You first notice it during the top of the fifth inning. Don’t wanna break the seal. You wait. Then your buddy brings you another beer. Let’s say it’s, I dunno, something like a Mac & Jack African Amber. You continue to enjoy the game. It’s good to hang out, watch some baseball. The Mariners are in the lead. Félix is being Félix. You wonder if you should go. I’ll wait until the end of the fifth, you decide. It’s there in your thoughts, but you gotta wait. You don’t wanna go three or four times before the end of the game. Wait until the end of this inning.
Ackley strikes out. It’s time. You place the beer on the floor, get out of your seat, and take the steps to the exit and look for the bathroom. There’s no line. Only a couple of other dudes in there. They are chatting about a woman one of them likes. You stand as far away from them as possible. You pull down the zip and take your lad out. You look down, then look straight ahead, then look up at where the wall meets the ceiling. Come on. Come on! Just go! But you don’t go. You won’t go. Those fellas at the other end know you can’t go. More people come in. They go straight away, but you don’t. You can’t go. Thinking about waterfalls, streams, or faucets doesn’t work. It never works. Think about something else.
You close your eyes and see a drip of sweat. A drip of sweat on Kevin Youkilis’s forehead. He’s stood in the batter’s box, doing that thing he does, his batting stance like an elephant trying to balance on a beach ball. He’s wearing road grays. He’s stood in front of Jorge Posada. Your vision switches to catcher view like on a PlayStation game. It’s Yankee Stadium, the new one. CC Sabathia is stood on the mound. You switch to Sabathia’s view of the game. You imagine the friction on his fingers touching the ball. He looks at the ball in his glove. This time, after countless thousands of pitches in his life, is the first time he’s ever wondered why the stitches are red. Why aren’t they black or blue or yellow or green? Who made that decision? Youkilis wonders what Sabathia will throw. It’s a 1-2 count. He’ll go with a change-up for sure. Time stretches and Youkilis is confident. Manny’s on first. A home run would tie the game. Sabathia throws over to first. Manny gets back safe. Youkilis looks at the dirt beneath his feet. I wonder what type of bugs live in the dirt at baseball stadiums. How many worms are out there in the grass? Even now, in this tiny moment of the history of all time, that grass is growing. Growing growing growing. The grass will be longer when my at-bat is over, he thinks. Such a tiny amount, but it’ll be longer. Sabathia is ready. Sweat drips again. Posada notices the sweat. The umpire notices the sweat. Everyone watching on TV notices the sweat. Youkilis pays it no mind.
Sabathia pitches. Youkilis’ brain fires up. It’s a change-up. This is mine. Don’t worry, Boston, don’t worry New England: I got this. Shit damn fuck motherfucking fuck fuck. Youkilis makes weak contact with the ball. It hits the ground a few feet to Sabathia’s right. Youkilis pounds his feet along the base path. He is aware of his weight, his frame, his mass. I came in like a wrecking ball. He sings a song to himself in his head. A song that hasn’t even been written yet. I never hit so hard in love. His thighs are trying with all their might to get to first quicker. He wonders if he will ever play in Japan. That won’t happen, he thinks. I should visit though. Need to get me some fuchiko-san. Head down, running hard, he imagines, ever so briefly, what it would be like to be Carl Lewis. Muscular, lean, big, shiny, beautiful thighs. A moment’s doubt as he contrasts Lewis’ thighs with his own hairy, pink, slabs. Maybe there should be a Sports Illustrated photo feature of sportsmen’s thighs. Good, simple, high-quality, black and white photographs of thighs. 20 pages of thighs. Award-winning photographer Kevin Youkilis.
Derek Jeter sees the ball come off the bat. As he moves to his right he notices a small cloud of chalk dust fly up behind Youkilis as he runs toward first base. Jeter is in place and ready. Easy double play. Textbook stuff. As the cloud of chalk dust dissipates, he thinks of how nice it would be to be alone in this stadium, late at night. Late late late at night. After his teammates have left the clubhouse, after the front office lights have been turned off, after the stands have been cleared of trash. He imagines a big thunking noise as the floodlights are turned off, and that nobody has noticed him, Derek Jeter, DJ, Captain Clutch, Number two Derek Jeter number two, Mr November, gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November, and give a kiss to my mother. Nobody has noticed him sat in the dugout as the last floodlight is turned off. He stands up, take the rubber gloves out of the back pocket of his pants and puts them on his hands. Gone ’til November, I’ll be gone ’til November. Who did that song? That guy out of the Fugees. What was his name? He watches the ball hit the grass near CC. It bounces once, twice, oh man, you are so out, Youk. And Manny, too. Inning over once the ball is in my glove, dudes. He drifts back to thinking and picks up a bucket of water and walks over where the infield dirt meets the outfield grass behind first base. It’s a beautiful warm summer night. There’s a full moon. After thirty seconds or so, his eyes have adjusted to the light and he wonders why we ever need floodlights. The moon is so bright. He gets down on his hands and knees and dips the index and middle fingers of his right hand into the bucket of lukewarm water. He puts his finger tips at the base of a blade of chalk-covered grass, then softly grips the blade and runs his finger tips up, clearing the chalk away. One blade clean. He does it again with the next blade of grass. This, he thinks, feels really nice. He repeats the motion. A quiet, rhythmic act. Chalk, stroke, clean. Chalk, stroke, clean. The ball hits his glove. His right hand takes the ball and tosses it towards the bag, where Robinson is waiting.
Robinson Canó slows down as he nears second base. Derek has tossed it toward him. All good. A simple play. He hears an ambulance in the distance. He hates that. He hates hearing ambulance sirens. He can’t not think about who is in that ambulance. Is that person already dead? Was it a car accident, a heart attack, an attempted suicide? The crowd cheers as they see the first half of the double play executed. Robinson loves the cheer for drowning out the siren. He swiftly transfers the ball from glove to hand and readies himself to leap and throw. But it’s Manny. No need to jump.
Manny knows he’s going to be out. The moment he saw Youk swing the bat. Double play. ¡Mamagüevo! Gotta run, though. Damn it. Manny runs. Head up, he sees that Jeter already has the ball. He can see the Spring Training photo day picture of Youkilis’ head on the enormous scoreboard. That scoreboard is fucking huge! No way I’m sliding and getting dirt all inside my shirt just coz that sweaty fuck can’t hit a change-up. He’s still seven or eight steps from the bag when Canó catches Jeter’s throw. Manny veers to the right to avoid the ball that is on its way into Mark Teixeira’s glove.
The ball leaves Robinson Canó’s hand and it’s beautiful. A perfect throw. Straight as an arrow. Teixeira appreciates the throw. He can see Youkilis lumbering towards him out of the corner of his eye. He nestles his right foot against the bag. Stretches his left leg forward, holds out the glove. The ball gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Closer and closer to his glove. Maybe I could go and buy some new Dockers tomorrow before the game, he thinks. The ball hits the glove. Teixeira holds the glove out in front of him. The first base umpire signals that Youkilis is out.
Mark tosses the ball to a kid in one of the rich seats. CC pumps his fist. Robinson and Derek jog across the infield, joking and smiling. Manny saunters across the dirt and chats with the third base umpire. Youkilis takes off his helmet and gloves and waits near first base for someone to bring his mitt.
And you? You open your eyes. It always works. Thinking about a 6-4-3 double play always works. No more shy bladder. King of the world. King of this bathroom, anyway. You give it a shake and do up your zip. You feel a tiny drop of piss leak out and moisten your boxer briefs. Should’ve given it a couple more shakes. You curse in your head as you wash your hands. Then you dry your hands on the side of your jeans and return to you seat. “S’up?” says your friend.
“All good. What did I miss?”
“Not much. Bogaerts struck out.”
You take a sip of beer, and then you remember.
Note: Kevin Youkilis never hit into a 6-4-3 double play at Yankee Stadium whilst playing for the Red Sox. In fact, he only ever ground into any sort of double play as a Red Sock in Yankee Stadium four times: May 23, 2007 (4-6-3), July 3, 2008 (1-4-3), August 27, 2008 (5-4-3), and May 4, 2009 (5-4-3).
Craig Robinson is not a Child, a God, a Pilgrim, a Rock, the Forest, the Resurrection, the Cosmos, the Law, or Damo Suzuki. Nor is he trying to break your heart. He does have a Web site, though. It's called Flip Flop Flyin'.