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April 3, 2013 | BASEBALL

The Glove

Joseph Checkler

The Glove photo

If you were really as good at baseball as you remember, why do you keep having that dream where you’re in right field and the ball is flying toward your face and you’re trying to put on your glove but you can’t get it on fast enough because you actually don’t even know how to put it on and by the time you finally figure out how to do it it’s only halfway on your hand and it’s a crappy glove anyway and it’s not even broken in and the ball is here now and there’s nothing you can do and now the ball is really here and it simultaneously strikes the heel of the glove and the heel of your hand and rolls in front of you and one run has scored and the other isn’t far behind and the glove is on the ground now and so is the ball and you pick up the ball and everyone’s screaming for you to throw it in but now you realize that the problem wasn’t just with the glove because you somehow don’t even know how to throw either, but you try to teach yourself as the second runner is rounding third and the batter is halfway between first and second so you rear back your arm because that’s how you’ve always done it but as you try to bring it forward it just moves in slow motion and it goes limp and the ball just plops in front of you again and everyone is screaming louder and there’s nothing you can do but just watch the runners go around the bases with your hands at your sides and your face making that same, stunned expression Bill Buckner made when he realized that not only had the ball gone through his legs but it was hit entirely too slowly for the right fielder to have time to pick it up and throw Ray Knight out at home so there would be a Game 7 after all and it was mostly your fault and partially Bob Stanley’s fault and then you wake up and ask yourself what it means because you still have your glove, it’s in your closet, and it’s broken in beautifully and you can still smell the mineral oil you put on it in 1991 after your cousin Matt said mineral oil works best, and even though you’re groggy you’re still coherent enough to know that you’re still really good at catching fly balls and even though your arm sometimes makes a weird sound when you throw, you can still throw it with decent accuracy and fair distance, so now you’re starting to wonder if this dream is actually some sort of symbol of something like you being dissatisfied with your job or your life or your drinking but no it can’t be that, you’re pretty sure you haven’t been lying to yourself about all that stuff but not 100% sure, you can never be 100% sure, but then you think harder and remember that even back when you were playing and you were good you would always have this insane fear every single time the ball was hit to you that you were going to fuck it up somehow, that you were going to go against Coach Valente’s advice to always take your first step back and instead you were going to take your first step in and the ball was going to fly over your head and the batter was going to get an inside-the-park home run and you were going to have to run into the dugout after the inning and explain to the coach why you failed so miserably, but none of that happened usually, you usually just caught the ball and threw it in to the cutoff man and the parents in the bleachers clapped politely at this routine play and you intentionally made that face that people make when it’s no big deal, of course I was going to catch that, I don’t even understand why you’re all clapping, but really you liked that they were clapping because it meant you hadn’t failed, you weren’t happy but you were just relieved that your face wasn’t red with shame, and now you’re starting to realize what the dream is about, you are deathly afraid of failing at everything you do, to the point where even creating a Microsoft Word document named TheGlove.doc and typing up this entire story to yourself as a one-sentence, second-person narrative that you may or may not submit to some highly respected literary journal is scaring you because what if they don’t like it, what if this is terrible, what if they never even think of publishing it because you’re not as good as you think you are, and what if the only reason anyone other than your mother has ever told you how good you are is because it’s so much easier than telling you you’re slightly above average, which would be fine, but no, shut up, you definitely are good, or you wouldn’t have a good job or friends or a girlfriend or be decent at bowling, this is what drives you, this fear of failing all the time, it’s the reason you’re good, and it’s the reason you have this dream, the only piece of equipment you’ve ever had in your entire life is a baseball glove that you didn’t even know how to use and you still somehow made it work, and it’s actually good that you have this dream, because the moment you have a dream where the fly ball is coming toward you and you take your first step back, and the glove is on your hand properly, and you open it, and the ball settles comfortably inside it, that’s when you really have to start worrying because you’re not scared of failing anymore, and that’s the moment you’re going to fail.

 

image: Joseph Checkler


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