She was wearing the rain like a blanket, draped over tired shoulders and tired eyes desperate for relief. Her phone was aglow. New Message, it read. Hank (Cell).
At first, she didn't want to read it. But then she realized that she was only sitting in Yankee Stadium's section 236 in the rain because of Hank, with the abstract hope that maybe he would see her on television like she saw him weeks ago, wondering if this whole divorce thing was a good idea after all. Sure, his gambling problem was difficult to live with, and those years of watching Goodfellas surrounded by cans of Miller Light did little to save the floundering marriage, but once she threw Hank out of the house, sending him to take up residence in Sacramento, California, she realized it may all have been one step too far. It wasn't that she missed a partner, or a man. No. None of that. Carol was a strong woman. She missed Hank.
She took her seat in the left field section of Yankee stadium, remembering the days with Cano in pinstripes, bringing the kids to the games and cheering the boys with her husband. But now all she had on the field was an emblem from the past, re-emerging like a spectre and wearing new colors and a blue crown with the letter 'S.' She thought of all the day games she had attended with Hank--those obnoxious trips downtown with a husband drunk by the third inning, the baseball strategy walkthroughs that never materialized the way Hank predicted, and the lonely subway rides back to their Staten townhouse. But for some reason, tonight, seeing this Robinson Cano wearing navy blue and green was just enough to push her over the edge. Something was different.
All too different.
The first inning began without a hitch, as she watched CC Sabathia quickly strike out Abraham Almonte and get Stefen Romero to pop out in foul territory next to first base. By this time, her phone was ablaze with a text from Hank, presumably drunk, still trying to get her attention here weeks after the Mariners' opening series in Anaheim.
hi carol hope your booing cano tonight do one for me
he texted, grammar a casualty of getting the message to her before Cano's at bat. She knew, she knew full well that this was the story in New York that week--Robinson Cano's return, the impending boos. She just couldn't help care, though, despite her hoping to reconnect with Hank in some way. It was why she was at the game, after all. But when she saw Robbie walk into the box, digging his foot in to face Sabathia, she could only feel a nostalgia hovering in the air, drenched in memories of times long past: Hank's 36th, Robbie hitting a homer into the upper deck in '09, wrecking their Honda civic on the way to catching the Battleship movie in summer of 2013.
But the boos--the boos were sent down from the few Yankees fans taking up real estate at Yankee Stadium this evening, braving the rain to tell this traitor that he screwed up big time by leaving the sacred pinstripe empire.
BOOOOOOOOOOOOO! They shouted.
SELLOUT!!! YOU SOLD OUT!!!
Sabathia threw his pitches. Cano struck out. And then, the cheers. Utter joy from the frenetic, mad Yankee crowd. The golden boy had come home with lipstick on his collar, and was caught red handed. Their anxiety was satiated.
But Carol didn't notice. For the very moment that Cano swung to gather his third strike, she was thumbing the buttons on her Blackberry bold--still sharing the same family plan with Hank--trying her best to connect what was happening on the field with something bigger in her life, just like everyone else in the stadium. She wanted to tell the truth, for just a moment. But she lied instead, telling him she booed, setting the phone down and waiting for a response. Nothing.
Then, it was the second inning, and Hank still had yet to respond. Mark Teixeira had hit a home run off Mariners' starter Chris Young, and while Carol clapped tepidly, she could only ponder why her phone wasn't ringing with a response from Hank. By now the rain was too much, and she left her seat to find a spot in the outfield brim, under cover to protect her from the weather while camping out with glasses of white wine from the Deux Vino stand out in left field. Two glasses. Three. Three and a half. She couldn't finish the third, because by then, she was busy texting Hank again, ignoring the M's starting to rally off a tiring CC Sabathia.
All along, there were a series of batters striking out, popping out in foul territory, or grounding softly to first. Both Sabathia and Young were limiting damage, despite a run sent in from a wild pitch in the third thanks to Mike Zunino trying to throw out Brett Gardner stealing second. In fact, during the top of the fifth, Carol didn't even notice when Zunino reached base after a replay call that initially ruled him out, followed by singles from Willie Ballgame and Abraham Almonte. Robinson Cano was back up to bat, and after he grounded in a run and Corey Hart hit a double, the score was suddenly 3-2 Mariners. A Justin Smoak single a minute later had it at 4-2, but by now Carol was unfortunately drunk, and upset that Hank had yet to text her back. What was wrong with him anway? Drunk like usual? Irresponsible?
The bastard she thought. Trying to get my attention and then ignoring me like he usually did was what was occupying her mind. A few more innings passed, confusingly seeing whoever Chris Young was get through these Yankees hitters like sliced cheese. In the seventh it was suddenly Robbie Cano back up to bat. The past three innings had all been a blur but suddenly she remembered Cano! Cano! It was like a familiar song to her. She remembered that warm feeling of nostalgia from before, but this time it was mixed with the furor of Hank ignoring her. She writhed in anger, biting her lip. Then, she stepped back into the pouring rain, hood down with blood-red eyes.
The years of pain were coming back to her. Hank's drinking problem. The card games. Divorce. Insurance bills.
Robinson Cano was everything at that moment--Hank, her divorce, her health problems and money and taxes. Robinson Traitor Cano, dogging out a ground ball to first and taking a payday to go to wherever Washington State was and abandoning her and her life just like providence and hope had.
But then Cano singled, and was sent home moments later by a pinch-hit single from Dustin Ackley. Then, after Kyle Seager sent Ackley to third, the score was 6-2 Mariners with Mike Zunino's fourth hit of the game, and the M's had all but won.
Carol didn't notice when Rodney had trouble getting out of the ninth, but it was okay because she had drank too much wine. Her reflection in the face of her blackberry was all too much--and that combined with success by that jerk Cano and a Yankees' loss was just the icing on the cake for what would otherwise be considered the worst month in the life of Mrs. Jespen, still carrying the name of her alcoholic, card-counting husband now camped in the Pacific Time Zone.
No, she didn't notice this because they stop serving alcohol in the seventh inning, and there was no way she was going to stick around an open-air stadium that reminded her of her past life without some more wine. So a quick stop at Louie's down the street granted her a white zinfandel and an electrical outlet for her Blackberry bold, which was by then holding a 12% charge thanks to her minute-by-minute refreshing of text messages.
By the time her glass was empty, Sportscenter was on the screens of Louie's, espousing catchy little messages about Cano's return to New York. A Mariner win. A Chris Young victory. A successful, albeit strange evening from the former Yankee. Carol didn't care. Then, her phone buzzed.
sorry carol had to go in2 work, call me 2morrow and lets chat
She ordered another zinfandel, looking at the wedding ring she still wore on her finger. She remembered seeing his ring on his, in that embarrassing ESPN screengrab that permanently linked him to that Cano sign, which, she imagined, was better than being linked to empty bottles or a hand of cards. She realized that life was messy and difficult and far from perfect, and although she always imagined it would be clean and fit into a box, it took watching Robinson Cano play baseball in a Mariners uniform to realize that maybe it wasn't all Hank's fault.
Hank was broken, but so was she. And so were the Yankees, and even the Mariners, but she didn't really care about that. She picked up her phone, gingerly pressing the keys to respond to her ex-husband who still wore the ring he first placed on his finger so many years ago. She was happy for the first time in months, and she realized that she didn't need Hank, if she didn't want him. She remembered being young, being all but careless.
She remembered being in her twenties, doing what she wanted, staying up too late and camping in Hank's truck bed in upstate listening to R.E.O. Speedwagon and staring at the stars like a presciently designed map to the future. She missed those days, but then she realized that you can have them again later in life if you really wanted them, and she could, and she did. Carol looked at her phone, and decided that if she didn't need Hank, she could have a tiny part of him again.
Talk to you tomorrow, Herbert,
she wrote. She didn't know if she actually would, though, but when the television showed Mike Zunino driving his fourth hit into the outfield, she took another sip of wine and thought boy that kid has a bright future ahead of him.