Team Player

I’m out in broad, broad daylight today, typing on the back of my Peace Corps medical forms for want of paper. It’s only the middle of February and the sun already feels as hot as it ever did in DC. A volunteer named Danny in Xichú has been telling me about the heat in full summer, and it’s pure horrorshow. Weeks where it tops 125 every day, where people get heatstroke in the shade, and nights where everyone shows up to mill around the jardín because it’s over 90 in the dark and even the natives can’t rest easy. I’m pulling my normal shirtless routine but I might have to modify because it feels like I’m already lobstering up.

Hot as gooch

Hot as all get out

I played baseball for a long time. Every year from pre-k through ninth grade, all four years in China. I loved baseball, even if I was never really good enough to play past Freshman year. I still love it, and I miss playing. I loved being on a team, going to practice, playing catch and pepper with Dad, chewing sunflower seeds and shooting the shit in the dugout. But if I thought about it, I’d have to say that there were precious few times I enjoyed the game while I was in it. In the field or at bat I was too goddamned nervous. Dad used to say that you had to want the ball, to hope it was coming to you ever single play, to see it lined out to you and imagine yourself fielding it, pitched and hitting it. As far as I recall, it didn’t matter how well I was playing on the day. I always sweated it. I remember making a sprinting, diving catch in left to end and inning, and I remember that as soon as I trotted back out there I kept on praying not to see another ball for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I got comfortable in the box, and that was only because I’d figured out that I could piss pitchers off by being slow as anything and toeing up to the plate, and between the two I could count on getting hit or winging a grounder between the third baseman’s legs a good bit of the time.

I’m bringing up baseball because it’s more or less the same way I feel about my kids.

I do it for them

These kids

I’ve got a group of Ecochavos for myself in the secondary school here (something like junior high, 12-15). I’m the same way about them as I was about baseball. I love having them, seeing them around town, doing the slap-bump that passes for a handshake among young people. I even love working with them when we’ve got a definite project to do.

Not the guy

Like this mural

But when I’m with Chava and he’s monologuing in his indefatigable way, I’m sitting four feet off third again, paying rapt attention and hoping like hell that he doesn’t hit it up the baseline. It’s all the same insecurities that it used to be. Worrying that my Spanish isn’t up to task, that I’m not well enough prepared, that if I fuck up I’m letting the whole team down.

There’s nothing for to exorcise my anxieties, as far as I can see. I’ve been playing with the same lineup since long before anybody’s supposed to think like Woody Allen talks. In the end I loved baseball and I’m glad that Dad didn’t hold with any of my fucking around and always got me out there. And that he went to all my games, even when some coaches with issues of their own benched me through fifth and sixth grade in Catholic school. I don’t know if that means the things that make me the most nervous also make me the most happy. The thesis checks out for girls and dancing. Ditto, so far, the Peace Corps.

Ten steps from buying a skydive ticket on a dirty sidestreet in Prague,  I decided that if I managed to do some cool stuff, I’d probably have made some kind of life, even if I went bug eyed and slippery palmed along the way. So far, maybe, so good.

 

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