And I knew the meaning of it all And I knew the distance to the sun And I knew the echo that is love And I knew the secrets in your spires And I knew the emptiness of youth And I knew the solitude of heart And I knew the murmurs of the soul And the world is drawn into your hands And the world is etched upon your heart And the world so hard to understand Is the world you can't live without And I knew the silence of the world --The Smashing Pumpkins, "Muzzle"
All of us are made up of tiny moments. We are like the cheesy posters you see at Spencer's of Elvis or Yoda, made up of tiny individual pictures arranged to create a single image from enough of a distance.
You think you're looking at me, when really, you're just standing far enough back not to see the pictures inside my pores. Some are dark: the memory of my grandmother's hand shaking in mine as she died; some light: the memory of my childhood birthdays; and some completely random: my other grandmother's black lab Jetta running over blinding white banks of snow one winter in North Dakota.
A couple of them in my case involve the Boston Red Sox: a Wade Boggs home run soaring toward the Monster; Dwight Evans' face on the Jumbo-Tron; Derek Lowe in the ninth inning in Oakland.
Tonight a new picture was burned into my being: David Ortiz hitting a grand slam against Seattle.
This week at work was like pulling teeth. In fact, this week overall was like pulling teeth. With no novocaine. For some reason the period of May 21st to the 28th has felt like three weeks instead of one. Somewhere around Thursday this caused me to feel itchy, restless, gripped with a sudden wanderlust and a craving for Boston. I hadn't been back in a while, though I flirt with its limits every day as I drive to work. I was on the verge of just taking off for the city Thursday night, but managed to resign myself to another quiet night at home. But tonight, I couldn't stand it anymore. I needed two things: dinner at Bennigan's at Downtown Crossing and Fenway Park. Just to stand behind the Monster and hear the crowd and see the lights would be enough.
Steve and I did both. After dinner, we rode the Green Line to Kenmore, and as soon as we were over the bridge the lights came up and a deep roar enveloped us from inside the ballpark. Behind us the Citgo sign pulsed like a heart. A bum smoked pot under scaffolding on the bridge. Seedy vendors hawked $5.00 Sox caps behind hand-lettered cardboard signs.
It was perfect.
Fenway Park is so small that it can't even contain its own atmosphere. As soon as you cross the Mass Pike, you're in the ballpark, even if you don't have a ticket.
And if Fenway is a cathedral, the Cask and Flagon is the adjoining chapel. It was there that we went to check on the game.
When we arrived the score was 4-2, Mariners, and Johnny Damon was at bat. I counted at least a dozen televisions in varying sizes all over the bar as we walked in, and there were speakers lined up along the walls blasting the play-by-play into our ears. This was not a place to watch the game out of the corner of your eye.
It was perfect.
We sat down, ordered drinks. Johnny took ball one. Suddenly, I needed to be outside. I don't know why my every decision of late seems to be coming to me as a sudden and violent urge, but for right now I just go with it. I got up on the pretense of smoking a cigarette, stepped out and around the corner where I could stand on the sidewalk and look up at the Coca-Cola bottles and the poor schmucks in the standing-room-only seats at the very edge of the Monster and the banks of lights and divine from the cheers and groans of the crowd what was happening in the game.
The roar that went up moments later was wholehearted but relatively small. I knew Johnny had walked.
"Now batting." The announcer's voice like the breath of God on the face of the waters. "The second baseman. Number 12, Mark. Bellhorn."
Well, I didn't need to read crowd noise like Braille to decipher what would become of Bellhorn. I headed back inside.
By the time I got there, Bellhorn had walked. David Ortiz had taken the plate.
Everyone knew. That's the only way to explain it. Everyone knew, simply understood as fact that the grand slam had happened. They rose to their feet not to will it but to welcome it.
Inside the Cask every eyeball was focused on the television. Every conversation had ceased. Every movement but applause was put aside.
The moment slowed. Stopped. I am here, I thought to myself, and it was as simple and profound a thought as I have ever had. I am here.
David sent the first pitch into the opposing bullpen.
And then, the miracle within the miracle: the sound from the ballpark looming over the dark little bar drowned out the canned noise from the television speakers. It rushed in like a tide, roared over us, subsumed every petty existence within a mile.
And I was there. Forever and ever, world without end, I was there.
Forever and ever, I am still there.