It is Designed to Break Your Heart

The sky’s black, a dull and flat color like a clean chalkboard. The air’s cold, and the wind is damp. The fog is hovering around the edges of the stadium, glittering gold in the fluorescent lights, rolling down across the third deck and drifting across the biting green of the grass below.

I’m not in my usual seat. I’m leaning against a brown brick wall, an orange scrap of dishcloth in one hand and an oversized lemonade in the other. There’s a beat-up hat on my head; my hair is long. It’ll be another year and a half before I decide to cut it. It’ll be longer before I learn how to smile for pictures properly. I am fifteen years old.

My mother is next to me, her face lit up with joy, and my brother is next to her; I’m wearing his jersey, white and too-big, which I’ve stolen from his room. We don’t know this yet, but he’ll never get it back, not really; it’ll drift slowly into my room, and then my closet, and then at long last my suitcase, the night I zip it up for the last time and carry the thing down the stairs of the house to where my father is waiting to drive me to the airport.

By that time, my brother will be long gone.

And then it’s 2014.

My parents are two-dimensional, a blur of shadow on my computer screen; the light is bad in their living room. I’m sprawled on my bed in my dorm room, my chin on my hands, and my mother is telling me Joe Panik, Tim Hudson, Travis Ishikawa! and I’m nodding along as if I know it as well as she knows it, as if I’ve watched every game through my fingers like she has, as if I’ve been in the car next to her listening to KNBR on the drive up to school, as if I’ve been in my her dining room carefully syncing Kruk and Kuip to the television so we can mute the FOX announcers.

I say to her, Is it– is everyone excited, in the Bay? Are there, is there orange paint in the windows like there was in twenty-ten, are all your students– and she’s nodding, she says, of course! and she’s surprised that I don’t already know. As if the whole world is caught up in the chaos, the same small insanity she wades willingly into each autumn; as if October cannot mean something besides late nights watching the game, besides scrounging StubHub for tickets and replacing all the kitchen towels with rally rags, besides wearing the same hoodie from 2010 to work every day for thirty days straight. As if the idea there should be anything else in the world is absurd.

You have to say hi to fans on the street, she says. I say, of course I say hi to fans on the street, and don’t tell her I’ve only seen three.

Don’t tell her that the last time I called out go Giants! to a man in a San Francisco sweatshirt, the friend I was with raised an eyebrow at me, said, Do you always yell at random strangers?, and when the next woman in the Giants baseball cap went by, I said nothing.

It’s 2012.

We’re meant to be doing calculus; we’re not doing calculus. I’m on the dirty grey carpet, huddled next to my math teacher and a kid I barely talk to. It’s the tiebreaker game; my team has played three elimination games, has been dancing on the edge of a knife for half a week, and Sergio Romo throws strike two and my heart is in my mouth, and half the class is at their tables and half the class is clustered around a tiny, battery-powered radio. There’s nothing in the world like this, nothing in the world more important than this, and then the windup, and the pitch– and strike three, strike three, we’re alive, we’re moving on to the championship series, we’re still alive, God, we made it.

I say, I need to go find my mom, and my math teacher says of course, and I run across the breezeway and to her classroom– someone there says I think she’s in the library? and I meet her there, coming up the steps, and we hug each other, there by the classrooms. It’s her prep period; she’s not skipping class, I am. She says, One of the students found a livestream from Russia, and I say Mr. Mahoney had a radio, and we’re half-screaming half-laughing, we cannot believe it, this has not happened, this cannot be real, we cannot be this lucky.

We will go to the parade. We will shove our way onto Market Street, we will go in our 2010 hoodies and our baseball caps, we will high-five strangers, we will laugh and cry. We will take pictures and send them to my brother.

My brother will be in Santa Barbara; he will be studying for midterms. I will be wearing his jersey again, and he will not be there at the parade, with us, and when we Skype him next I’ll say you should have been there, you should have been at the parade! and I’ll see, for a second, a flash of real hurt-anger-pain in his face, and he’ll say yeah, and I won’t understand what he means.

It’s 2014 again. My dorm, while equipped with a state-of-the-art television, does not tune in to the World Series for the first game; nobody is really interested. I pull up a livestream on my laptop, mute it while I struggle through my Russian homework. When I unmute it again, half the game has gone by, and I’ve seen none of it.

It’s 2010. I’m at the first parade with my cousin Jennie; she says to me, can you believe it, can you believe it happened? and I shake my head. It has not yet sunk in that we have won; it has not yet sunk in that the last month of my life, the whole overspilling enormity of my teenage-girl heart absorbed by Tim Lincecum and rookie of the year Buster Posey, by Juan Uribe and Aubrey Huff, rally thongs and the baseball gods, names and phrases I will recite like mantras like prayers like songs I knew when I was a kid, has ended in happiness. Has ended.

It’s 2014. Grant Brisbee, writer for the McCovey Chronicles, has written an article entitled How to Root Against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. He’s my favorite Giants writer, who I watch livetweet the games; I click through, and read:

I remember buying a board book about the Giants for my infant daughter, back in 2009. It had pictures of Lou Seal, baseballs to count, things like that. On one page, there was a list of World Championships.

1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954

I know other franchises had/have it worse, but I just kept staring at that 1954.

It’s 2002. I’m seven years old. My favorite player is Dusty Baker, who isn’t even really a player. The television is grainy and the colors are flat – this is years before my family will get cable, and our rabbit-ears can pick up about eight channels, three of which are mostly static.

We are five runs ahead. If we win this game, we win the Series. We have suffered through the seventies and eighties, we have survived earthquakes and scandals, we are closer than we have ever been. We are five runs ahead. We are five runs ahead.

My mother has been waiting for forty years.

It’s 2014. She says, Hannah, if it ever– if it comes to game four, if we’re that close, you have to go stand outside Finnerty’s, you have to try to get in, just for the last few innings. I’m sure it’ll be packed, I’m sure they won’t turn you away, I say, yeah, yeah, of course I will, picturing myself in a baseball bar with strangers, with adults, watching the last game of the World Series alone.

It’s 2013. We’re losing game after game. We’re not going to the playoffs this year.

My suitcase is in my arms. My brother is in Santa Barbara, has been in Santa Barbara for a long while now; he doesn’t come back to the Bay for the summer any more, has his own life. It’s dark, and the stars are bright above the thin little stick of the maple tree in my family’s front yard, and the moon’s a fingernail somewhere to my left. In my suitcase are dresses, shorts, books, underwear, a Giants jersey, large things, small things; the things I have chosen to take with me to New York, the things I am using to build a new life.

It’s almost September. This is what autumn means to me: school is starting.

Do you have everything you want before you leave? says my mother.

And now it’s somewhere in the 1970s.

I’m not here. I’m not born yet; it’ll be about half a decade before my parents meet, another nine years before they get married. I’m not even a thought in the back of their heads.

The brush is dry, and the trees are tall and dark and smell of dust. My father’s mother is at home, absorbed in a book; Pete and Tom, the oldest children, are at the front, redheaded Anne in the middle with Ted, my father, the youngest, lagging at the back. And in the front, my grandfather, tall and lanky, wearing thick glasses. He’s a former athlete, used to play football for USC; his children haven’t inherited the sports gene, and he’s learned to live with it. He can get them to cheer for the Trojans on television, at least. He’ll die in about thirty-five years, far away from these woods.

But that’s not for a long while. Today he’s here. Today it’s now.

They’ve been hiking for hours, this family. The woods are beautiful, but they just go on and on. I’m tired, says one of my father’s siblings. Can we turn around?

My grandfather turns around. Sure you don’t want to go any farther? he says. We may never be here again.


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