Softball Sketch

I’m in the “husbands’ box” with a few other tired-looking guys, working late on my laptop. The game is about halfway through. We have a vulnerable lead. It’s beginning to rain. She’ll be muddy, cold and irritable when she gets off the field. I expect she’ll want to go straight home instead of soaking in the clubhouse. I happen to be looking up vaguely as Fukuyama #43 sends a line drive past the first baseman. My wife scoops it up, pops it back to first and ends the inning. I take a sip from my can of tea, feeling like a good husband.

“Nine for twelve? That’s a pretty good season!” The little girl nods shyly under her baseball cap, clutching an autographed notebook page. Local celebrity means something here. She’s an obvious pro, bobbing her head and grinning like a tv idol as she fills the girl’s head with league softball dreams. My wife’s plan is to become a history teacher when she retires from the league, preferably at a lower secondary (middle) school. I suspect she just wants to do it so she can coach a girls’ team. She’d be good at it. The late evenings away from home will continue long past her softball career, but at least she’ll be able to ditch that haircut.

We’ve made dinner, eaten, and worked down through a bottle of sake, chatting quietly on the floor. Her face is bright red. Is that what I’m laughing about? I don’t remember. Everything is good. We roll around on the carpet giggling. Soon we’re making love. She’s giving me the baby eyes. This is why I came here. Sometimes it all makes sense. She’s out by the time I put her to bed. I get her a glass of water, and down one myself. She snuggles against my hand as I lay down beside her, breathing hard in her sleep.

“What is the MATTER WITH YOU!?” she yells in Japanese, tears streaming down her face. I don’t understand this mood. She calls me stupid, shit, foreign. Hard little fists smash like fireworks against my chest and arms. She’s much too fast to block. All I can do is force myself closer and take the windup out of her punches until she cries herself down. It won’t take long. Domestic violence only became a crime here in 1997. I’ll be sore tomorrow. She’ll be distant tonight, then overly upbeat, and probably do something for me. This is deeper than me being boneheaded, and not a real couple’s fight. It just happens, once or twice a year. All I know is that her life is an elaborate comedy of manners that I’m too dense to understand, and sometimes it’s too much for her.

It’s the annual Husbands Game — actually a mishmash of husbands, boyfriends, and more than a few dads. (The qualifications are flexible.) We’re humiliating ourselves as usual along with the equally hopeless men from Himeji, but it’s all for a good cause. Mishina’s dad just huffed and puffed his way to a base hit. The local diehard fans are Queen stomping. Hyuuga’s boyfriend played college ball and he’s up after me. If I can get at least a single, we might do okay. I spot my wife in the stands and trip over a bat, to more cheers from the crowd. She does an elaborate, Kabuki-grade facepalm.

When we met, I bought her a drink, not knowing that I probably shouldn’t do that when she was out bonding with her team. We dated for about a week. I remember feeling that I’d hit a wall in getting to know her. I might have called it off. Then everything went wrong. It was the year her team failed to reach the Championships, for the first time since 1995. People were going to be fired. She was taking it hard. She needed company, couldn’t maintain a face. Two fans had committed suicide. It was the worst day of her life. She called me a little before midnight, and poured her heart out in the back of a steakhouse.

We’re home. Practice was cancelled. It’s a Tuesday evening. We’re on the lawn playing catch in the fading light. Her throws are perfect, flat and quick. I lob it back to her. The phrase “speaking with silence” comes to mind, one I’ve never understood. She watches me instead of the ball. Her eyes are smiling. There’s a weird tranquility to the moment. The lull of the neighbors’ kids bubbles over the hedges. My wife looks content.

(This is basically the same exercise as “Wives” from 2004.)

 Softball Sketch

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