Alex calls this morning and invites me to the ballgame. I go. I think it's my third time ever. I figure I should go once every ten years, and this morning I am up for the white trash experience.
"It's cold," observes a hulking man with bad acne and worse hair as we ascend the escalators at 3Com Park. "I hope we don't wind up sitting under the fucking hangover thing."
Alex and I are just on the cusp of being under the fucking hangover thing and get about twenty minutes of sun before shade overtakes us.
Alex was a pitcher at our high school and led the Lowell Indians to the championship in 1987. Once settled into our seats, he becomes Mr. Hyde, baseball fan.
"Come on Shawn!" he hollers periodically. As though the pitcher could hear him in this din! I'm not sure how I feel about all the noise. Every once in a while Alex starts clapping in a basic two-eighth note, one quarter note pattern. I had no idea he could clap so loud. He urges me to join in but I decline. Overall I feel inadequate in both knowledge and enthusiasm. What if I clap at the wrong time? I don't trust myself with sports. I am the one, after all, who ran the wrong way with the football in high school. I haven't quite gotten over that mortifying realization that the cheers were jeers. I also live in fear, as everyone should, of clapping at the wrong time at the opera, and hate the people who inevitably wind up screwing it up.
"I think everyone should be quiet," I tell Alex.
Sammy Sosa is up to bat. A celebrity. My interest is caught.
"Come on Shawnie!" cries Alex.
Next inning: Alex makes the safe sign and accidently swats the old lady sitting to his right. I really didn't know this side of him.
Meanwhile, I am trying to cruise but the only flesh in my vicinity is the leathery folds of an old guy's back bunching up over the seat back. Not attractive.
There's a lot of obesity at the ballpark today, and I can't figure out why. Then I take a closer look at the piles of food people are bringing back from the concession and start putting two and two together. Alex and I comment on the phenomenon while chewing on ice cream drumsticks.
Shawn Estes is walking batter after batter and now the bases are loaded. Alex is getting seriously annoyed. "C'mon, Shawn!" "Shawnie" is past, a diminutive from happier times.
"He's started to think," observes the old lady to Alex's right. "He's in trouble when he starts to think." I'm glad there's someone here for Alex to talk to.
Alex offers me an all-star ballot. I decline it, telling him I believe in an informed electorate. I am dismayed that Alex is stuffing the ballot box, punching holes in stacks of three ballots at a time. "You're allowed to," he tells me. "It's not one-man-one-vote."
"Do you think that every fat person in the world comes to the baseball game?" the old lady wonders out loud. Apparently all thin people come to the ball game to feel superior to the fat people.
I'm terrified of getting nailed by a stray ball. Alex doesn't have a mitt to protect us. "How many pitchers have died from getting balls hit back at their heads?" I ask. Alex doesn't know the answer to this, but offers that a couple of hitters died before they started making them well the hard hats.
A Cub catches a fly ball. "Was that Sammy Sosa?" I ask.
It was. "Everybody loves Sammy," Alex informs me.
"He's just a great guy. He's the happiest guy in the world."
I think about that for a moment.
"I hate him."
I'm in the bathroom for the game's only home run. The roar is deafening. I imagine that they're cheering my bladder.
Back in the stands: "Come on Shawn, go get em right now!"
Bases are loaded. Estes is still pitching and evidently still thinking. Two balls land in the dirt.
"This is why people get so frustrated with him," says Alex. "This is a potential Estes meltdown."
Estes walks a second guy off the loaded bases. Now the crowd is getting ugly. Boos, calls for an intervention.
"LemonADE MAN! LemonADE MAN! LemonADE MAN!"
This siren song issues forth about two dozen times in a minute from a large pear-shaped woman with frizzy shoulder-length hair who sounds like a cross between Roseanne Barr and Tom Waits. She is sitting several rows down from us with her lobster-hued husband. Alex shouts for her to shut up but I in turn shush him. I'm here for the white trash experience, and she's providing it.
"Is this the seventh inning stretch?" I ask as the teams change places on the field and people around us start getting up and milling around.
"No. It's the sixth inning stretch."
Three outs later, the teams change places again.
"Is this the seventh inning stretch?"
"Will you tell me when it is?"
I know I'm being deliberately dense--being cute. I always do this with my hetero boyfriends, asking them how many touchdowns the Giants got. I realize I'm playing the self-mocking sissy. The act feels a little tired but I know I won't give it up. Everyone has a role to play here and this is mine.
The lemonade lady caps a magnificent heckling rant by screeching, "Whatsa matter with Harry?" We answer, "He's a bum."
On the way out Alex and I get stuck behind a massive man in sweatpants showing about three inches of butt crack.
Crack kills, I think darkly.
Back out at the parking lot: tailgates, high spirits, Cubs fans getting hassled by yahoos standing on top of their pick-up trucks. Alex turns on the post-game radio show, I pass out in the hot car.
On waking I imagine that I dreamed it, that there wasn't the lemonande lady or the drumsticks or the three-inches of butt crack or the old lady that Alex smacked. But I have my merchandise to prove I was there, and Alex thanks me in a heartfelt way for joining him. I assure him the pleasure was all mine.