As the call with Sadie began to repeat in my head, I couldn’t help but analyze everything she said. I’m trying my hardest to listen to what she and Adam have to say, but it just doesn’t line up with the man I’m meeting. Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m in denial. But I’ve met evil men. Hell, I lived with my grandfather for a few days! He called his own daughter a whore the day of her funeral! I’m sorry, the Ezra I know is nothing like that.
Sure, he judged San Francisco harshly, but he was doing it because he’s worried about me. He doesn’t want me to lose my connection to God, how could I blame him for that?
These thoughts seemed to follow me into the shower and then back downstairs. I tried to block it out by reading, hell I even gave the movie Adam put on a chance, but I just couldn’t turn my brain off. Finally, I got up and went to the kitchen for a snack.
As I took a seat at the kitchen table, I noticed Mason get up and walk over to join me. “Still restless from the game today?” He asked as he took the seat across from me.
“Yeah.” I lied as I forced a polite smile.
As Mason heard my response I noticed him study me a little closer. “You sure about that?” He pried, causing me to nod my head once more. “You know, when I work the bar, I wind up listening to a lot of people vent.” He began, making sure to look me directly in the eyes. “I don’t mind though, it’s actually pretty fun.” He lightly smiled. “I’ve always liked talking to people, and it’s made me better at reading body language.” He explained as he finally reached his point. “And well, if you weren’t sixteen, I’d say you could use a drink.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at his words as I broke eye contact and stared into the other room. “I think we all could.” I said, pushing the focus off of me.
Mason nodded his head and smiled to my words. “Well, if there’s anything you need to get off your chest, don’t forget you’re not alone.” He said as he drew my gaze back towards him. “We’re all here for you.” He reminded me as he stood up.
I went to say something, to thank him, but his words left me speechless. I haven’t known him all that long, and sure, he’s spent a lot of nights here recently, but I’m still just his boyfriend’s nephew. He doesn’t have to be this nice to me, he doesn’t have to worry about me. And yet, he does.
Does he really care about Adam that much? I couldn’t help but watch him as he took his seat on the couch. Have I not noticed that they’re past the puppy love stage? Are Dizzy and I even past the puppy love stage? Have I been that caught up in myself that I haven’t noticed what’s going on around me?
More and more thoughts seemed to haunt me as I sat in the kitchen and let life hit me. And on top of all of this, I still have to tell Adam I invited Ezra to the team family barbeque. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Maybe I should’ve asked Adam first. But he said he’s over baseball. He said he doesn’t even want to play or talk about it anymore, so what else was I supposed to do? I made the right decision, didn’t I?
When the movie finally ended and the living room started to clear out, I pulled Adam to the side, but I could tell Dizzy was still listening.
“Everything alright?” Adam asked. I could see all the concern he was trying to hide behind his gaze, and all the stress these past few weeks have put on him.
“Yeah.” I lied, trying my hardest to force a smile. “I just, I want to, do you remember on the walk home when you said you don’t even like baseball?” Adam let out a sigh and nodded his head. “And you said it’d be a cold day in hell before,”
“I remember what I said.” Adam interrupted, putting an end to my stalling. “Just go ahead, what’s bothering you?”
“Well there’s an end of season team barbeque Sunday night, and we’re allowed to invite a person.” I finally forced out, no longer able to look him in the eyes. “And I mentioned it to Ezra.” As soon as the words left my lips, I could feel the disappointment radiating off of Adam. “I just figured baseball seemed to be a sensitive subject to you, and we’d be playing it there, and I don’t know,” I continued to ramble.
“You’re asking if it’s okay to take Ezra?” Adam asked, once more jumping to the point.As I nodded my head, I finally looked him in the eyes. I was expected disappointment, concern or maybe even anger, but instead, all I saw him trying to hide was hurt. “We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes, but I think I can be okay with it.”
“Are you sure?” I was able to manage out, still distracted by the pain I was seeing in his eyes. “You can say no.”
“If you feel like he’s been treating you right, I trust your judgement.” He offered, only making me feel worse. “But if he slips up tomorrow or Sunday, my answers changing.”
“I understand.” I accepted, not unable to take my eyes off of his.
“I’m going to head up to bed,” He forced a small smiled through the defeated look on his face. “Good night boys.”
“Good night Adam.” I let out as I watched him walk past Dizzy and towards the stairs.
“Night.” Dizzy offered but instantly looked over to me with an angry glare. As soon as Adam disappeared up the stairs Dizzy stood up. “Ouch.” He remarked as he looked away from me.
“You saw how weird he was about baseball on the walk home,” I tried to argue, but even I knew I’d screwed up. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“You’ve been making that mistake a lot lately.” Dizzy commented, looking back at me once more. “You couldn’t at least give Adam the chance to say no?” He asked, but I had no response. “We all know when it comes to baseball, family barbeque means father-son barbeque.” Dizzy shook his head. “And maybe it’s not my place, but I’d say Adam’s been more of a father to you than Ezra.”
As sadness began to fill me, my thoughts started to overwhelm me. My sadness quickly turned to anger as the stress of the past few days got the better of me. “I don’t need to be lectured right now, alright?” I snapped. “I know I screwed up! I don’t need you shoving my face in it!” I barked, trying my hardest to keep my voice down.
Dizzy shook his head, but kept his mouth shut as he started to climb the stairs. I took a few minutes to collect my breath, before I finally headed up the stairs myself. As I walked into my bedroom, I found Dizzy already in bed trying to sleep.
“Sorry.” I offered as I crawled into bed next to him. “I shouldn’t’ve snapped at you.”
“I shouldn’t’ve guilt tripped you.” He muttered back at me. “But you have to be better than this.” He said in a quiet voice. “This isn’t the Artie I know.”
“I know.” I agreed as I turned off the lights and laid down. After a few moments, I felt him roll over and wrap his arms around me. I tried to relax into him, but something about tonight, something about everything going on, it has me restless. After a couple minutes I broke free of his cuddle. “I just need some space tonight.” I exhaled in a sigh.
“Alright.” Dizzy accepted in a disappointed breath. So I’m even hurting him tonight, huh? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this point. It feels like I’m caught up in the middle of a storm, and I just can’t find my way out.
That night I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced from thought to thought to thought as I tried my hardest to reflect on everything I’ve been doing these past few days. Eventually I finally passed out, too tired to stay awake any longer.
When I woke up, I found that my mood was just as flatlined as when I had gone to bed. “Morning” I tried to offer Dizzy as I noticed him wake up.
“Morning.” He reflected back without looking at me. I went to say something, but fell speechless, not knowing what to say. And for the first time since I’d met him, Dizzy was quiet towards me too.I wish I could say the morning changed that, but as I got ready for the day, well it just felt like we were going through the motions.
As I went downstairs, I expected the same thing from Adam, but to my surprise, he’d cooked breakfast just like he had the day before. “Morning.” He offered me a smile, but all I could see was that broken look from last night. The look that I had caused. “Come eat boys,” He called us over. “I expect you two to actually finish your plates today.”
“I will.” Dizzy forced out as he tried his hardest to act like his normal self. “I finished the leftovers from yesterday like I said I would.”
“And you made a mess while doing it.” Adam teased as he sat back in his seat. “I don’t think you had enough yesterday,” Adam warned as he looked over to me. “it’s been a long weekend, but you have to eat well.”
“Okay.” I accepted, once more blanking on anything to say. How could he be acting so, so, upbeat this morning? Is he doing this for me?
“No Mason this morning?” Dizzy asked, finally having enough of the quiet.
“He got called into wait tables.” Adam explained in a sigh.
“On a Saturday morning?” Dizzy asked with a shake of his head. “They’re that busy?”
“I think someone just called out sick.” Adam shook his head. “I don’t know, maybe this will finally motivate him to apply for the positions he keeps looking at.”
“At other bars?” Dizzy questioned as they finally found a rhythm to their conversation.
“Nope, he’s got a degree in business, I forget what he used to do before he moved here.” Adam confessed in a small laugh. “I think he just wanted a break before going back into it.”
“Mason is a business man?” Dizzy asked, “No way!” in a laugh of his own. “I can’t see that at all.” He teased Adam. As their conversation carried on, I couldn’t help but study Adam. My guilt only began to grow stronger as I realized how forgiving he was being.
I’ve been so selfish lately, but he won’t call me on it. He just keeps pushing forward like it’s not a problem, like it’s not bothering him. I know he said he’d be here for me no matter what, but I didn’t expect this! And for some reason, it’s only making me feel worse.
Suddenly my phone began to ring snapping me out of my mind. “Ezra?” Dizzy asked, still not looking over to me.
“Yeah.” I forced out, glancing up at them.
“Go ahead.” Adam instructed as he noticed my hesitance.
“Hello?” I answered the phone as I quickly placed it on speaker.
“Good morning Arthur,” Ezra replied in an excited tone. “I’ve been trying to think of something we can do today, and it’s so nice out, I was actually thinking we could just spend the afternoon practicing some baseball.” He offered. “Unless you already have practice today?”
Once more I hesitated, but Adam nodded his head, showing it was okay with him. “That’d be great.” I forced out. “We have an off day to rest, but I’m sure some light practice can’t hurt.”
“Thatta boy.” Ezra encouraged as his voice only grew louder. “What do you say we meet at the field around one?”
“I’ll see you there.” I answered, trying to keep the conversation as short as possible.
“See you there.” He repeated before hanging up the phone.
As I put my phone away, I felt my eyes drop to the plate in front of me. “I’ll go with them.” Dizzy volunteered, breaking up the silence that was starting to form.
“I can go.” Adam offered. “You’ve been spending a lot of time here these past few days, I’m sure your Mom wants you home spending time with her.”
“She knows it’s a busy weekend.” Dizzy quickly shut down. “Besides, she picked up some extra shifts to balance it out.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Her bosses run a real tight ship.”
“I’m sure they do.” Adam laughed at his words. “But still, she won’t be working that late and Mason’s busy all day anyway.”
“Then go visit him at the bar and get yourself a drink.” Dizzy replied, not taking no for an answer. “Or smoke a joint and put on a movie.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Just relax, me and Artie can handle this, right?” He asked, looking at me for the first time all morning.”
“Right.” I quickly answered. “You’ve earned an afternoon off, you should take it.”
“Okay, okay,” Adam laughed as he started to gather some of the empty plates. “man you guys must think I really hate baseball.”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell.” Dizzy reminded him with a laugh. Adam shook his head and carried some plates to the sink as I began to fall back into my own world.
The next couple hours waiting around the house were hard. I felt like a stranger in my own home, and yet I’m the only person to blame. Dizzy’s so frustrated he’s barely even looked at me, and Adam, well I can’t look at him! It’s a hell of my own making. I just hope this was worth it.
As the hours finally passed and me Dizzy and I left for the field, I couldn’t help but feel relieved to leave the house.
As our walk grew quiet, I walked over to Dizzy and sighed. “I’m sorry.” I offered once more, not sure what else to say.
“You don’t have to apologize to me again.” He replied, glancing over at me.
“Feels that way this morning.” I exhaled, surprised he was looking me in the eyes.
“You said you wanted space.” He shrugged his shoulders. I could tell he didn’t mean that in a spiteful way. I could tell he was just as confused and lost by all of this as me. But if that’s the case, why do we fell so distant from one another? Why do we feel so off?
I nodded my head and let out a sigh. “I know, but I, I just,” I fell quiet as I drew blank once more. “I can’t even find the words for how I feel.” I confessed as I looked away from him.
Dizzy stayed quiet but I felt his hand reach over and wrap his hand around mine. The rest of the walk stayed quiet, but something about him holding my hand, it just made me feel better.
It’s crazy how quickly the rug can get pulled out from under you, how suddenly everything can feel so different. But I’m going to figure this out. My eyes are opened more than they were before, and I realize just how much I’m starting to slip. I just hope I can stop everything before this gets any worse.
“Nice of you boys to join me.” I heard Ezra call out as we finally reached the gate to the field. “Ready for some baseball?”
“I just came to hang out.” Dizzy clarified as he let my hand go.
“I’m ready.” I answered as we finally reached him.
“Good, because I think some adjustments might do you well.” Ezra commented, drawing an eyeroll from Dizzy.
“Adjustments?” I asked, not understanding what he meant.
“Well sure, your games a bit, well to put it bluntly, loose.” Ezra explained as our eyes connected as we started to walk to the field. “You just need to tighten up certain aspects.” He nodded his head. “It has a lot more to do with your hitting than your fielding, ‘cause your fielding, it’s damn near perfect.” He praised, but kept the serious look on his face.
I nodded along to his words and even had to fend off a smile at his compliment. As we stepped onto the field I reached onto the bag and starting pulling out some baseballs I had collected over the past few weeks. I noticed Dizzy walk past us and lay against the wall right next to the dugout, just like he tries to do in gym class.
I set up at home as Ezra grabbed some of the baseballs and headed over to the mound. “Okay, lets just see you warm up first.” He instructed as he began to throw me a few slow pitches over the place. I did as best as I could while also trying my hardest not to hit the ball back at him or foul it over towards Dizzy. Eventually I found my rhythm, and didn’t have to think.
“Good.” Ezra encouraged as the last ball lined into the outfield. “You’re a consistent hitter, but you’ve got a few bad habits that need cleaning up.” He instructed as he walked over to me. “You smush the bug in your swing, you ever hear that?”
“Yeah,” I slowly nodded my head. “like twist my back foot on my swing.”
“Exactly.” Ezra quickly nodded his head. “Now someone probably told you that adds speed and power, but they’re wrong.” He shook his head. “You’re throwing off your balance and missing middle and outside pitches.”He lectured in a stern tone. “Keep your back foot planted, I promise you’ll get more power and bat speed that way.”
“Alright.” I accepted as I carefully thought over the correction. “I’ll get the balls and we can try again.”
“You boys don’t have a bucket of balls you leave at the field?” Ezra called out to me as I began to jog to the outfield.
“We share the field with a few other teams, I’m surprised it’s even free today.” I shrugged my shoulders as I finally reached the first few balls.
Ezra disapprovingly shook his head as he heard my words. “If they want you boys to be serious, they have to find you your own field.”
I couldn’t help but smile at his words. I agree, but that’s not likely to happen around here anytime soon. Hell, our team is two different high schools pulled together and we still barely have enough guys! My high schools just not a sports focused high school, not that I would admit that to Ezra!
As I finally threw enough balls back to Ezra, I hustled back to the batter’s box and found my footing. The adjustment was hard to make at first, but after two rounds of 8 or 9 pitches, I was finally starting to nail it.
“Ready for the next adjustment?” Ezra asked, but I got the feeling no wasn’t an answer. “You’re leaning your head in too much before you swing.” He stated, quickly throwing more information at me. “It’s moving your eyes off the ball path, and hurting your balance even more.” He complained. “Keep your head up straight, tighten your back a little bit and hit the ball with your bat, not your eyes.”
“Yes sir” I replied before going out and retrieving the balls. I glanced over to Dizzy but notice him locked into his phone. He’s either not that worried about Ezra or so bored he can’t pay attention anymore! I’d put my money on the latter!
This time as I returned to the batter’s box, I found the adjustment a lot harder to make. It took three rounds just for me to start to keep my head back more than not. “Come on Arthur.” Ezra called out as he began to grow frustrated. “You’re better than this.” He shook his head. “If you didn’t have a game tomorrow, I’d make you run some laps.”
“Yes sir.” I accepted as I gathered the balls once more.
As I returned to the batter’s box and another round started I noticed myself having a bit of an easier time with the adjustment. Yet, I could tell Ezra still wasn’t happy with my progress. “You’ve gotta keep your focus son.” He warned as he finally started to walk over to me. “Do you want to get better?”
“Yes sir.” I answered as the look in his eyes began to grow more and more intense. As Dizzy noticed what was happening, I saw him look up from his phone and try to listen in.
“Then make the adjustments Arthur, you look like you’re swinging a hose out here.” He lectured. “The great players learn and adapt immediately, you don’t want to get stuck in mediocrity, do you?”
“No sir.” I quickly answered as my heart began to speed up.
“Good, then show it to me, because at this rate, you’re not ready to win tomorrow.”He chewed me out before dismissing me to collect the balls again.
As another round came and I finally started to make the adjustments, I noticed him nod his head but not ease up. “Better Arthur, but we need to go through that for a while to make sure it’s sinking in.” He explained as he walked over to me once more. “Bad habits die hard, and you’ve got a few of them.”
“Yes sir.” I replied as I tried to catch my breath.This time as he approached me, I noticed Dizzy stay focused on his phone.
“They’re not your fault. Maybe you were taught wrong as a boy, or you probably picked them up when you got here.” He clarified as our eyes met. “But they’ve gotta go son.” He reiterated. “It’s a shame, I’d love to get you in a proper training camp this summer.” He began to speak, more to himself than me. “One in Texas where they teach you right.” He said as he confidentially nodded his head. “Get you back to God’s country for a little while.” He teased as he realized he was speaking aloud, but I kept the serious look on my face. “We’ll see how things go.” He remarked before sending me to retrieve the balls.
We went through that cycle over and over again as the day quickly began to escape us. I have no idea how many balls I hit, but I can guarantee it’s over 100!
“Getting tired?” Ezra asked in a laugh as I struggled to catch my breath. “Come on, when we were young, your uncle and I used to do this all day long.”
“Adam used to do this all day?” I asked in a skeptical voice.
“More so when he was a kid than a teenager.” Ezra nodded his head. “But there was a while he stayed committed to the sport.” Ezra shrugged his shoulders. “Afterall, his father was our couch.”
“Really?” I asked in shock. “How did that go?”
“Our team may not have been record setting, but Mr. Price taught us the basics pretty damn well.” Ezra confidently nodded his head. “Your grandfather’s a hell of a man.” I shook my head as I heard those words, unable to believe it. “You don’t agree?”
“The man I know is a monster.” I replied, breaking eye contact with Ezra.
“He’s strict and old school, but boy, he was the man we all wanted to become back then.” Ezra said, drawing my gaze back to him. “I don’t agree with how he treated your mother, but love makes men do stupid things.” He shook his head. “He cared for your mother, but he couldn’t overcome his upbringing.” Ezra explained. “So he panicked, and made the wrong choices.”
“Really made the wrong choices.” I echoed as I started to stare Ezra down. “With Adam too.” I reminded him.
“Yeah.” Ezra forced out, but I could tell he didn’t feel as strongly about that. “Like I said love makes men do stupid things, but so does tradition.” Ezra nodded his head. “I know I’m guilty of that too.” He warned. “So maybe that’s why I can’t hold it all against your grandfather.”
“Maybe.” I remarked, I went to say something else but stopped myself. I want Ezra to know I don’t agree. I want him to know I hate my grandfather.
“You’ve got your Uncle’s spirit.” Ezra smiled as he noticed my stubbornness “But I believe you’ll stick with baseball, instead of letting your talent go to waste.” I noticed Dizzy perk his head up, showing that he had started listening again.
I nodded my head, once more unable to give him the truth about what I want for my future. “Why’d Adam quit again?” I asked, remembering how Ezra side stepped the question the first time around.
This time I noticed Ezra carefully thinking over the answer. “Hard to say.” Ezra exhaled. “But it happened around when he started to lose himself.” Ezra exhaled.
“What do you mean?” I couldn’t help but pressure.
Ezra hesitated again as he chose his words carefully. “I don’t know what exactly happened, but there was a day, around when we were maybe thirteen or fourteen, when I stopped recognizing Adam.” He explained, starting to get even more serious than before. “It came out of the blue, like a switch had gone off in his head.” Ezra shook his head. “He stopped doing everything he liked, and just like that, he lost himself.”
“Or found himself.” Dizzy commented from the dugout.
“I don’t believe so.” Ezra warned, taking a step back so he could see the both of us. “Trust me, Adam was, Adam still feels like a brother to me.” He explained. “I grew up with that man. Even after he lost himself, we still hung out every day.” As he continued to speak, I could see the conversation weighing on him. As if he was truly worried about Adam.
“It may not show, but I’m very happy to see he’s doing well for himself.” Ezra clarified to us. “And I’m still praying that he finds or has found the kid he was back then.” Ezra shook his head as he reached the end of his lecture. “Because the Adam you boys know, doesn’t seem as complete as the Adam I knew.”
“That tends to happen when your family rejects you.” Dizzy spoke up again, this time shooting daggers at Ezra.
Ezra nodded his head but stayed quiet, recognizing that nothing he could say would satisfy Dizzy. I went to change the subject, but before I could I noticed a group of younger kids walking through the gate.
“Guess our time is up.” Ezra nodded his head as he saw the middle school team.
“I’ll go grab the balls.” I agreed as I started to jog towards the outfield. As I gathered my things, I noticed Dizzy even more agitated than he was last night. Is what Ezra said really bothering him that much? It’s not like he said anything bad about Adam. He was just talking about what he saw happen.
“Almost five already?” Ezra asked as he shook his head. “How about I take you boys to go get food?”
“I’m actually pretty beat.” I answered, knowing I couldn’t drag Dizzy through any more of this. “I didn’t sleep much last night, so I might go lay down for a while.”
“I understand.” Ezra quickly nodded his head. “You worked hard and earned yourself a break.” He said as he studied me closely. “Well you have my number, just reach out if you change your mind.”
“Yes sir.” I accepted as I offered him my hand. He shook it before offering his hand to Dizzy. Dizzy hesitated at first, but finally shook, more for me than Ezra.
As we went our separate ways, I noticed Dizzy quietly trying to work through his frustrations. “I don’t think he meant anything against Adam.” I offered, causing Dizzy to immediately look over at me.
“Well I don’t think he meant anything good for him either.” Dizzy angrily shook his head. “How could you watch your brother go through so much and not sympathize?” Dizzy asked as he stared me down. “How could Ezra call him lost, when he has no idea the hell Adam went through?”
“I don’t know.” I answered, caught off-guard by how angry Dizzy was. “I believe he cared about him though.”
“If he cared so much, he would’ve done more than just pray.” Dizzy grumbled. “Or at the very least, not have slept with his sister while he’s struggling so much.” As I heard those words, I couldn’t help but freeze in place. “Fuck.” Dizzy groaned, realizing his ranting had gotten him in trouble. “Sorry,” He quickly offered as he looked back at me. “I, I really didn’t mean for it to come out like that, I’m just, pissed.”
“I know.” I accepted in a sigh. “Figure I deserve that one too.”
“You see my point though, right?” Dizzy asked as I started to walk again. “Somethings not right about this Artie. I know you don’t want to hear it, but I can’t hold that in.”
“I’m just glad you’re talking to me.” I shrugged my shoulders, knowing we’re both too emotionally exhausted for another argument.
“And I hope you’re listening to me.” Dizzy teased as he gripped my hand. “Except the part you got mad about, you can forget that.”
I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head. Dizzy may be ranting, but I guess there’s some truth to those words. If Ezra was that worried about Adam, would he really go ahead and date my Mom? I know it’s probably a lot more complicated than that, but still, it’s a point I can’t ignore.
As we made it back to the house, we found Adam fully invested in whatever video game he was playing. “I didn’t realize San Francisco had skunks.” Dizzy couldn’t help but tease as he took a step into the room.
Adam paused his game but ignored Dizzy’s comment. “You both alright?” He asked. “You look tired.” He examined as he saw me. “And you look tired too,” He studied Dizzy. “Tired of a certain someone’s bullshit.”
As Dizzy broke out into laughter, I couldn’t help but laugh with him. “You look high.” Dizzy turned it on him.
“Just doing what you told me to this morning.” Adam shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll throw on a movie,” Adam motioned for us to join him on the couch. “come lay down.”
I nodded my head and followed Dizzy as we took our places. As the movie began to play and I looked over to Adam, I saw just why Dizzy was so angry leaving the baseball field. I don’t think Ezra was being malicious, or trying to bash Adam. But Dizzy was right, Ezra is wrong about Adam. He’s not lost or incomplete. He knows exactly who he is.
And maybe, maybe Ezra misunderstanding that says a lot more about Ezra than it does Adam.