- Pinch Hitter
Idated a musician the summer after I dropped out of college. He was soft-spoken, handsome, married to a woman who was somewhere overseas filming a documentary. He didn't expect much from me, and at the time, that's what I thought I wanted. Still, I was falling in love, in a way. That summer, I had so much sex it transformed my body, made it firm and sweet, and sex became a desire so urgent it slapped me awake. The musician and I liked to have sex and we liked to watch baseball; we were the only folks in our small Southern town who were both Yankees fans. After a game was over, he'd pour me a cup of tea the color of dying leaves and listen to me talk for hours, sometimes about baseball, sometimes about things far less important, things that shouldn't have mattered to anyone.
My mother didn't approve of my relationship, but then again, I was taking a creative writing class at the Y, and she didn't approve of that either. She would tell me that I would never be able to find a husband if I kept messing with someone else's; she would say to me that I would never have a life of my own if I wrote about those of others.
And perhaps my mother was right—she usually was—but in those days, I was too selfish to care about her opinions, or anyone else's. In the late 1990s, after my college roommate repeatedly asked me if I had lived in the ghetto; after my other roommate mocked me for crying over the murder of a rapper who rhymed so forcefully about death that I thought he could never die; after my favorite professor accused me of plagiarizing a paper because it was "so polished and well written"; after the O.J. verdict tore my campus into large patches of white and smaller, temporarily united strands of brown, I was emotionally spent. All that mattered to me then were the intense looks the musician gave me, the warm, sweet glances that followed me in and out of a room and made every part of my body feel important.
"So how come you're a Yankee fan, Southern girl?" he asked one day after we'd made love, and I felt sticky, pleasantly warm and tired—the sun was at its highest and seeped through the room's windows in orange liquid waves.
"My mom's from New York, one of those Brooklyn Dodger fans turned Met fans. Growing up, I got so tired of hearing about the Mets, I started cheering for the other New York team," I said, as I adjusted the pillow underneath my chin.
He'd been tracing patterns against my back, and now he paused to consider what I was saying. Then, suddenly, he laughed.
"Those old Dodger fans sure loved their team, didn't they? My father had an old Roy Campanella card—and he never let me touch it," he smiled, the memory seeming to amuse and sadden him at once. "Always a different story about how he got it."
I blinked—sunlight flowing through the blinds had formed shadows that crisscrossed over his skin, and he looked, for a second, as though he were in jail. "How come he'd change the story?"
"Everybody wants to feel important, my father too," he told me. "Each time he told that story, you'd see his chest getting bigger, his back grow straighter," he added, and I kissed his neck because I wanted to say something to show I understood, but wasn't sure what. Still, he must have recognized my attempt, because seconds later, he smiled and slowly pulled me into him. [End Page 739]
And when he spoke like this, even if I couldn't find the words, I thought I knew exactly what he meant. Whenever he spoke like this, I was convinced that stories were powerful, that they let us reinvent ourselves, that they allowed us to become something stronger and greater than what we are.
But now that I...