Diary in Reverse: Boys Will Be Boys
By Cody Sexton
“Are you going to cry?”
“You know you are.”
The boy sat in silence not knowing what to say or do in response to this comment. He had fantasized about hitting the boy, several times, or any of the other children who made fun of him, but he knew he wouldn’t do it. Not really.
Another runner was batted home and took his place on the bench among his peers, being sure not to sit too close to the boy — the “pussy” — wearing the off-brand cleats.
He felt alone. He was alone. But it was the kind of alone where nothing anyone could have done would have changed anything, would have made a difference. He was just different, and how do you change that?
That boy was me. And this was the summer I, for whatever impulsive reason, decided it would be “fun” to play on our local little league team.
I’m still not sure why I decided to play. At the time the school I attended didn’t even have a little league team so I had to go to the next school over to sign up. I guess it just seemed like a good idea at the time, it’s what my “friends” were doing. I wanted to quit practically as soon as I started.
“You start something you finish it.” My father told me.
I’m guessing he thought that it would help build or reinforce strong character traits? He couldn’t have been more wrong however. The experience taught me precisely nothing, except maybe how to hate someone properly.
Even the coaches seemed to not like me. I obviously wasn’t like any of the other boys, introverted, perhaps even a little shy, so they never understood know how to interact with me. Either because they didn’t know or simply didn’t care to know. With the other boys it was easy, with me it was hard. So they ignored me as much as they possibly could, silently wishing I’m sure, that I would quite the team.
Once during a particularly bad game for the opposing team, the pitcher had managed to walk the first two batters at plate, I was one of them, and as the next batter stepped up to the plate he caught a low one inside grounding it out to right field. That’s when I got the signal from the third base coach to run home so I took off, and crossing the home plate, managed to actually put another point on the board for our team.
However, back inside the dugout I was met with silence. My other teammates had ran the exact same play as I had, several times over throughout the season, making it across home plate either by hitting a home run themselves or were batted in as I was and whenever they did they were without fail met with applause from both the team and the teams coaches. Triumphantly greeted as hero’s with high fives and ass slaps. But there I was sitting at the end of the bench like an uninvited guest at a bridal shower. I actually began to question if I even made it home:
Did I even score?
Did I imagine the whole thing?
Had I never left the bench?
As my doubt grew I sought to release it by asking our teams statistician if I had in fact made it across home plate, putting us ahead by another two points. She pulled herself away from the game long enough to say:
And then promptly returned to cheering for her son. (Who, surprise, surprise, was also our teams pitcher). She never even turned her head to look at me.
So much for team building.
So much for camaraderie.
I got the hint and found my spot on the bench again. I had expected as much from my teammates, but at that age was still too naive enough to expect it from the adults.
I’ve likewise been told for years to “be the better person” towards people who’ve treated me like this, like shit, most of them have been relatives. I get told this because they of course know the other person won’t do it for me. (And why is it that we always demand introverted children to be more outgoing? Why can’t the extroverts at least meet us half way for a change?)
Still, I stuck it out and when the season was finally over I was more relieved than I’d ever been in my life. As I said I learned nothing and never meet anyone that later became a “lifelong friend” as my father had assured me would happen. One of those friends with which to share a few beers and talk about the “good ole’ days” when we played out on the same field as our fathers had before us and as our sons would after us.
You might remember the quote about how parents will usually let their children become anything they want, except themselves? I think about this a lot. And I think this is maybe why I was always so ashamed of who I was as a kid. I was never allowed to be myself. As you might imagine this can lead to ever varying amounts of resentment over time and as a result anger has been one of the only guiding sources of encouragement in my life. I could always count on anger. Anger was the only thing that made me strong enough to leave the only home I knew. I held onto it and nurtured it every night, reciting the litany of offenses over and over into the darkness of my room. I needed to leave. I needed my anger to help me leave. Anger has been the only thing of use my father has ever given to me. (And I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone take that away from me).
Nevertheless, I never again played any other team sport, having decided instead to dedicate my life to more bookish pursuits so that one day I might be able to live life as I am.
About the Author: Cody Sexton is the managing editor for A Thin Slice of Anxiety. His work has been featured at The Indie View, Writer Shed Stories, The Diverse Perspective, Detritus, Revolution John, Due Dissidence, and As It Ought To Be Magazine where he is a regular contributor. In addition he is also a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee for his essay: The Body of Shirley Ann Sexton.
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Image Credit: “SINGLE BRACKET SIGN: “LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD #2.” – Hamilton Field, Base Street Signs, East of Nave Drive, Novato, Marin County, CA” (Library of Congress)