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Billy Martin

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Billy Martin

Smoke ribbons through the room stale with cigar and beer.  There are other boys.  I am wearing my Yankees jersey, pale, thin arms in an oversized shirt, baseball cap pulled down tightly over my eyes because that is how I always wear my baseball hat, and I am always wearing my baseball hat.  And I am a rabid Yankee fan even at eleven. 

Yankee manager Billy Martin is the guest speaker and he’s telling raw jokes, jokes I am too young to get.  There are no women here.  It might be the American Legion.  Or it could be a banquet hall, even a Y.

My father brought my brother and I.  Josh doesn’t care much about baseball at this time, or the Yankees.  He’s a behemoth of a boy.  No one knows where he got his curly hair from, but they say, he, like my father, inherited our great grandfather’s gargantuan size.  At six or seven, he’s already bigger than I will ever get.  He has a fat, cherubic face.  Not dour and scowling like I am now, or he will become.

The night winds down.  This wasn’t an autograph session.  Still, Martin says he’s got time to sign a couple autographs if there are any kids there.  My father looks at me, and brings my brother up to shake Martin’s hand and get his autograph.

I don’t recall this ever taking place.  Have no recollection of ever seeing Billy Martin speak.  I once saw Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly speak, got his autograph on a baseball we lost in the woods behind our house, because we had run out of other baseballs but the game had to go on.  I don’t think my father took me to see Mattingly.  Though, maybe he did.

No, I know this story only because my brother tells it one night, when we get drunk on New Year’s at his ex-wife’s condominium.  I’ll be a junkie by that point, but my brother, more than anyone else, will love and forgive me, even going as far as looking up to me in admiration for my commitment to rage against whatever institution I held to blame.

Our father will still be alive.  I don’t know why we will talking about him, but we are, and my brother will recount this story, through tear-filled eyes, apologizing to me for a night I’m not sure ever happened.  Even through my opiated haze, I know what he is really saying.  “Sorry that our father loved me more.” 

I laugh at his sentimentality, and he laughs too, because we are drunk, and ain’t nothing feels better than blood on blood. 

And it doesn’t make a difference if this night with Billy Martin happened.  In my brother’s memory, it did, and it is one more thing to feel guilty about, just like I do, mortar and brick, bone by bone, over things over which we have no control.


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