I have a picture of the fan in front of me from today’s Sports page. Doughy face, a pigeon’s mouth, a soft, wiry guy. He’s wearing glasses, a Cubs hat, most importantly headphones, probably to listen to the game on the radio while he’s watching it. Who does this? So he’s a big fan, and in a wonderfully childish move – childish the way we admire, doubtless, dreamy, a character from pop-up America – he possibly ruins his favorite team’s first chance to win the pennant in 58 years.
I knew a girl once, her mother drove around town with a peacock in shotgun. Nope, the story’s unbeatable.
I’ve become a baseball fan in two days. Two nights ago we watched the Red Sox-Yankees game, yesterday afternoon I pulled the TV into my office to watch the next match-up. Last night my wife said, as though this wasn’t something she planned for our marriage, ‘You’ve become a real sports fan.’ I grunted and kept my eyes on the TV. Then seat 11, row 9. Close-focus on the fan afterwards, shrunk down to a ball in his seat, an animal surrounded by thousands of larger animals. We were glued as the Marlins pounded deep fielders, both of us saying, ‘no way ’
I keep clips of stories from the newspaper. Bogota, a man sits two stories off the street in a chair bolted to the outside of a hotel. He stays there for two days. In Russia a landlord forces his tenants to keep chickens in their bedrooms, his chickens, so they stay warm. During the week I was down in North Carolina for my wedding a high-school kid in Cary went to a stripclub, then invited the strippers home for sex (his parents were away) only they held him up at gunpoint in his living room, the three women made off with $800 in a blue Ford Explorer. This quote: ‘When officers tried to question the victim further about the entertainment he had agreed to pay for, [the victim] asked to see a lawyer.’
Age makes sense by the distance from stories. Far away I know some of my own stories better, I see they have more sides than I thought. Others I’ve shrunk down to paragraphs. I haven’t started pining for childhood yet, but it’s close. And recently I’ve felt my age. There are adult conversations now. Huge decisions. Career-anxiety. In the winter I have to put moisturizer on my knees. Today at the gym I had to remember to breathe while I was running – when did that become something to remember? Pictures above my desk make great sense to me – twins swaying in ballgowns, a cracked postcard of E.B. White, a Kate Spade ad, paintings of my grandparents’ house in Canada, Polaroids of friends in Siena – but guests, coming over for dinner, do they see anything? Are the connections clear for anyone else?
The world has a new perfect story every morning. Seat 11, row 9 is nearly too good but it’s not finished yet; we have to see how the Cubs fare. I have another, a true story involving drugs, cock-fighting, an abandoned child, knife fights. It’s good – yes, to my storytelling side – but it’s also very bad. No question it’s remarkable, strange, but really it’s a terrible story about pain and survival, and it’s still hurting people I love as it happens.
I’m working on a short story that I can’t seem to finish. I know the entire narrative; I have the whole thing mapped out. Because I was there. At the funeral, in the hospital, I had even driven the same ambulance with the same people sitting in the same places, working on other patients. In my memory I can easily picture Stamford, 3 AM, driving the rig home on I-95 with each of the characters – real people – in different seats. Only difference, I never had that patient. That call wasn’t mine, I only saw them at the hospital because I’d brought a different case to the same ER. And their patient is the cornerstone of the story, the surprise ending, what grabs your breath.
So for me it’s finished – I should be able to do it, but I can’t. An unbelievable story with details out the wazoo, begging to be written. But somehow I’m not ready to put it down.
The Cubs lost. Let’s hope for next year, and until then this story’s close to finished but it needs a proper ending: a statement from the fan,
There are few words to describe how awful I feel and what I have experienced within these last 24 hours. I’ve been a Cubs fan all my life and fully understand the relationship between my actions and the outcome of the game. I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play. Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch. To Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs organization, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Cubs fans everywhere, I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cubs fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented toward my family, my friends and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.