I MEET the drink in a parking lot. She’s cheap and vulgar and burns me up. I use her and discard her out the window. She doesn’t seem to mind. So I decide to take her out again soon.
We meet at a Southeast Asian restaurant three weeks later. She has me spinning and swooning, and passed out in my Pad Thai, rice noodles in my hair. They ban me from the place for life. I don’t care.
Over the next few years our relationship grows. She gives me confidence in college and makes me feel at ease with peers. I’m forward with older women at parties. When I fuck, I don’t cum too soon.
I graduate, strike out in a series of job interviews and end up settling for a job that I’m overqualified for. Over the next ten years I achieve menial vertical mobility at work. My parents get divorced, the family dog dies, my sister has an intervention and three stints in rehab. The drink keeps my sanity.
One day I ask my superior why I haven’t been promoted. He tells me that I’m not reliable and show up to work looking like a train wreck. I quit, clear out my desk, and go to a bar. It’s eleven in the morning. I meet Patty at noon. By one, we’re back at my place, fucking like rabbits. Six weeks later Patty misses her period. We elope to San Francisco and get married.
Justin comes out the following spring. He’s tiny, and frail, and I can’t imagine how he’ll ever be a full-grown person. He has Patty’s milky blue eyes. It’s a lot to take in. I go out and get a drink.
A year really isn’t enough time to get to know someone. Being a good husband and father is a struggle. Justin cries all night at home. Without any sleep, the flush in Patty’s cheeks fade. She grows perpetually surly and looks old. I promise her to find work. I go out and try, but the competition is younger than me. Most days, I spend my time at the bar.
After five years we get a divorce. Patty gets full custody and takes Justin and moves back in with her parents in Wichita. I go south to Southern California where my sister lives and where it’s warm.
I start on her couch and promise it’ll only be temporary. She’s got her life together now. She is a live-in nanny for the kids of a rich Hollywood couple. I don’t want to intrude. So I move into one of the small stucco studio apartments down by Venice Beach.
Sometimes I go to Memorial Park over on Olympic and watch the kids play little league ball. Most of the young ones jump around in the batter’s box when the pitch is coming, and I can tell they’d benefit from some instruction. But I’ve had my chance with children and my hands shake too much these days to hold a bat.
Occasionally the kids do little things that impress me, like scoop out a tricky grounder in the hole, or slide hard into second to break up a double play. When this happens, I think about Justin, and I wonder if my son covers up his glove when he catches a pop fly, and if he’s learning to play the game the right way.
Maybe I’ll make my way out to Wichita and sit in on one of his games sometime. Maybe I’ll watch my boy send a fastball away to the opposite field, and drive home the winning RBI. Maybe he’ll shake my hand after the game and tell me, “Dad, the past is the past, you get a do-over with me, it’s all right.”
Luke Silver is a black belt in Kung Fu who lost his sense of smell. He alternates between bouts of clarity and paralyzing uncertainty. Then he tries to transcribe his feelings into words. Some of his work can be found on his Twitter page: @LUKEABRASSI.