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Dr. Phil and I Go to the Batting Cages photo


“The feeling of aluminum ringing up through your wrist
When you hit the sweet spot
Because you can always clip it and get to first
But that vibration, that's the game,”
I say, but Dr. Phil isn’t listening. He chooses a wooden
bat, something I never tried, and he is far away.
I try to remember the line from that old Tobias
Wolff story: what was it that kid said so wrong,
so pure, on the baseball diamond that it had been worth
a last thought?

                        But I couldn’t remember much. We
weren’t really there. I just needed to get out
of the hospital, and I brought us here. I want to remember
how it feels to have a ringing in your wrist, victory
in your legs as you take a final lap. I hadn’t moved
for days. I kept having dreams where people would
laugh and tell me I hadn’t had a stroke, but I’d still
wake up, no feeling in my right side, confused.

Dr. Phil never lied to me. He never tried to convince me
that everything was normal. But when things were normal,
twenty years ago, before I knew there was something wrong,
baseball seemed safe enough. Something about that moment
where you know everything is OK, the soaring leather,
the smell of the spring grass kicked up by neon cleats.

“Say something,” I beg. He picks up his Louisville
Slugger, runs his thick fingers up and down the polish,
and finally motions for me to come over to him. I want
him to envelope me, hug my whole body. Want to become
part of him, for part of him to possess my right side,
to move my hands and legs with the certainty of an authority
figure. He doesn’t touch me. He says, “This will take a while—
but you know how the aluminum feels. You know the ringing.
Take this.” He hands me his bat, and I wonder if he means
for me to hit a ball or something else. But he trudges out
to the pitching mound, all in a three piece suit, and slow-pitches
the baseball my way.

                        Nothing is real in hospitals, and the closest
to memory you have is the dreams, mostly morphine
and ambien. But the truth is this: I felt that wood, and it didn’t
ripple in my hands. There was no strange vibration. I hit
dead center, right over Dr. Phil’s head, and he smiled while
my hands felt nothing, nothing at all. And I wondered: is this it?
Is my last moment of purity going to be a solid hit
but with no feeling?

                        “You’re going to be fine,” he said, “But
I want you to know: a home run doesn’t have to sting.”
Too tired to run, I just dropped the bat, and it thunked
against the sand, smell of fresh cut grass wafting up.
Too tired to tell him I missed the sting, the best part.


image: Francisco Muñoz