This story is by Mo Huang Rolfe and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Get up Brandon, don’t bury your head in the bedsheets, move your pathetic thin legs to the mirror and stare into your soul. What do you see? Your curly hair can’t cover your asymmetrical face underneath — shaped by sadness, loneliness, and self-hatred. Your vacant eyes reveal the hollow life you’ve led. Don’t shiver! Don’t quiver! Focus! Remember – you were the reason your team lost their playoff game. Do you still hear the cheering? “Three and two, watcha gonna do?” But still their exhortations didn’t move you. You didn’t even swing. You stood there, trapped in your stiff body.
Oh, I tried. Believe me. I was frozen and couldn’t move my arms. I wanted to be a hero, just for one time…
Hero?? Do you remember your father’s head drop in disappointment? He had brought a cannon-sized camera to the game and stood poised behind the fence, anxiously awaiting a good shot of you winning the game. He was ashamed that he had even imagined you ever victorious. Stare! Stare into the mirror and own your failure! It’s all because of you — the bases were loaded, one run behind, two outs, last inning. The team was ready. But you — the weakest link in the chain — single handedly broke it all. You broke the team. You broke your father. Stop crying! I told you, stop! Your mother is never going to wipe your tears again. The day she decided to leave you was the day she gave up on you. Don’t blame the Hummer that T-boned her car—you are still living—it was your hurricane of disappointment that disintegrated her. She saw you clearly and left forever.
No, my mother loved me. She was the only one to defend me, to make me smile…
Why did you need to smile? The world was mean and I was your only friend. You were safe with me. You picked up my rhythmic beat and responded to the cadence of my voice. Everyone else who couldn’t hear me became jealous of you. They mocked at you when you were talking to me, but I gave you the grit to fight them off with apathy. You became a good boy and spoke with me in rhyme and free verse, iambic pentameter and epics. So those incompetent teachers — who didn’t know how to deal with you — wanted to separate us by writing condemning emails home to your mother. I guided your arms, flinging paper balls in perfect parabolic paths to those teachers. I applauded for your bravery. I helped you escape those evaluations full of “yes” or “no” choices and pages of stupid questions. No test could separate us! We united. Now, go to your drawer, get your pocket knife and cut your arm. This is the fifth year after your mom left. Five marks will be made, slowly lifting your guilt and replacing it with calmness. Emancipation. No tears. Only blood. Pain is good, right? You like the color of blood — its bright red streaks. Close your eyes and lean your head against the mirror. The pain erases today’s embarrassment, your shameful 0.062 batting average, and your dad.
My dad has been patient with me and struggles so hard without mother…
Your dad doesn’t understand! After years of his own failure, he forced his dreams onto you. After the soccer kids openly shouted at you to get off the field, he decided that you would play baseball. When you were nine, you still could get walks without having to swing. But now as you turn fourteen, you can’t hide anymore. You have to face your greatest fear every week. You stare emotionlessly at the pitcher, your vacant eyes swallowing everything and nothing at the same time. You would see the ball, but you weren’t really there. I was in charge. As the ball screamed towards us, I kept our arms still. I told you that no action meant no responsibility. Because you could never catch the pop-up or throw anyone out, I had to be there to help. I assisted you in those impossible situations. But your father! He couldn’t see your delayed reflex. He ignored your solo existence away from the teammates. Yet he takes you to all these games and he foolishly brags to other parents. What could you have done? What can you still do? You can’t do anything, but it’s okay. You have me. Now show me the emotion behind your vacant eyes; show me your wrath with your trembling hands. Take out your journal and fire your ire in— write about how you failed your team. Use the black ink to fill in all the shadows—the shadow of your mother’s eyes when she took a last look at you; the shadow of people’s sneer; the shadow of yourself.
Oh no! He is knocking like a thunder on the door. What should I do?
Don’t answer it. Don’t let him come in, you have me! Get up, block the door.
“Brandon, come out now, you have been in your room for the whole day. Everything is fine, I’ll pitch to you tomorrow.”
“Go away! Go away!! I hate baseball!!!”
“Oh Brandon, you know every player has to face slumps. Remember Kirk Gibson…”
“No, I quit! I hate sports!!!”
“No more. I have no coordination and I suck, I suck like hell! I hate how you keep bringing me to new teams, ignoring the fact that I can’t play. I hate you. Leave me alone! Can’t I be in my own world?”
“Brandon, let’s just practice tomorrow—”
“Fuck off, just fuck off, leave me alone!”
Don’t waste your time and energy crying. Wipe your tears and seal out the rest of the world. Get the duct tape, tape the door, close the blinds and tape them too. Light blinds you. Now, do you feel better? In the darkness of this small crevasse, I can unwind inside you. I can spiral out and wrap around your frail body, encompassing you with my embrace — supporting you.
“Open the door, Brandon, open it! I am coming in anyway.” A round of vicious knocking follows.
Do something, Brandon, do something! Look around, yes, the Louisville Slugger that you didn’t swing today, pick it up. Now, your dad kicks the door open, be ready!!
“Brandon, what are you doing? Put the bat down….today doesn’t matter son. We can practice tomorrow.”
“No more, I said no more!” The veins spindle their way up your face, but the warning doesn’t close the fool’s mouth.
“I was a good pitcher and you have my blood, you can—”
“No more, no more, no more….” Your face livid, eyes darken.
Three and two – watcha gonna do? Your dad’s head only briefly slows your bat’s long arc – CRACK! Your wrists briefly feel the best connection you have ever had with your father.
He falls…His moan fades to silence. Oh no, what have I done? I am sorry, dad…
Be strong! You have been scared all your life. Don’t be afraid now, I am with you.
stop! Stop!! STOP!!! What have I done?
Don’t worry. He is now meat. But you, you! Replace your pain with calm. Pick up your pocket knife and open your wrist. I am your loyal friend. Feel all the failure oozing out of you? Feel your freedom? Join me in another game, a fun one.