As Mike watched Trevor Story’s home run ball sail over the fence and listened to the Rockies fans around him erupt with joy, the feeling that settled in his chest was disturbingly familiar, like an ex’s favorite song coming on the radio. It was the feeling of late nights in the dorm, the walls thrumming with the sound of parties he hadn’t been invited to; scrolling through photos of trips he hadn’t been invited on; joy, just around the corner, just out of reach. He took in the purple-clad mob around him hugging and high-fiving. He thought, with a sigh, of how unpleasant work was going to be on Monday morning.
Much like his own move to Colorado, things had gotten off to such a promising start in the game, with the Mariners jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. He’d met Kaycie just two months after his move, the friend of a former co-worker, a guy he’d really liked named Kevin who had moved abroad to teach English. Kaycie was a teacher, too, funny and smart and independent; she taught middle-school math and on their first date asked Mike to help her come up with ideas for a baseball-themed unit. They were married within the year.
At last, Mike thought. They honeymooned in Mexico, and Mike had his own pictures to post to social media. They’d agreed to hold off on kids until they had saved up enough to buy a house in Denver’s pricey market, a decision that felt smart, adult. Kaycie read Suze Orman books. Mike bought a big grill and put it on the small patch of grass behind his condo. They bought a microfiber couch from a store Mike had always wanted to shop in and paid it off in installments. The years ticked by and Mike waited to develop that group of friends it seemed like everyone had, people who would come over for dinner parties and game nights. He did what the books Kaycie brought him from the library told him to do: he put himself out there. He joined a kickball team and went out for beers with them after games sometimes. He volunteered at a pet shelter, where he met a rotating cast of teenagers serving community service for underage drinking. He met Kaycie’s friends’ boyfriends and mixed up Kyle with Skylar with Connor. He reciprocated invitations. He reached out. But more often than not, the grill sat unused, the size of it mocking him when he’d drag it out to cook up steaks for just him and Kaycie, again.
But he had baseball, the easy familiarity of being able to talk to a stranger at the bar. His hometown Mariners won, and won, and won again, and people would buy him drinks, smile at him, cheer along with him, his enthusiasm infectious “Good for them,” someone would say. “Maybe this is their year.”
This is their year. The belief bloomed in his chest with every one-run win, every walkoff, every improbable joy. This is our year. Mike bought tickets for the entire series in Colorado, good seats, main level. Kaycie agreed to go, but refused to wear Mariners gear. Mike wore his hat, jersey, and hoodie and kept an eye out for other Mariners fans in his section.
He didn’t find any. Instead, he watched the team lose twice. It rained on them in the third game. Mitch Haniger slipped in the outfield twice and let in the tying runs. Mike held his hat over the nachos so at least something wouldn’t be ruined. Kaycie got up in the sixth to find someplace dry to ride out the rest of the game. Mike stayed put, in the seats he’d paid for, the soggy remnants of the nachos turning to paste at his feet. He stayed there until Kaycie came back to find him, holding a Mariners hat she bought at the team store.