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October 4, 2018

39. Along for the Ride

You remember a day that I don’t recall: the day we met. I’d say we were too young to remember but it was always vivid in your memory. Maybe a construction based on photos and ideals. Maybe you recall perfectly.

We were two years old and pushed by our mothers in strollers down less-used railroad tracks. They struck up a conversation and we spent nearly every day for the next ten years together. And we spent nearly every day together for the next decade.

I remember birthdays most vividly. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed everything. One year we did a pizza party at Pizza Hut. (If we weren’t at Pizza Hut we were at Pizza Inn, the less savory alternative.) Our sweaty little legs sticking to that wipeable plastic vinyl seating. You ate too much for our little bodies, got sick, and barely made it to the bathroom before losing it all. You used to vomit a lot, actually. It was just a thing.

I remember our simple love of life: smiling and laughing at everything. Like kids, we would be scolded or corrected in behavior, and then run behind closed doors and laugh at adults. One time you got inside a plastic toy container shaped like a football. I don’t know how you fit. Then you wanted me to push the container down a flight of carpeted stairs. When it hit the bottom I thought you were dead. But then you popped out laughing hysterically.

I remember we’d lie on our bellies on a bedroom floor with just blank pages, a few pencils, and endless childhood imagination. We drew dinosaurs. Always dinosaurs. And how we knew dinosaurs so well! Rhinocerosaurus! you screamed. What an amazing concoction for our nascent selves. I remember that evening.

I remember falling asleep to old black and white films... Why, I oughta! You slept like a rock, passed out on fun. I had a hard time sleeping since it wasn’t my house—I was weird like that. And I woke up to a television spilling light and comedy into a drowsy and dark living room.
One time we bought a few comics and read them walking through Roses, the local discount store. We were barefoot and wandering aimless, necks craned in to what the Fantastic Four or Wolverine or the Incredible Hulk might do next.

Our parents thought you had asthma because of your breathing. They thought you had diabetes because you drank so much water. I think we were just kids, always breathing heavy and staying hydrated to keep up with ourselves. You were as healthy as kid could be running around barefoot and wearing a helmet riding a four wheeler in the backyard.

I remember when your father passed away. We were a little older then. He was always third based coach on the Little League teams. We played baseball together. As good of friends as we were we never played on the same team. Cardinals. Pirates. Tigers. Indians.

My dad taught me everything I know about baseball. As it should be. Maybe not all the players and all of the history, but definitely the technique and the mechanics of the sport. Watching a baseball game, I think I can accurately guess what the next pitch will be based on balls, strikes, baserunners, and outs.

I know the difference between throwing a baseball from third base to first base and the difference between throwing a baseball from the pitchers mound to the catcher and the difference between throwing a baseball from centerfield all the way to the catcher on one bounce—maybe no bounce at all. I know how to bat, I know how to hit a line drive over second base I know how to bunt I know how to hit a home run—when I'm lucky.

But all that just made me a brain for the sport. A little book of knowledge. A baseball almanac. I was never really that good, to be honest. I mean, I made the All-Star team… Little League. I made the varsity team in high school—I attended a private high school with 100 students. I would earn my way to bat first or second, just get on base and let the cleanup hitter bat me home.

That leads me here, where I am today, writing about my childhood and a longtime friend I vaguely remember. We played baseball together. We were best friends. Who are you now?

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