I still see us filing down the hill toward the lot where we played baseball with a raquetball summer after summer. I hear an aluminum Louisville Slugger clanking steadily on the blistered blacktop as someone used it as a walking stick. I feel the flutter in my ribcage when I first spot the wall of the church. Hit it in the air, its a homer. We'd hit hundreds. Thousands through the years. Each towering shot just as glorious to watch soar and fall as the last. I swear to you on all my shoes: I have a couple of those blasts etched perfectly on the back of my eyeballs. You'd be sort of freaked to know how many times a week I check 'em out.
There was usually six or seven of us to play. An odd number meant a steady pitcher. But no one wanted to do that really since dingers were flying out of the park fast and furious. We had fun. We sweated and laughed. We all played real Little League, but none of us shined too bright. We celebrated our dirt lot wins like they mattered, like anyone in the world gave a shit. Losses stung bad. Even though we were starting a brand new game after we ran to the candy store for cooler-cold Tahitian Treats.
But we were local terrorists as well. We'd terrorize each other in horrific ways. Cruel cruel words. Fat ass. Buck Tooth faggot. Fat Lard. We fought. Violence was fairly common, expected at some point in the week. Uncommitted slaps to the face. Arm punches. Mostly one upset kid chasing down another faster kid who usually escaped by running off the field, into back streets, and as far as he needed to go until shit cooled off.
Oh the pounding of your heart when it all went down. I was there. I chased and got chased; I still can feel those first electric flits of big fury ricocheting around my chest. And those early tastes of hard cold fear like metal around my tongue. Rarely have I been as frightened ever since. There is pure darkness in running as fast as your chunky twelve year old legs can possibly go. In knowing that your pursuer truely wants to hurt you. And mostly in knowing that you deserve to be hit; the things you said were nasty and mean and hurt as much as punches hurt. You are a brat and a punk and a wise-ass, born fast in the last five minutes, like some weird annoying bug. Your life span should end in a swat.
Familiarity breeds contempt, right? You better believe it does. Try crossing Texas in a hot van with five musicos you've been with for weeks. Or try playing ball every single day of the summer with the same half-dozen kids who live in the first half-dozen houses next to yours. The love is still there. Though you'd never admit it, or even recognize it. But it has turned teensy. And your long hot days are redwood high. Stuff becomes invisble.
When you're a kid all your steaming overworked valves need releasing. Old air needs hissing. All the mad wicked fabulous things you will become are just confused baby wolf pups rolling around nipping at your guts. Your majestic rise to grace is long. Your road less traveled is super fucking out of the way.
Summer fades, the bat's pinging echo fades. The sweaty twilight walk back up the hill to your house, to our homes fades.
And then poof.