(there are no coincidences)
He called me on a Tuesday and asked me to block out Saturday afternoon and evening. I asked him why. He laughed. Don't worry about it, he said. Also, get a walker for the dog. Before I could say okay, he hung up. He then called me back five minutes later and said he would be at my apartment at 3:00 on Saturday. He then said, "I can't wait to see you. We're going to have so much fun. I love you."
His voice was jumping, electric.
"I love you, too," I said, with no hesitation.
When he showed up, he was wearing gym shorts and an old Yankees t-shirt. He told me to go upstairs and get my baseball glove, that he would wait for me by the curb. I ran back up, grabbed my glove from the closet, and closed the door behind me. When I got down to the street, he was waiting in a cab with the door open.
I hopped in next to him and closed the door. He told the driver to go to Central Park West and we pulled away from the curb. There are afternoons when the streets are just clogged with cars and driving one mile takes 45 minutes. That day, for whatever reason, the avenues were like smooth, wide-open seas, and we sailed through one green light after another. It was a warm, late-summer day. I looked out the window and watched the clouds skim over us, one by one.
We got out of the cab at 102nd Street and Central Park West. He motioned to me to walk with him as he slung a backpack over his shoulder.
"We're going to the baseball fields," he said. I smiled and skipped alongside him.
"What are we doing there?"
He smiled and looked up at the sky as we walked under the trees.
"Playing catch, obviously." He looked at me and grinned. I stopped walking.
"You drove all the way into the city today to play catch with me?"
"Come on," he said. He started to run and I jogged after him.
We started off standing about thirty feet apart, just tossing the ball back and forth and warming up our arms. We then started to remember all the games we used to play: pitcher/catcher (how many strikes can you throw in a row?), sweep-tag the runner sliding into the base, high-pops, hot grounders, throwing the ball at shin/waist/chest/head levels. We threw each other curveballs and sliders, fastballs and knuckleballs. When the ball flew over my head, I chased it. When it skipped between his legs, he turned around and ran after it. When he did, I paused to take deep breaths and absorb the fresh and wild baseball air. We then started to step farther and farther apart so we could watch the ball soar between us, arching over long distances like some kind of small, compact bird that loved us both.
After an hour or so, we came together to take a water break and sit in the grass. He asked me about my life, what I was writing. He told me he was so proud of me. He asked me about who I was dating, how I felt about Emerson's essays. Could you really hitch your wagon to a star? I told him I wasn't sure, but maybe it was worth a shot someday.
"Okay," he said. He looked at his watch. "We have to get going soon."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," he said, reaching into his backpack, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me. "We have these." I opened the envelop and pulled out two tickets. I looked more closely: they were bleacher seats, in the home run section, at Yankees Stadium.
"No way!" I shouted. He smiled softly, containing his excitement. "This is awesome!"
"Let's go," he said. "We can take the subway."
"Yes!" I said, jumping to my feet. Before we started walking, I gave him a hug. As we made our way to the train, I looked at the tickets.
"Do you think we'll catch any home runs?" I asked him.
"Hell yeah," he said, with no hesitation.
We rode the subway with other Yankees fans. They were jammering on about the line-up, their seats, the season record holders, batting averages. I watched him talk to strangers about the time he ran into Paul O'Neill at a restaurant, Bernie Williams at the airport. He was lighthearted, open, unafraid. I felt safe, protected, and the excitement I felt throughout the day had settled into a warm, loving buzz.
At the stadium, when we got to our seats, he told me to wait, that he would go get us some food. I nodded and watched him hop up the steps. The stadium was starting to fill up, and some of the players were warming up in the outfield. The warm afternoon air had settled, had become cooler and crisper. It was mid-September, and I found myself wishing that every day was mid-September.
He came back a few minutes later holding a tray of fries, a hot dog for himself, a pretzel for me, and two sodas. We sat and ate, and as I took in the lights, the pinstripes, the green of the green grass and his presence next to me, I felt very, very full, very, very glad, and very, very loved.