Thursday, January 15, 2015

A package from Mexico.

I arrived home last night late. I've been going hard for the last month--leaving the house at 6:30 and not arriving home until eight or so. Last night, I came home to an empty apartment. My wife had a client dinner. And my 17-year-old niece, who is feuding with her father and therefore staying with us, was ostensibly studying with a friend.

When I got into the apartment, there was a shoe-box-sized package on the dining room table, neatly tied up with bakery twine. My name and address was neatly written on the outside and I noticed the postmark was from Saltillo, Mexico--Hector Quesadillo's home town.

Somehow, as much as we're programmed to open packages that arrive, I was loathe to open this one. Getting a token from his wife, Teresa, well, it scared me. It seems so final, so sad.

I shook the box a few times but was unable to get a bead on it. Finally I pulled out a pair of orange-ringed scissors I had lifted from one agency or another, and sliced through the twine and tape that had sealed the box.

Next, I pulled out the newspaper the box was packed with. First I saw a note, in English from Hector's widow, Teresa. "He love you." It said simply and purely.

Then I saw it, Hector's ancient Rawling's Brooks Robinson fielder's glove.

It's been years since I tried to have catches with my daughters who never showed the slightest interest in baseball. But since my youth baseball gloves have grown faster than genetically-modified tomatoes. Today, they suffer from giantism. They are to gloves from my era what LeBron James is to Willie Shoemaker.

Hector's glove was small, not much larger than the cashmere lined affairs that my wife bought me one Hanunkkah. The leather was stiff and cracked like a desert riverbed during the dry season. The whole thing was stiff and arthritic like the unused knees of a long-time paralytic.

I fit the thing onto my hand and felt the dirt from a hundred ballparks. I had to wiggle my hand in--it was like putting on a pair of too-tight jeans. My left hand hasn't gotten bigger, clearly gloves have gotten smaller.

I squeezed the thing open and shut a few dozen times. Like I said, it was stiff and creaky. I looked around my apartment for a baseball--just something hard and round to toss into the pocket. But I'm 57 now, with no kids at home and no baseballs. I pounded my fist into the pocket and the webbing. I heard myself talking pepper, urging one of our pitchers on.

Finally, after about three minutes, I took the thing off. My hands were coated with ball-park dust and were slightly oranged from the aniline in the glove. In the kitchen I got a two-gallon sized ziploc bag and placed the glove inside and then put the whole--excuse me--enchillada on the top, almost inaccessible shelf in my closet.

When my wife got home she asked what was in the package--I had left its detritus on the table--and I told her.

"You'll get it bronzed," she said. "We can display it on the bookshelves in the living room."

I thought about it for a moment and maybe I nodded agreeably.

But no.

Hector would want me to use it. To repair my torn-rotator. To have a catch, to loosen my wing. And then to take a few laps.

I'll do it Hector's way.

Play ball.

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