Red, White and Blue

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These two, I see them all the time just as they see me. All week they’ve been stumbling around together holding coffee cups that are most definitely filled with booze. One wears a red tee shirt. The other in white...

It’s a hot Sunday, just past noon. The sun bakes the field. Players wipe their brows before the game even begins. Time for the National Anthem. Please rise and remove your hats. 

A cluster of Elementary kids squeak out "The Star Spangled Banner". They’re standing by home plate and the mic is too far away. Through the first verse, they sound like a haunting dream. A rock and roll song from a beer hut located in the outfield drowns the tiny, high-pitched voices. Frequencies of contrasting music meet all wobbly and weird. Makes me feel off center. From where I’m standing in the upper-most row in left field, the timing is off; melodies come at me in such a way that my brain feels like it’s loosening from its hinges.

Someone repositions the mic.

“What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…”  loud and clear.

An audience of merely 100 scattered evenly like salt and pepper turns toward a flag flapping in the light breeze. Most have their hands raised to their hearts. Mine is leaning on a chair in a pose of protest. Nothing against America, but I’ve heard this anthem so many times I’m not sure what it means anymore.

I’ve brought a book as big as a pillow. I’ve chosen a remote location to spare me from rambunctious children and yet they seek me out like a missile. Two young boys, now three, plop down not two- one seat from me. They’re screaming, shouting, they won’t settle down. Annoying. Every time I try to like children I’m reminded how annoying they are. Still, I see a pregnant woman and I want that. Just that, nothing more. Something to carry inside me and nurture. Seems like living on an island, just you and creation. I want the intoxicating feelings, the glow of life. I could leave the rest. 

Sure, I’m in a sour mood. Sour, indeed. Miguel had ruined my night and my morning. Blinded by his stress, he takes it out on me. He’s the King of Swords, slashing in his conquest.

I shouldn’t be on this trip with him. I shouldn’t be, but I want to be, so I have to find my peace in routine; find my corners to work and meditate. We're living tightly, frugal, it's imperative I keep my distance, but not today. Today I have no control. We are in transit, three hours to Jupiter and this game is just the start.

“They fly in, stand on the seat and go turd,” the boys are making farting noises; shrieking and taunting each other with bird poop.

“Bird poop!”

“Where?!”

“On your shoulder!”

More shrieks. My ear drum is throbbing.

                                                                                         **

All the pretty girls have long hair. Long hair and short shorts. Tresses fall in unbroken waves and tickle the small of their backs. Tresses that glisten in the sun. Watch how they guide it over their shoulders like a velvet curtain. I had long hair once, but I am not a real girl now. How about those two old drunks last night, though? Told me anyone would be lucky to have me. Caught me in the lobby, sitting in the dark, writing by the light of my laptop. 11:30pm. Didn’t want to be in the room anyway. Miguel had gone off to have 2 beers and a burger by himself. I’d refused to go. We were fighting.

Instead, I showered. Found my own peace, like I told you. Gathered my materials and headed to the hotel lobby where everyone is starting to know my routine.

“You’re always down here on the computer,” said the old drunk in red, “I see you in the morning. You sit right here in the morning. I say to myself, that’s a good woman.”

Except, I don’t feel like a good woman. I feel like a troublemaker, a hanger-on, not a real woman, “Oh,” I laugh, “I don’t know about all that.”

“No, I can tell. Yup,” he hiccups softly, “you’re a good woman.”

These two, I see them all the time just as they see me. All week they’ve been stumbling around together holding coffee cups that are most definitely filled with booze. One wears a red tee shirt. He’s dark like a nicotine stain and wrinkled, with bright blue eyes. He’s nice enough, but he’s done too much wrong in his life and he knows it. You can see it in his face. That’s why he drinks. The other, his friend, wears white. His hair is longer, curls at the nape of his neck. He wears faint, gold rimmed, oval glasses that look oddly feminine on him. His skin is just as dark but his wrinkles, softer. They both talk without revealing their tattered teeth. The one in red is alone at the moment, his buddy most likely smoking on the patio.

“What is it yer doing on that computer all the time?” he asks.

I hesitate to answer his question. No way do I want to befriend a couple of drunks. Then I decide, omens can hide anywhere. Drunks can reveal hidden truths, I think. So I tell him, “I’m writing a book,” and it feels good to say it aloud.

In his excitement, the man stumbles forward, “Oh!” his eyes lose themselves in the glow of my computer screen, “what is it about?” He looks at me, expectant as a child.

Again I hesitate, but his eyes stay on me, “Baseball and music.”

The man wobbles. Still, his eyes look on.

“The baseball life and the music life,” I say, giving an affirmative nod. That’s all I have to say about that.

“Sounds like two things that work together really nice,” he says.

“Yeah, I suppose they should,” I say. I’m thinking about Miguel, thinking about how we exploded in arguments in the car, a screaming match. He chucked a water bottle at the symbolic me, just behind my seat. Smacked into the rear window as hard as he’d hoped. Made me jump. All while I was driving. It's the stupid, petty arguments that escalate the worst.

The other drunk buddy saddles up, returning from the patio, “This here’s my brother... like a brother anyhow… we’re looking for a house.”

“Here in Florida?” I ask.

“Yeah! Right here in Punta… Charlotte…” his words blur, “you live here?”

“No. Just passin’ through.”

“Say," says the drunk in white, "you’re a good woman.” 

“She’s writing a book,” says the drunk in red to his friend. He wears multiple gold chains on his wrist. The two friends share a glance, mirroring each other in their drunken sway, clutching their booze-soaked coffee cups. Yes, they think, all looks right and good in their world.

“What’d I tell you, John? Told you she was a good woman,” says the one in white with the thin gold frames, "make sure you get a good one," he hiccups and repeats, "make sure you get a good one. None of this lovey stuff. That shit ain’t real.”

I nod, thinking of Miguel again.

“I knew a girl,” he slurs, “she thought she had a good one. They were all lovey,” he’s hugging himself, demonstrating. “Lovey, like. She thought she had a good one. Then they get married and she got pregnant. He was real nice at first, but then he starts getting angry. Just fighting at first, throwing stuff,” the man's eyes grow wide, he stumbles forward, ”he hit her. He was all lovey and then he hit her,” he says, “so, make sure you get a good one.”

I’m not sure what to say. Don’t take this drunk to heart, I’m telling myself. Shouldn’t have humored them, I’m thinking. What am I to do with these ideas now? They swim around my head. He's just a drunk, I think, it's not an omen. 

“Hey,” says the drunk in red, “do you have Dragon Speech?” changing the subject.

“I’m not sure I know what that is,” I say.

“I tell my granddaughter, she’s going to college, you know. I say one day you’ll be too drunk to type your paper and you’ll wish you had it,” his eyes roll in his head, “I use it all the time.” Red spends the next 5 minutes telling me about this software and I write down the name because you never know, it could come in handy. Then I picture a generation of kids growing up with Dragon Speech, forgetting how to type altogether. The thought makes me nervous. These drunks make me nervous.

I wish them a good night. 10 minutes later I head upstairs. Miguel has his headphones on, hunched over his work. We don’t say a word. Thankful I have my sleep mask, I slip it over my head and shove spongy earplugs in my ears. Doesn’t take long to fall asleep. My peace is in the routine I’ve carved out.

                                                                                         **

3rd inning. This game is slow going. My stomach growls. Haven’t had a sizable meal for the past two days. Miguel has. Whatever. This is his trip. That’s his money. I’m just a hanger-on. Maybe I should learn to shut my mouth and take it. He doesn’t have to be such an unbearable human, though.

5th inning, I take a walk; save myself from falling asleep over my book that's as thick as a pillow. My long black skirt dances with the breeze. The cotton feels soft brushing along my legs. The sun burns my naked shoulders, but I don't mind. A burly, tattooed security guard leans against a cement stairwell that leads back to the field. I know he's staring at me, but I pretend not to notice. When I stare at people, I always know why, but I never know why they stare at me. Can't be good, I think. Quietly, he says to his buddy, “Now that’s a real woman,” and the breeze brings it to me as I pass.

What is wrong with these men? I wonder. What do they see in me that I can’t? If only they knew I'm not a real woman. I'm just a hanger-on. But somewhere deep down, I know what they see and I know it's there, too. I'm The Queen of Pentacles, or, I will be someday. Someday I'll shine like I ought to. 

                                                                                        **

Miguel's Bermuda hat glows in the bright sun. He's a tiny speck sitting behind home plate. He’s got his head down, working through it. Work is the best way to get through it. We’re both disappearing into our own peace. I wonder if we’ll vanish altogether. I know I shouldn’t be following him on his Personal Legend, I need to follow my own. But I’m here now, collecting stories and I know that once they’re written, they will be my own.

 

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