I was wondering if the slow pace of the game slowed time or if it was the other way around when I first saw her. It was a hot and humid Boston July Sunday mid-morning and I was getting bored as usual in my right fielder position and feeling the warm dampness rising from the ground – it had rained briefly the night before. I registered in the adult softball league just to socialize. I work from home, so I tend to isolate myself. But, as anyone can see, there’s not much socializing for me in that far outpost in the field. There’s some a bit latter, when the game’s over. But not much, really. Only once did I go for a drink with a couple of the guys. It was an awkward situation, since we didn’t know each other and didn’t have much to say. During the game, it’s just about small talk. Anyway, this is not the point.
I saw her by the fence. She was with a guy. They weren’t talking to each other. She stared at the field – she wasn’t paying attention to the game. He was evidently uneasy. At one point she smiled at me. One of those courtesy smiles one gives to someone else when your eyes meet longer than seems appropriate. I smiled back. Immediately I reproduced my smile in my head and thought that I surely had seemed stupid or desperate. Or both – which was probably more the case. When I looked back, she was again lost in the abstraction of her thoughts. The guy said something. She didn’t answer. Didn’t even look at him. The guy said something else and left, notoriously angered. She looked just as relaxed as when I first noted her. I heard my name and the ball was already behind me. I blushed – not that it would be noticed -, and I sweat even more than I was already sweating. I threw the ball back to Home. The other team had just scored two runs. I didn’t see – I avoided any eye contact -, but I imagined reproachful looks. When I got back to my position, she wasn’t there. I conjectured she had gone looking for the guy. Her boyfriend, I guessed – I envied.
During the week her face kept coming to me, and I found myself desiring that she would be at the side of the field on Sunday. I even developed a certain anticipation anxiety, to the point of not being able to sleep well – then, the heat didn’t help either (I hate the air-condition, it makes my throat dry and sore). I fantasized many ways of approaching her or, even better, her approaching me. And from there, I built conversations, and years together, where silence and just a glance say everything. I do that a lot. I have lived many lives like that. And just in a few minutes or hours – sometimes I pick the illusion up the next day, or even every day for a week or so. When on Sunday, on the sixth inning a saw her walking alone towards the fence, I started having problems breathing. Really. Well, I had some trouble already, with all the humidity and heat, but it got worst. Not to the point of fainting or anything like that. Just that I needed an extra effort to inhale enough air to keep me going. Thank God that I never smoked, I thought.
I started calming down when I realized she was staring at nothing, probably lost in her thoughts. I even caught a ball and got an out. I almost forgot about her – I looked once in the next inning to her side, but she was absentminded, like before. It wasn’t until the last inning that she smiled at me. It seemed that it was the exact same smile that the week before. I smiled back and got my attention back to the game – not that anything interesting was going on, but I gathered that, being the same smile, that was all it was in it. But I was wrong. She kept smiling. Sweetly, tenderly. There was no seduction or anything like that. When the game was over – it was the first, and would be the last, game we would win – and I was putting my glove and a towel in my bag, she got closer to where I was. Almost keeping the same distance, she kept while I was in the right field. She smiled again. An even longer smile. Now it had some other ingredient – tenderness almost gone, and supplanted with something like enchanting mischief, or not, it was something more like an invitation, at least that’s how ended up interpreting it. Once I was done, she started walking away from the park, in the direction she came from. When she was a couple of yards away, she turned, smiled at me in that novel way, and kept walking. I definitely interpreted it as an invitation to follow her. And I did so, though I didn’t know what was expected of me. I didn’t even know what I expected of all that situation. I was going into unknown territory. This kind of thing, I was telling myself, doesn’t happen to me nor to the likes of me. Actually, to whom does this happen?
From time to time, she would turn her head and smile that… Invitation, order? Tease? I kept walking behind her. And then I realized I hadn’t fully noticed her. She had a long black – almost blue – hair; light-green eyes, a fair figure for her, I figured, thirty-five or so. Having become aware this superficial data, I began thinking many things at once: it was a prank (immediately discarded: I don’t have close friends), she was driving someplace where a couple of guys were waiting to rob me, or rape me, or steal an organ from me. And although this line of thought frightened me, I kept following her. She entered an apartment building in Commonwealth Ave. How many blocks did we walk? I didn’t count them. Didn’t even check the building number. I saw her get on an elevator as I was coming through the entrance glass-door. Sixth floor. I called the elevator and follow suit. There was a long corridor stretching to both sides. To my left, a far window –the light didn’t reach me. To my right, it ended in a door or a wall, it was hard to say from my position. There were many doors. Too many. All was quiet. Still. Eerily cold – it would take much more than a summer for the outside heat to get into that point. I heard a noise. To my right. I couldn’t say what kind of noise, like a low fugitive laugh or a subtle trap closing. I couldn’t say if it was my imagination filling that silence. Suddenly, to my right, I discerned a door slightly ajar, a line of light. I walked to it. Fear now vanished – if that was a trap, they relied too much on the assumption that men were so careless when it came to the uncertain possibility of getting laid. I gently pushed the door open. She was there. Her back to me, looking out of a closed window. She turned and faced me.
You came – she said, as if she’d been waiting me there for hours and not guiding me to her presence in that apartment.
I said, yes, I think. Or maybe I just stood there, my arms straight on both sides, as if awaiting an ineluctable punish or admonition.
She stood there in silence also. It was obvious that she was waiting for me to do or say something. So, I turned around to close the door.
No, leave it open – she said in a soft voice. As if addressing a child.
Is this some kind of joke or prank or… scam? – I asked.
No. Follow me, please – she said, and when she was by my side, she took my hand with what then, and now, seemed to me a sweetness and protectiveness that I never felt before. I let her guide me – after all, she’d been doing that since for a while. She smiled a beautiful, sincere and comforting smile and we walk into the corridor. Neither she nor I closed the door behind us and yet, it closed almost noiselessly. But then, nothing really seemed striking. We walked a couple of feet and she said: This door is good as any other to start. And she opened one of the many doors from the opposite side of the corridor.
There we were. Maybe a couple of years later. I was petting a dog – a German Sheppard – she was telling me about some friend’s break-up. She closed the door and we moved on to our right. She chose a random door. At least, it was random for me. It was a bedroom. We were making love. She held the door open just a few seconds. I wanted to give you this, she said. I didn’t know what to make of that commentary. I didn’t know what to make of any of that. We continued. Another door. Another scene with both of us: a mild discussion about going or not to a party or dinner. And then, we moved. I was tempted to open a door myself. I even tried, but she voiced a sharp “no” to me with a voice that seemed foreign to her.
Why? – I asked.
It’s obvious. Thus, unnecessary to open it – was her brisk response.
I didn’t see the obviousness of it, but I didn’t go on asking. By then, I knew at least two things: she knew better than me (it was her… game), and that I wasn’t going to get laid, so I didn’t care much about any subsequent explanation. It wasn’t until some days later that I started wondering what was behind that door. I came to a couple of conclusions. All ominous.
We went on – I didn’t pay much attention: she was showing me snapshots of a life that could be mine, but that evidently wouldn’t. Anyway, you get the picture. It was supposed to by a glimpse to every outcome for every one of my decisions. And in every one of them, she played God knows who else’s part. If at a beginning it was kind of a daunting experience, now it was boring, trite and somewhat annoying Dickensian Christmas Carol in in the middle of summer and without final moral. What could I care about a ridiculous, improbable future when, if no miracle happened (happens), mine would (will) be a lonely and, with my gene pool, a bit overweight one?
Suddenly I found myself walking down the stairs. She was still by my side, our hands together. Outside time seemed to have stopped. The sun in the same inclement position robbed us of any possibility of a shadow. We walked that way until we reached the park. At that point she let go of my hand. I went on walking by her side not knowing why, just pushed by a growing anger. She was heading back to the ball field. There was a game going on. It was the team I was playing against when I saw here against some other team of the league. How long did we spend in that door-tour? A week? Could that be possible? She leaned against the fence and lost her sight in the field as before.
What the fuck? – those were all the words I could muster, master. Not very proud of my eloquence.
She didn’t answer me.
How long did you, we…? – I started saying but couldn’t go on.
I tried to insult her, but I remembered the previous week’s guy – or was it two weeks before? – and decided to violate even briefly the symmetry. I left mumbling impotence and thinking, what a twisted and, at the same time, profoundly stupid mind, would find any pleasure in such activities. One lost week, I was thinking while leaving. One fucking week, God knows how many clients I lost. I looked towards the fence and I realized that she was smiling at the guy in the right field position. She was already hooking-up another fool.
I was wondering if it was hotter than humid and if that conjunction (of heat and humidity) made the time flow more slowly or if or if the time’s slowness produced that weather. Anyway, it was the regular Boston July Sunday mid-morning and I was getting bored as usual in my right fielder position and feeling the warm dampness rising from the ground – it had rained briefly the night before, or early in the morning. I registered to play in the league just to socialize. I work from home. That is, I isolate myself. Anyway, this is not the point.
I saw her by the fence. She was with a guy. They weren’t talking to each other. She stared at the field, but not that she was paying any attention to the game – who would? He was evidently uneasy. At one point she smiled at me. One of those courtesy smiles, I thought. I smiled back. Immediately I reproduced my smile in my head and thought that I surely had seemed stupid or desperate. Or both – which was probably more the case. When I looked back, she was again lost in the abstraction of her thoughts – or in the absence of them. The guy said something. She didn’t answer. Didn’t even look at him. I must confess that, maliciously, I enjoyed that. Don’t know even why. Or yes, but don’t want to confess it – though is obvious (envy; there, I said it). The guy said something else and left, notoriously angered. She looked just as relaxed as when I first noted her. I heard my name and the ball was already behind me. I blushed – not that it would be noticed -, and I sweat even more than I was already sweating. I threw the ball back to Home. The other team had just scored one run. When I got back to my position, she wasn’t there. I guessed she had gone looking for the guy.
During the week her face kept coming to me, and I found myself desiring that she would be at the side of the field on Sunday. Just like a fool…
© Marcelo Wio