. Look, isn't that great! Hey Dave, did she see that fumble? Naw, John. She missed it. Her wheelchair didn't make in here on time. OMG, OMG, OMG they'er not gonna .............................................. John, did you see that?"

These two men in their two different rooms are watching and yelling for the same team. One of them likes the large, overwhelming TV, and the other one likes the smaller, more personal TV. One of them is young and likes the volume lower, the other is older and needs the sound a bit too loud. One of them is from the Eastern Shore and loves the Red Sox with a passion, the other has always lived on the Western Shore and wants the Red Sox to win because "after the curse has been lifted, then what?". They both love baseball. They both played baseball.

Before my son was born I loved baseball with a passion that is only matched by the older man's love for the Red Sox. My team was the Dodgers. My mother and I used to attend as many of the Dodger games as we could finagle our way into. She loved baseball too. I was a Maury Wills fan. Lordy, I loved to watch that man steal bases. I can't recall which of the Dodger's was my mother's favorite player, but I will never forget the fervor of her addiction to the game. She could yell, throw her arms around, and act just as indignent as the most rabid fan. Once in a while my husband would join us. He liked baseball, we loved baseball.

When my son was born my husband brought a baseball, a glove, and a bat to the hospital to welcome our new chid. Our son grew up loving the game. My mother used to go in the street and catch the balls that he would pitch to her. They said that they were practicing his pitching, but I think it was because the two of them just plain loved the game. He used to lie on the floor in front of the TV and watch the games with my brother. I have a picture of the two of them with their intense faces glued to the screen as if what was happening to that little ball was the most important thing going on in the world at that moment.

Two pivotal things happened. My husband and I got a divorce. Four years later my son turned eight years old.

When you are eight years old you can join Little League. He joined and quickly became recognized as a player with potential. And my life became consumed with baseball and all things baseball until he became disillusioned and decided to take a break from the game for a year or two. By that time he was 14 years old.

His Little League field was on top of a hill that was walking distance from the ocean. During the day games it was a lovely place to sit in the sun and watch my son develop into an undefeated pitcher. When he had a night game the ocean breezes would blow with a chill that would cut right through to the bone. I never missed a game in the four years he played on that field. In fact, I lost a friend because she invited me to come to dinner and I said I couldn't because my son had a baseball game. She found it upsetting that baseball was more important then friends. Her sons had never played the game. She just didn't understand!

When my son was being lauded as 'the' player of the year I called his father and asked him to come and watch his son play. I thought he would be overjoyed that his son was such a gifted player. His response was that he would have to ask his current wife if she wanted to spend a Saturday at the Little League field. I guess she didn't. He never came to see his son pitch. What a loss that was for him.

My son's coach that year was a divorced man. His son played on the team and he took the coaching duty as a way to stay inside his son's life. I sat and watched him coach week after week and never noticed that he paid any particular attention to the fact that I was there. I wasn't part of the 'in' group. I was just a working mother that loved her son and baseball and was pleased that the two of them were intertwined. I served my time in the snack bar and supported the team, but I wasn't part of the crowd that met and socialized after the games.

I'm going to have to digress a bit here. Just be patient with me for a bit. I had helped start a divorced person group in my church. It grew astoundingly fast. There was a real need for the divorced in our midst to feel welcomed in the religious community. The leader of the group was a woman that had been divorced and remarried and she had experienced the rejection that a church community can generate when a member walks away from a marriage. She had given a lecture about dealing with one's sexuality; how a man or a woman can feel sexual and sensual without feeling guilty. About the same time my doctor had told me to purchase a waterbed to cushion the arthritic hip I was newly dealing with. The lecture and the waterbed collided. When I was in the waterbed store I saw black silk sheets and I thought how sensual they would feel to slip into at night. I bought them.

"Hi, how are you? See you at practice tomorrow?" Everywhere I went I ran into my son's baseball coach. It seemed odd, but our city wasn't so large that onewouldn't see someone one knew every once in a while. What was odd was that I ran into him EVERYWHERE I went. Several times he laughed and asked me if I'd like to go get a cup of coffee, but I demured. He really wasn't my type and he was my son's coach. There seemed to be the possibility of complications. I kept bumping into him and he kept asking. It got to be embarrassing. Then he started calling me. The pretense was that he was calling about my son's performance, but it always ended with him asking me if I would like to go out to dinner. I kept saying "no". It went past embarrassing and went to laughable. We started making jokes about it. Then one afternoon he said, "If you'll go out to dinner with me just once I'll leave you alone and never ask again." I asked him if that was a promise and whether he was a man of his word. We both laughed. I went to dinner with him the following Saturday.

He took me to a very posh dinner house. I enjoyed myself, but I still felt that he wasn't my type. Baseball was a safe topic so I talked about my favorite sport until I was tapped out. Then he complimented me on my apartment and the way that I had it decorated. I mentioned that I had just bought a waterbed on my doctor's recommendation. We talked for a bit, danced for a bit, had a drink, and danced a bit more. I was ready to go home. When he walked me to the door he stepped into the living room and asked if he could have a cup of coffee. That sounded safe so I made him one. He then asked if he could see my new bed. I was proud of what I had done in my bedroom so without thinking about it I said "yes".

He complimented me on my taste, threw back the corner of the comforter, saw black satin sheets, caressed them, slowly turned to me and said, "You are one sexy woman", put his arms around me and kissed me like I had never been kissed in my life. On the second kiss he threw the comforter on the floor and lifted me onto the black satin sheets. I'm not going to go into the details, but this man that wasn't my type loved women's bodies. He is the one that finally taught me about sex and all the wonderful things that involves. He wasn't my type, but he was my teacher. He wasn't my type, but he was my lover for three years. He wasn't my type, but he loved baseball and he loved making love to a woman. He wasn't my type, he was a black sheep, a rebel, a non-conformist, a pot smoking bad boy. He wasn't what I wanted to spend my life with, but he left me something I will appreciate for the rest of my life; the knowledge that sex is the most wonderous thing given to us when you find a partner that loves to make love to a woman (and can talk about baseball the next morning while drinking his coffee).

I have chosen to sit in this room that I tell them is a refuge from the sound of their baseball games for several reasons. I wanted to feel the game. I wanted to feel the fullness of my memories of those years dedicated to the game and the men that I know that played the game. I wanted to write the words that express those feelings and I wanted to remember the feeling of those black satin sheets.

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