Given Anthony’s driving mishap, and the overwhelming stench of stale pizza in his car, the encroaching baseball season was a welcomed change for him. He was spending more time in the garage taking extra swings at night, buying cans of Scrubbing Bubbles to spruce up his cleats, and even coaxed me into taking a few hacks at the ball once in awhile. Not exactly my forte – I prefer a pair of good Jordan’s and a basketball – but I was willing to give it a go. I’d head out to the garage in my slippers and sweatpants, crank up the iPod on the dock and say, “Let me show you how this is done!” After a few whiffs, Anthony would gave me some unsolicited pointers. He’d demonstrate how to line up my knuckles and where to position my feet and for at least that one swing, I would make good contact. I’d look over at him, surprised that he actually knew what he was talking about, and he’d just laugh. Yuma was not the epitome of excitement or prosperity in our lives, but those little moments made me stop and appreciate our solitude together. Briefly, I’d forget about how far we were from family and friends and truly remember why I made the move out West in the first place. In those rare moments I was able to step outside of our situation, remove all the minutia of heartache and mishaps, and just recognize our uninhibited love for each other. But those were rare in Yuma, especially with baseball season numero tres coming right up.
Pizza Hut had served its purpose as our second income, but it was time to trade in the delivery cap for a baseball cap. Even I was on board with finally ditching the pizza gig. With just a few days left on the schedule I decided that spending time together before the season was more important than the extra couple hundred bucks he would earn. Anthony obviously did not disagree. He quit then and there and we spent the afternoon enjoying one of our favorite past times – pedicures. He didn’t engage in such lavish pampering as often as I did, but I think it would be safe to assume that his participation rate was an anomaly to his male counterparts around the world. Walking into the nail salons, the Vietnamese chatter would always instantly increase. You have to reasonably assume that those poor, small women were chirping back and forth about who was going to have to scrub down Anthony’s size thirteens, but then in English they’d graciously ask us how they could help us. He’d always crack the same exact joke every single time to me, “Who’s gonna pull the short straw and have to touch these dogs?” It was funny the first time, circa 2011, but by this time – thirty pedicures later – I just rolled my eyes and ignored him. I pretended to be perusing the wall of O.P.I’s until he finally stopped laughing at his own joke and shuffled off to sit in his chair . Sitting down in my own chair with the latest US Weekly and a Starbucks latte, I watched our respective ladies get to work. It was always funny to see the woman working on Anthony’s feet wearing plastic gloves, while right next to him my tootsies were getting rubbed down, raw-dog. He even shaved his toes to appear more acceptable, but there was just no getting around the stinky, calloused, jagged-nailed monstrosity that was presented to these poor souls. They are some of the bravest soldiers I’ve ever known, and they got Anthony’s feet in tip-top shape for baseball.
The first three weeks of spring training were unpaid. I couldn’t understand at the time where he found the pride to carry on with this league, with this career, when it required so much sacrifice – especially from me. It meant that the onus of paying the bills and keeping us fed was placed on me while waiting for the regular season pay. I want to say that I graciously stepped up to the plate and accepted this responsibility; that I sent him off to Mexico with a sweet kiss and a pat on the rump each day, but it’s just not true. In fact I think I broke up with him two or three times during preseason when I just couldn’t accept the life I signed up for anymore, and then I’d cry thinking about a life without him and change my mind. Typically it would happen on pay days when I’d see a substantial amount of money deposited into my bank, only to be withdrawn down to nearly nothing in the same day. Then I’d watch him go out back by the pool and sit for an hour with his cleats and can of Scrubbing Bubbles, while I locked myself in my office to earn the next two week’s pay.
Preseason felt more like pre-death to me. After my first life sacrifice for Anthony’s dreams, I hadn’t let my heart completely accept baseball again. Old resentment still lingered, while new resentment was getting stacked up on me like a ton of bricks. I felt heavy and torn in what I really wanted in life anymore. I tried to remind myself that I chose this, and that I was the one who suggested one more season of baseball while we built our new life together, but I couldn’t help feeling like we were still only building his. I began to dwell on the fact that baseball consumed six days of the week with only Mondays off. We couldn’t have weekend dates or Fourth of July plans. My birthday would, for the third year in a row, fall on a game day and go essentially uncelebrated. While forking out money and falling behind on bills, I couldn’t shake how this sacrifice was never something that was going to pan out for me and my own happiness. I knew in my heart that you should support and encourage the ones you love because you genuinely care about their happiness, and it is never a gesture you make with the expectation of something in return. I understood and believed in the concept with my whole heart, and yet I couldn’t embrace it.
Opening day was finally upon us, and I remember wondering how I could just show up to the field and cheer. I felt like no matter what I chose, it was failure. If I stayed in Yuma and supported Anthony’s dreams, I’d be forfeiting everything that made me happy: family, friends, traveling, holidays, even just quality time together. I would be alone more often than not. If I left Yuma, it was the second failure at love with Anthony and career suicide for me. I’d left three jobs in the two short years I had known Anthony and I couldn’t do it again. I felt trapped and helpless and I knew I couldn’t effectively convey this message to someone who had only lived with their parents, so I chose option number three.
Grin and bear it.