The Nail In The Coffin

It’s been awhile. Sorry about that. I’ve been so busy finalizing the details of our dream home and wrapping up our summer of 2017 wedding plans that I….

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Hi. Welcome back to my reality. Where did I leave off? Oh yes – showering during off-peak, low-rate utility hours, and conserving water by flushing toilets only when I pooped at Anthony’s parent’s house.

Thanks to my relentless search on Craigslist, I was able to find us the perfect little home to rent – which happened to be defined as anything with four walls, a roof, and some privacy. Don’t get me all wrong. I acknowledge and appreciate Anthony’s parents sharing their home with us for a few weeks. I also acknowledge and appreciate my sanity, so the house just down the road that was built in 1472 with no garbage disposal (a usual deal breaker for me), was our next abode. This would be address change number seven for me in four years – RV Park included. I still can’t believe I got my mail in that place. Sallie Mae was fucking relentless. Meanwhile, Anthony’s Maine license still read the address that he was carried home to at birth, 28 years prior, and people wondered why I complained about his level of commitment.

If I had never lived in a 1980’s RV named Grandma (something no one should ever endure in their lives), I could more confidently say that this new house was the crappiest place we’d ever laid our heads. And while technically it wasn’t the worst place on earth, it was for sure the worst place in Westbrook, Maine. There were the typical things: drafty and cold downstairs, hotter than a witches tit upstairs. Bugs and webs founds in all corners no matter how many times I sucked them up in the vacuum. Closets better suited as trap doors in Alice in Wonderland, and bedrooms that were so small we had to scoot to the end of the bed just to get out of it. But nothing compared to the trials and tribulations that came from the size and condition of our bathroom. A bathroom that would eventually seal the fate of Anthony’s baseball career – at least for that year.

It had a claw foot tub (some attempt at charm, I presume) situated directly in front of a window where you’d stand while washing your armpits and asshole. It had the kind of picturesque view (that can only be captured in places like Westbrook) of our lush backyard and the multi-unit apartment building we so closely shared our real estate with. Our landlord really capitalized on the split lot, and now the neighbors were undoubtedly capitalizing on the free peep shows being put on by us in our crummy, claw foot tub. To shield ourselves from the involuntary voyeurism, we needed, like, 15 shower curtains just to encase the entire thing. It felt a little bit like a Dexter episode every time I stepped foot in there. You know what I’m talking about. And by “you” – I’m not talking to you rich guys with the soaking tubs in the middle of your spacious en suite. I’m talking about those of us who do a walk-through of an entire property thinking ‘Okay, this isn’t that bad. I can manage here for a year. We all gotta start somewhe -‘ And then you see it. The claw foot tub in a 2×2 bathroom and all you want to do is ask the guy why he didn’t just go with the god damn Bath Fitter shower that matches the rest of the shitty, non-existent decor of the house. But it’s Greater Portland, where the rental market is more inflated that Anthony’s ego. So you smile and say, “Oh my gawwwwddd. I LOVE that claw foot tub!” while hoping that gets you out of the credit check since you’re obviously bougie enough to recognize the appeal of a chipped, dusty tub.

So that was the tub. The mixing bowl on a stick that the guy called a pedestal sink wasn’t big enough to hold a bar of soap, and neither Anthony nor I could even see in the mirror if we stood up straight. The bathroom design was really not well thought out, in my personal opinion, but it was an especially poor layout if you were born with any extremities. Seems a little bizarre, but it really was the PERFECT bathroom if you didn’t need to move or reach for things at all. You just step in the bathroom, climb up on top of the sink to shut the door, step back down on the floor and decide what you wanted to do. Wash you hands? Boom – right in front of you? Shower? Find an opening in the 30 shower curtains and step on in. Go to the bathroom? Just sit backwards. It was all right there! Now that I think of it – that kind of innovation really might appeal to some people. Lazy, extremity-less people, but people nonetheless.

When Anthony saw the bathroom for the first time, I remember how uncomfortable he got. He had sort of grazed around the rest of the house, going with the typical D’Alfonso IDGAF flow, but then we came to the bathroom and he stopped dead in his tracks. I could see the gears of his brain rapidly churning before he turned to me and said, “I really don’t think I can shit on that toilet.” I laughed at his seriousness, his fear really, and told him he’d be fine.

He spent the entire lease at that house pooping at a 90 degree angle.

Anthony hated that bathroom from day one. Everyone who used it did, really. But 6’5″, 260 pound Anthony despised it. I could always hear him clanking around in there when he got out of the shower. Banging his knee off the sink, whacking his hand off the corner of the door. It was a god damn nightmare. One particular night during the winter, we were getting ready to pick up pizza and head to a friend’s house. Anthony had just stepped out of the shower, and I was in the middle of the hallway doing my hair and makeup (where there was more room). I heard a crash of glass and then, “Babe?” in a scared voice. I turned around to find Anthony standing there holding his left wrist up, completely gashed open down to the ligaments and bone. I’d never seen anything like it in real life and we probably both felt like we were going to pass out. I have no idea how much time passed, but I said ‘Okay. Okay. Okay’ in a breathy, I’m-trying-to-be-cool, but I might throw up kind of way, before grabbing the towel out of his hand and wrapping it around his wrist. I walked him – naked – over to the guest bedroom and sat him down while I called 911. Those operators are cool as a cucumber, but I kinda wish they’d stop asking questions like “where are you now?” Like lady, who gives a fuck! Is this guy gonna die in front of me or not? Meanwhile, Anthony was sitting there buck ass naked asking me what happens if he stops breathing. Knowing how he was with a head-cold, his dramatics weren’t all that surprising, and I assured him that the cut on the top of his wrist was not going to end his life.

The first on the scene was a police officer. We had gotten Anthony dressed and moved downstairs to the couch. It was one of the worst days for both of us. For Anthony, because he almost sliced his hand off. For me, because I had bought a white shag rug for the living room that afternoon and every single emergency responder walked inside from the snow storm, trampling all over it. At one point after the police asked me if this was domestic abuse (uh, tempting, but no). I then asked him if he could please get the fuck off my rug. He obliged, but wasn’t overly impressed.

We loaded up in the ambulance, and after Anthony had been properly wrapped up, we called Mama D. I’ll never forget it. I prefaced the call with “Anthony is fine, but we’re heading to the hospital because he gashed open his hand on the light fixture in our bathroom while drying off Zest commercial style. It’s really bad.” She sighed and asked me, “Which hand is it?” Ummmm, what? Maybe she meant “Which hospital?” I was trying to figure out the relevance of why it mattered which hand had been injured at that moment, before quickly remembering the bloodline of baseball and softball that ran through this family. She was probably going to ask them to stitch him up with baseball stitches.

“It’s his right hand, Mama D.”

“Ugh, great.” she sounded distraught. Which confused me because I thought it was clear that we were home in Maine because of Anthony’s retirement from baseball. Like, for good this time. One thing was for sure though, baseball was definitely not getting resurrected that year. Anthony needed 25 – 30 stitches and to repair a severed tendon. He had surgery and physical therapy ahead of him. And maybe worse than that, he faced an onslaught of insecurity and fear of what life was going to be like without baseball.

I’ll tell you what it was going to be like. Hell on Earth.
**GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING BELOW **

It’s All Part of the Experience

So we were going back home to Maine.

The final decision came on the heels of a Thanksgiving dinner that we celebrated alone without any turkey. Apparently those birds take a little longer than a couple of hours to thaw out, regardless of how much hot water you run over them. I seriously can’t believe how rock solid that thing stayed all day. Stubborn little bastard. I probably did us a huge favor in all actuality – considering how much Gwyneth Paltrow insists that meat is bad for you. She also considers “conscious uncoupling” a thing though. My parents are divorced – that shit isn’t real, lady. With that in mind we happily resorted back to being carnivores the next day. We may have risked our lives eating store-brand meat, and the poor bird was more than likely tortured on the way to becoming our meal, but we aren’t exactly the kind of people who think things through. The impending moving to Maine was no exception.

I was pretty surprised when Anthony even brought the idea to me. Even though there was a small setback in baseball, his career still seemed to be more promising than any other year. And given that Maine was headed into its arctic, winter months, it wasn’t exactly an ideal time to abandon the desert. Did that really ever make sense? Like, in terms of sensible things that people do? I wasn’t sure. I tried to read his face to understand where this was coming from, but he was being really straightforward. Either baseball had seriously crushed his soul, or he was dead set on never sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner without turkey again.

“Seriously?” I probed.

“Yeah. Let’s just go home.” He sounded sad. Maybe he was. He was really good at keeping his feelings under wraps unless it was just silly happiness or fierce competitiveness. He was nothing like me in that sense. I was a loose cannon, and I had no problem letting people know how I felt. Or I had a problem letting people know how I felt. You could probably spin it either way. “Emotionally unstable” has been used before, but I own it. It just feels wrong to act like you’re happy when clearly you are not. Sometimes you just aren’t impressed with detaching the poop hose so that you can take an entire RV without air conditioning to a baseball tryout down the road. Like no, we don’t need to bring the whole kitchen with us. Anyway, I digress. Anthony is an emotional rock and I’m an emotional wreck. That’s just how it is.

Sensing a bit of melancholy in his voice, I tried to imagine his thought process. I just looked at him and thought “Jesus. I really think he wants to cross this god-forsaken country in a car again.” So I crossed my fingers behind my back, prayed I wouldn’t be sleeping in my nephew’s race car bed again in two weeks, and said, “Okay.”

We didn’t think the move through too much (par for the course), and we were scrambling to figure out how to move all of our shit back across the country for the second time. Up until that point we had made progress on accepting baseball into our lives as a reality, and settling into a home instead of an RV, but we were still working on the whole “managing finances as adults” thing.  We were not so good at that part yet. In quite an alarming acknowledgement, we found that moving back across the country for the second time with a second car and a second dog was really going to hinder our frugal intentions. Actually, it threw a pretty big fuckin’ wrench in our plans. But who needs money anyway when you have love in your life and air in your lungs? Right?! I really love when people say crap like that. Ummm, “ME! I DO! OVER HERE! SHOW ME THE MONEY!” There’s this saying, and usually people who are poor AF say it, but it says to spend your money on experiences and not things. They assure you that this is how you acquire the ultimate form of happiness in your life. Well…I’d like to put the author of that quote through the experience of a move with Anthony, and see what sort of inspirational bullshit he’s spitting out after that. I’m willing to bet he suggests foregoing the entire thing, hiring a moving company, and booking a flight in first class with free drinks and pre-boarding. But that would require money. And we didn’t have that. So we relied on our unrequited love for adventure and cheesy internet quotes to get us through this one.

After getting quotes from moving companies for upwards of $4,000, and discussing how miserable it would be to drive a U-Haul for 3,700 miles while towing an ’98 Buick, we knew we had to get creative. Not like “live-in-an-RV-to-save-cash” creative, but creative nonetheless. I was cashing out unused vacation time from ADP, and yet another 401K account (really killing the retirement game over here), and Anthony was… well, Anthony was providing the muscles. We found a company that would transport our furniture across the country in some 18-wheeler truck bed, but the caveat was that we needed to load it ourselves in Tucson, and unload it in Maine. Seemed simple enough, and it was cheap, so we funneled a grand into that idea. In all the glory of our savings, we didn’t realize the company was forty minutes away from our apartment, and that we’d need to transport our things to East Bum Fu*k and into the truck bed. Well this was getting tricky, now. I tried to think about the pleasant quote about experiences, but looking back I feel like maybe they were referring to spontaneous sojourns to Greece. Not so much moving your entire life across America with just your boyfriend. It should also be noted that I had spent quite a considerable amount of time away from a gym, further making the move one of the most miserable things we’d ever do. The final mastermind plan included the following:

  • Rent a U-Haul the day before leaving for Maine and pack it full of our stuff
  • Clean the apartment after moving the entirety of its contents to the U-Haul
  • Wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and drive the U-Haul to the location of the 18-wheeler
  • Unpack the U-Haul
  • Pack the 18-wheeler
  • Return the U-Haul
  • Sleep in empty apartment
  • Wake up and begin a three-day drive across the country to Maine
  • Unload the 18-wheeler in Maine
  • Load our stuff back into a storage unit
  • Move into Mama D and Daddy D’s

If you’ve ever tried to move with a significant other, then you can understand how dicey our plan was. Packing and moving an entire home into a moving truck once is grounds for multiple attempts at homicide. Lifting and moving it THREE TIMES in a span of less then twelve hours is literally mad. People don’t even attempt it. It’s crazy. It can tear a family apart and scar children for life if they’re young enough. Moving should always be left to the professionals. If I ever have a savings account again with anything in it besides monthly maintenance fees, then the only option is to hire moving help. We had to carry couches and 6,000 pounds mattresses and poorly packaged kitchenware down one steep truck ramp, right up another. Furthermore, we could shave additional costs off our moving fee if we could take up less room in the 18-wheeler. It was the most annoying game of Tetras that I had ever played in my life littered with profanities and sweat and tears. When the couch cost us another $100 because we couldn’t shove it one more inch into the space, I just about came undone. I secretly hoped the truck would be robbed on the way to Maine so I could just start fresh with everything new. Sadly, we couldn’t afford the insurance so I rescinded that prayer as fast as I made it.

Fast-forward four days, three hotels, ungodly amounts of fast-food, and 900 selfies later and we were in Maine. It was snowing. And I was about to live with Mama D. No one was sure what the hell was happening. It could have been the apocalypse and I would have just nodded my head like, “Yup, this would make sense right about now.” But it wasn’t the apocalypse. Anthony’s parents graciously opened their home up to us while we got back on our feet, and I couldn’t complain for a single second about that. It was only when Daddy D showed me the schedule on the refrigerator of when we could shower, flush the toilet and do laundry during the days that I became a little concerned with our choice to move in. “Peak hours” were off limits. That’s when they really  nailed you with usage rates. Peak hours also were the exact times of day that normal people would want, even need, to shower and flush their toilets. I really caught a glimpse into why Anthony took such long, hot showers in our own homes. I had to hand it to Daddy D though. He was a financially smart guy – a trait that his son clearly left somewhere in the womb – but I was still  on Craigslist ASAP, searching for a new place to live.

Finally, a few days after our arrival in Maine, and exactly 3.5 showers later, our things arrived in the 18-wheeler. The location was not far at all from the house. We had the whole D’Alfonso clan on board for the move, which was nice because it was ten degrees out, windy as hell, and Anthony and I were at an all-time high risk for assaulting each other. We had been sleeping on his old bed that had plywood as a box-spring, topped with a mattress that rivaled poster board for thickness. I couldn’t understand how Anthony went through growth spurts on that thing and lived to be standing up straight ten years later. It was a god damn Christmas miracle. I guess some things exist to make you resilient in life. For Anthony it was a paper bed. For me, it was baseball. And moving.

Mama D, Daddy D, Brother D, and pregnant Sister-in-Law D showed up like champs to help us out. They were warriors. Brother D had literally broken his back months prior, Sister-in-Law D was pregnant in her second trimester (maybe third!), and I was (am) diabetic – which is the card I pull whenever I don’t want to do something. In this case I was freezing and losing circulation in my hands (diabetics have terrible circulation), so carrying stuff was out of the question. I sat in the car to stay warm and dictated through the windows. I was especially pumped when my Thomasville couch cushions got hucked into the back of Daddy D’s pick up truck. Heading down the road to the storage unit, I watched with horror as the cushions bounced around in the truck bed ahead of me. I thought for sure they were going to fall out onto the dirty, Maine winter roads and roll around like tumbleweed in the wind. And wouldn’t you know it… they did. I was riding shotgun in Mama D’s whip and I screeched in  helplessness as my Thomasville, Tiffany-blue cushions plummeted down to the ground, as Daddy D drove off without even noticing. Mama D swerved around them like they were small, precious children, probably in fear of what I’d do if she actually ran them over. Like I said – emotionally unstable.

When all was said and done, half of our stuff didn’t even survive the trip from Arizona. Stands and dressers were chipped. Couches were scuffed. Mirrors were broken. I had paid $1,000 for some maniac trucker to haul a load of trash across the country that I just had to lift and throw away, or pay to keep it in storage.

We ordered pizza for lunch to thank everyone for helping us, and then I sat down on the couch, browsed Craigslist for places to live, and waited until peak hours were over so that I could shower.

 

 

The End of an Era

Sometimes when I look back on all Anthony and I have gone through, I can’t believe that there’s still so much more to write about. If this were a movie, (and it probably should be) we’d be at the apex of the story line. This would be the breakthrough moment where the constant build-up and let-down of our struggles would have surmounted to the point of pathetic annoyance. Viewers would be begging for the coveted happy ending. I mean, how many jokes can you really make about RV’s, baseball stands, groupies and swamp-ass before it gets stale? At what point does the story end? When do these poor souls get a god-forsaken break?! I mean, I get it. But the answer, sadly, is: not today people. Not today.

The San Luis era allegedly ended on August 8th, 2014. (One could never be sure anymore). Anthony won his second championship in a row there, took down the triple crown award, and even managed to sell his home jersey to a taco stand owner for like $50 bucks – the equivalent of that guy’s annual income. It seemed like it was the right time to take his talents elsewhere. He was officially signed with the Jalisco Charros in Guadalajara where he was poised to make an actual living just from playing baseball. I was still  working in Tucson for ADP selling human capital management software (which I admittedly only know the value of now), and we were paving the way to become DINKS. (Double income, no kids). In a Nicholas Sparks story line, this was it. We scratched and clawed our way to the peak and were ready to turn this baseball thing from a horrifying, pipe-dream nightmare into a reality.

My wanderlust started to flare up before Anthony even got home from San Luis, and I started imaging what life might be like if I decided to chase him into the depths of Mexico. Would I have a bicycle with a basket on the front that I’d ride to and from our hacienda? Would I become fluent enough in Spanish so that I one day could use “hacienda” in the right context of a sentence? Would I have babies there? Would we be married A League of Their Own style like Marla Hooch and Nelson under a canopy of wooden bats? It was so tough to tell where life was taking us, and I genuinely loved the thrill of that ride – even craved the adventure a little bit. I was finally on-board for whatever was next. Or so I thought.

The day after the championship game when Anthony was heading back to Tucson, photos began to surface from the championship game. I started to look at them more closely on my Facebook feed and noticed that some of the players had dyed their facial hair a cheap, bleached blond. Clearly an attempt to bring some superstitious luck to their playoff run. “Thank God” I remember thinking, that Anthony didn’t have facial hair. Even if he tried to grow some, he looked like one of those man-boys in 8th grade with scraggly patches all over their face making a sorry race toward puberty. He could manage a decent mustache, but we all know what man-boys with mustaches and patchy facial hair look like. Right: creeps who show up at your front door asking to take your daughter “to the movies.”  In my quick reprieve of knowing he had no beard to dye, I kept scrolling through the celebratory photos, feeling a little sorry I had to miss the game. Sadly, unlike some people, I had to work 40 hours a week for a living, and a Thursday night game in San Quintin, Mexico didn’t really qualify for PTO. Then, I saw it. Not right away, because the photo was panned out to capture the entire team, but it was there – captured in time forever. My man-boy boyfriend with a shit-eating grin on his face, effectively taunting me from the back row of the team photo, was a platinum. freaking. blond. My Italian Stallion was blond. I should have known better. I just should have. Anthony was never one to pass up an opportunity to provide comic relief, and without me around for long periods of time, he had a tendency to go a little off the rails. This is the kind of stuff that I imagine all girlfriends / wives go through when they loosen the reins a bit. Except their husbands / boyfriends don’t go and alter their perfectly fine physical appearance on a whim that it’ll bring good luck. No. They get wild and buy a wrench at Home Depot with the joint bank account, hoping the transaction will get lost between the utility and grocery bill withdrawals. I just sat there in awe and waited for Billy Idol to get home.

2014 champs

Before Anthony could unpack his suitcase, we were at Walgreen’s buying hair dye. He had just under a month and a half at home before he left for Guadalajara, and all forty-two of those days were going to be spent as a brunette. It took a solid afternoon and two applications of Clairol to get that Mexican bleach out of his hair. (Something tells me it wasn’t the kind of product that pregnant women were using in their first trimester). But with a little determination and elbow grease, it was erased from existence and we were ready to enjoy a much-anticipated, highly-deserved vacation home to Maine. hair dye

Some baseball traditions – like going blond – are better left alone.

Maine was everything that we had forgotten we loved. Both of our families were in close proximity for overdue visits. Anthony enjoyed card games with his buddies, and I indulged with girlfriends at Portland’s latest culinary ventures. We spent time alone as tourists, soaking up the things that make Maine everything that it is: the steely blue ocean, historic lighthouses, salty air and an abundance of lobster dinners and cookouts. We had the chance to enjoy our first official date, which was completed orchestrated by Anthony. Dinner at Timber downtown was delicious and memorable, and while I thought it would be the best part of the trip, I was surprised by the meaning of something else on vacation.

For years, Anthony made reference to a man named “Coach John.” He would speak of him like I always knew who he was, and I remember finally asking him one day in his apartment in Mexico”Who is this Coach John guy and why do you call him Coach John?” I thought it was strange that a man who hadn’t coached him in at least the 4 years we had been dating was continually referred to with the title of “coach.” And that morning, sitting on our make-shift, air-mattress bed with my instant coffee cradled in my hands, I listened to the story about Coach John.

In all fairness, there should probably be a whole blog post about Coach John. My recollection will most likely not do Anthony’s relationship with him justice, and I’ll probably screw up some of the details, but here’s the abridged version:

Coach John was Anthony’s high school baseball coach. He turned Anthony’s path in baseball from a hobby that he enjoyed doing with his friends into a disciplined love-affair. Anthony always had baseball in his blood from the family he was raised in, but he was struggling academically and was just unfocused on much of anything. He took Anthony under his wing – willing to work with him in the off season – and helped mold Anthony into the kind of man he is today. They worked together a lot on baseball, but Coach John was more than just his coach. He was a constant motivation in his life. He challenged Anthony to stay on the straight and narrow, to focus on working hard, and to enjoy the rewards of that hard work. To that day in the apartment in Mexico, Anthony was receiving text messages from Coach John about how proud he was of him and wishing him luck in his playoff games. There’s some story that Anthony always refers back to – and I’ll butcher this I’m sure – where the high school team was acting up or being little assholes, like high school boys are, and Coach John sat them down around a bucket of sand. Or maybe it was water. I cant remember exactly. But he shoved his hand into the bucket of [stuff] and looked at the team and asked them, “Do you know how quickly you can be replaced?” Then he ripped his hand out of the bucket, and the hole that was created for one millisecond filled back in before any of them could notice anything was ever missing. It was subtle messages like that one, that would resonate with Anthony, and I could discern the importance of it to him in the way he always shared the stories. He’d always tell me, “You’re going to love Coach John. He’s the man.” So this vacation to Maine was my chance to finally meet the man, the myth, the legend who was “Coach John.”

The first thing Coach John did when we got to his home for dinner was pull out the scrapbooks his wife Anne had made from the baseball seasons. We thumbed through the pages and I listened to him tell me the stories that were captured on every page. He remembered so many little moments about Anthony and his teammates, and it was evident that this had been more than just a side gig for extra money. There was an element of nostalgia in his voice that evoked sincerity , and I instantly loved Coach John, too.

We sat around the dining room table with his wife, his kids and his mother “Gan-Gan” and even a couple of Anthony’s friends. We enjoyed a plethora of food that was so graciously prepared for us by “Mrs. Coach John,” and I spent hours learning about everyone’s role in Anthony’s life. They all had one. Every member of the family was intricately woven into proud moments of Anthony’s life. I remember feeling humbled to be sitting there, and happy I had finally encouraged Anthony to chase a dream that he loved. It just made sense at that point. They were all so welcoming and warm, and genuinely loved hearing the inside scoop of the journey we had been on. We laughed until we all had tears in our eyes over and over, and it took me very little time to understand the connection between Anthony and Coach John. In just one evening, I felt connected too. I became more a part of Anthony’s life in that moment than perhaps any other moments we had shared, and certainly it meant more than our coveted first date a few nights prior.

eisenhart dinner

We headed back to Tucson on the top of the world. This really felt like the right place to be, and that just maybe we had figured out how to make this weird life work well together. On September 14th, one week before his departure to preseason in Guadalajara, we made a wish on a rotisserie chicken wishbone during one of our last meals together for awhile. I wished for a successful season for him, and hoped everything would work out like it should for us. The following week he took off to Phoenix to hop a flight back to Mexico. Hey, at least this team flew him places.

The Charros brought a new element to what Anthony had been used to. They were regimented and serious. Smoking cigarettes and drinking Coke in the dugouts certainly was frowned upon, unlike in his San Luis days. They had scheduled buses to take them to their practices and gym workouts, but Anthony was happy to be a part of something bigger. When the time came to play, he surprisingly wasn’t being placed in the starting line-up. He was given maybe ten at-bats in the late innings of games, where he got hits probably six times or so. After a week and a half in Guadalajara, and during a game where he wasn’t asked to play at all, Anthony was called down to the hotel lobby around 12:30AM by his coach. They let him go right there, and told him he’d be flying home to Tucson the next day.

I answered my phone the same night around 1:00AM to Anthony’s voice, “Well, I’m coming home.” I remember my first reaction was anger, but not at the team or the coach. I was mad at Anthony. We had just taken the roller coaster all the way to the top, and in one phone call everything came crashing back down to rock bottom. I was never good at dealing with the ebbs and flows, and I regret how I handled the situation now. As much as my life was difficult, Anthony’s was harder in that moment. I know now just how shattering it was because it only took him two months after returning home to Tucson to ask me, “You ready to go home?”

And I was.

 

 

 

Adios, San Luis!!

In the only capacity I knew how, I supported Anthony during the 2014 baseball season. I undug my heels from the ground, limited my whining about being lonely and bored, and made the trips to Mexico from Tucson as often as I could. Even after shitting my pants on the side of the highway in broad daylight, I continued to show up for him. In my mind, this was the path of least resistance and, my dear God, I was just so tired of fighting it all. Baseball was to Anthony what Brie cheese and white wine was to me: crack-cocaine. I tried to imagine someone telling me I could never eat cheese or drink wine again, and a lightbulb went off. Who could live under that kind of stress every day?? I still get the urge to jump off a steep cliff just thinking about it. And no one wanted either of us cashing out on life so soon, so he played baseball and I got drunk – which turned out to be just the formula we needed to make it through one more year of pipe-dreaming.

Turns out, Anthony just needed me to get the hell off his case a bit because 2014 marked the best baseball season of his life. His stats were steadily climbing and his current team’s owners could no longer shake the hype and interest from higher league’s managers. The next level (finally) wanted him and there was talk about him moving up. With the hype came even greater confidence and Anthony took off on a tear that I dare say that league has never seen before. He was more than doubling the numbers of his closest contender in every batting category, and while I was still acquiring the world’s worst swamp ass in the stands in Mexico, it seemed to bother me just a little bit less that year. We rode the wave and both had great feelings about the next steps. Progress was all I ever hoped to see with this career he chose, and finally it seemed I could validate my decision to repeatedly stick it out. I knew a promotion to the winter league meant more time away from each other, and more than likely more distance, but for some reason the happiness I felt for him outweighed my own pang of disappointment. I was genuinely proud and for the first time ever, I didn’t care what anyone else thought about our journey. This was our path. It was absurd to everyone else on this earth except the girls who sat beside me in the stands and the men who were out there playing on the fields. I was constantly anxious for what was next, and harping on Anthony for details every day. “Who called today?” “Are they sending a contract?” “What team is the best?” “What’s the plan?”

Jesus Christ, I was turning into Mama D.

The All-Star weekend came, which was hosted in Tijuana. I played hookie from work for maybe the 30th time to watch Anthony wreak havoc on the poor souls in the homerun derby, and he did not disappoint. The first round he hit a measly three or four homeruns, but it was enough to move him to the finals and he assured me during the break that he would be winning this thing. When he said it to me, I was somewhat concerned. He said it in the kind of way I would be reacting if someone had told me there would be Brie at a party, and when I showed up it was actually, in fact, Gouda. Homey don’t play that. He walked up to the plate like I walk up to a wine bar, and smoked eight homeruns out of the park. One white girl in the stands went nuts (me), while the rest of the non-English speaking spectators coddled their butt-hurt boyfriends.

The success just kept carrying on. 2014’s season was pretty awesome. The team won the title for the second year and a row and Anthony was awarded the Triple Crown. If you don’t speak baseball, that means he’s the shit. Not the kind of shit you wander upon that was left on the side of the road in the desert by a poor girl annihilated by her bowel movements either. Quite the opposite of that, actually.  He dominated the leagues hitting categories, leading every single one except triples. (Hey, you can’t be perfect, and we did eat a lot of al pastor tacos that year). Luckily, the Triple Crown didn’t take triples into account, per se. It was awarded to the player who led the league in RBI’s, batting average, and homeruns. To put it into perspective for you, in 2012 Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became the first Triple Crown recipient in 45 years. Carl Yastrzemski won it last in 1967. Now, obviously I googled that for effect. No one would actually know that off that cuff except Mama D, and potentially the rest of the D’Alfonso family. Hell, I can’t even pronounce that guy’s last name, but the point is, Anthony killed it. Sadly, they spelled his name wrong on the plaque, leaving out an integral ‘h’ in his first name, effectively renaming him ‘Antony.”  But since everyone in San Luis adoringly calling him that anyway, we didn’t make much of a fuss about it.

His efforts in baseball and my efforts not to kill myself with a wooden bat that year paid off. He was invited to play Winter ball in Guadalajara for substantially more money than he was making in San Luis. They even sent a paper contract for him to sign via email! That is truthfully how I knew we had made it – binding clauses and technological advances. When they asked for his direct deposit information, I almost shit my pants. Again.

2015 was going to be one for the books.

Commuter Crap

The 2014 season really solidified some things for me. One very important lesson I learned was that “happy wife, happy life” is actually an effective tactic. It comes with some pretty simple instructions that ensure maximum happiness in a relationship, such as:

  • give in to all things that make your wife happy and she won’t complain, bitch or nag about anything (a loose promise);
  • act excited and interested about everything your wife does even if you’d rather dig your own eyes out;
  • Compliment and encourage your wife in everything she does, even when you find it neurotic and/or counter-productive;
  • Smile and say I love you to your wife even when you’re actually seeing red and want to charge her like a bull who was just riled up and released from the pen

All I had to do was replace “wife,” in the aforementioned theory with “Anthony” and we were guaranteed to be on the straight and narrow.

Sure, 2014 was yet another year of sacrifice – and I was still well aware of my commitment to Operation Pipedream – but boy did we have a lot more fun when we were finally working together toward the same goal. Gradually, I watched Anthony ease out of his desk-job funk and rediscover his happiness. It was really in those first couple months of the season that I truly saw Anthony for who he was, and what he was born to do. After almost four years, I had finally come to terms with the meaning of baseball in Anthony’s life. In fact, if you remember back to my very first post in this blog, it was this very moment that inspired me to begin writing about our journey in the first place. I was sitting alone in my apartment, reflecting on everything we had been through, and creating this blog to finally share my genuine pride in his talent. I had finally found a place within myself that was at peace with our unorthodox union, and happy to share what I had to learn to get there. Some might have taken a less obtrusive road – perhaps avoiding career suicide and crusty RV’s named Grandma – but I got there, nonetheless.

As a result, Anthony had a breakout season in 2014. He had already been really successful the previous years in Mexico, but this one really put him on the radar. Knowing I finally had his back 100% let him relax and focus on the game, instead of wondering if I might show up at the stadium and charge the field in an unprovoked rage. Some days, that wasn’t completely out of the question, but in 2014 I managed to keep my crazy, for the most part, tucked away. As Anthony continued jacking up his stats in every category, we floated along on cloud nine. Managers from the Mexican Major League started calling and asking about him, and rumors about him getting a contract with one of their teams began circulating. Those babies paid anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 per month and I started seeing a lot of new bags and shoes in my future. Hell, maybe even (dare I say it) a ring!? But the season wasn’t quite over, and it wouldn’t be a Bitching Mound blog post if we didn’t talk about the struggles. And kids, the struggle is real.

Despite the newfound solace within our relationship, we were still not exempt from our typical bouts with bad luck.  On any given visit to Mexico I battled things like cockroach roommates, two-hour immigration waiting lines, stadium swamp-ass, and language barriers. I had learned to deal with all of them – even embracing the swamp-ass as a cultural norm – since 110 degrees was clearly going to be impossible to avoid, and I wasn’t going to give up a cute line of skirts for a little pool of sweat. Please. But one thing that no one is ever really prepared for in life, and a circumstance that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies, happened to me on one of my long drives back to Tucson. I know. You’re thinking: “What’s worse than hooking up an old, leaky shitter hose to Grandma?” but I assure you that this is worse. Far worse. I contemplated even sharing this with the world, but I want people to look at me and say “Jesus. You really love that guy.” This should pretty much solidify that.

After a particularly long wait in the border line, and listening to my two dogs rabidly barking at the six million street vendors shamelessly mauling my car for a buck, I couldn’t wait to get into America and get some food with a nutrition label in English. Hell, with a nutrition label at all for that matter. Unfortunately, my choices were limited to fast-food in Yuma right over the border, or wait three and a half hours until I was on the outskirts of Tucson at which point I could potentially be starved to death. And then my options were just more fast-food anyway. So I opted for McDonald’s over Taco Smell, I mean Bell, considering I was just trapped in Mexico with the real deal for three days, and indulged in two (not one) spicy ranch chicken sandwiches off the dollar menu. And a medium French fry. And a Diet Coke. See what I did there? I stuck with the diet soda – substituted chemicals for calories. Smart.

With three hours left ahead of me, and my appetite satiated, I sat back and settled into the lengthy drive. Nothing I hadn’t done a million time before – it was the story of my life. Work 40 hours, drive my bright red BMW into Mexico for the weekend, sit in baseball stands for ungodly lengths of time because some teams had pitchers that I could throw faster than, and then make the commute back home to gear up for another work week. Pretty standard stuff for a girlfriend, who sacrifices all sanity and normalcy, to date a boy who wants to grow up and be a professional athlete. What is NOT standard is cruising along in your car, jamming out to Beyonce in the middle of nowhere, just reflecting on a fun weekend, when the McDonald’s garbage you just polluted your body with decides to wreak havoc on your stomach.

Out of absolutely nowhere, I started to feel as though I might need to make a pit stop. Like soon. My stomach was flip-flopping like an 1800’s butter churn, and I felt the palms of my hands start to get clammy. Part of me felt grateful that I was already sitting, but I knew that would only hold me off for so long. Looking around at the endless sand dunes and cacti, I felt like God was somehow mocking me again. Like, “HAHAHAHA! Angela, did you really think your change of heart about baseball was going to get you off the hook of living a life of intermittent misery??? You are doomed to crap yourself!”

A few minutes passed, and there was no sign of life in sight. No rest stop signs, no exit signs, no God damn trees to even pull off and hide behind. Just wide open desert and Arizona summer heat. Fidgeting in my seat and demanding myself to pull it together, I sped up to about 90 mph. Things were getting desperate and I knew that if I got pulled over that I’d actually be able to use the excuse with an officer that I shit my pants so I kept the pedal to the metal. I started texting Anthony about my dilemma:

“I think I’m in trouble” … “I might shit myself” … “I hate this drive, this is all your fault!” “Call me, I’m scared!!”

Of course my cell service was about as strong as my faith at that point, so no one could save me. I sped up more, going close to 100 mph at this point. My dogs must have sensed my urgency and franticness because they were both sitting straight up now staring at me, making me more uncomfortable than I already was. Like they knew what was happening and secretly laughing about it as if it was some sort of vengeance for all the times I kept them locked in a cage all day. I felt like the whole world was against me. I wanted to flatulate (fart, if you will) but feared for my life if I did. Instead, I just prayed to God that any sort of exit at all would appear. I begged for a toilet of any kind – perhaps even a port-a-potty on the side of the road at a construction site where men annihilated that thing all day long. I would have gladly contributed to the filth – anything would be better than pooping outside in the desert – and after all I had been through it only seemed fair that my prayers be answered. But fairness had long escaped my life on the day I met Anthony, and I vowed to somehow blame him for all of this when it was over.

Gripping the steering wheel and rocking back and forth, I saw a green exit sign up in the distance. I pushed the car over 100mph and rocketed forward with a small surge of hope. I squealed around the small curve of the exit and pulled to a defeated stop. The exit literally went nowhere. To my left was a narrow dirt road that simply followed along the highway with a sign that read “business route.” Business route?!?!? What the f*&%?? To my right was a small, dirt round about area for cars to make a u-turn and now, where helpless souls went to defecate.  With no time left to contemplate how much self-respect I was about to lose, I angled the car enough to block the view to the highway, threw it in park and grabbed the McDonald’s napkins that I had graciously saved. I had no idea what was about to happen, as I had never crapped into anything but a toilet, but I was sure it wasn’t going to be good. In a sweaty rage, I whipped down my shorts, muckled onto the front left fender of my car and prayed that no one would drive by as I became a full-fledged neanderthal on the side of the highway.

When it was all said and done, I sat back in my car and felt like I wanted to cry. I had just shit in the desert and left it sitting there like some stray dog would have. I was the epitome of an animal, so I did what all people who poop on the side of the road do – I called my mom.

She did her best to assure me that I was still a normal person, and that I had in fact, ‘finally lived’ now. (What?!) I began to question my decision to call her after that, but was in too much shock to debate her questionable morals. Instead, I called Anthony for some assurance about my life. Considering I have never even passed gas in front of Anthony in the entirety of our relationship, (okay once…on accident) he found the whole mishap to be beyond hysterical. I couldn’t win. I turned off Beyonce and just carried on with what used to be my standard drive home. Her normally empowering lyrics to “Flawless” didn’t seem to resonate as much with me anymore. I did not, in fact, “wake up like this.” So in the three hours of silence, I pondered what this baseball season (that I actually was on board with) had in store for us, and tried to block out the memory of what had just transpired.

The Apartment

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For the first time since Anthony started playing baseball in Mexico, 2014 marked the first time he would actually be residing there. I was hesitant about the idea, but after living in Grandma for one season and then living in Yuma for another, I decided I wasn’t that bent out of shape about our arrangements. I’d stay in Tucson in our comfortable apartment, work my full-time job, and just drive the four hours to San Luis on the weekends that he had home games. Seemed like a good game plan to me, and after going to nearly every single game of the prior season, I was happy to avoid some of the extra time in the stands. Don’t get me wrong. I was on board this time with baseball, but I challenge you to go to six baseball games a week for four months and share how much you still love America’s past-time. You’ll be wishing it was literally a past time, too.

So after work on Friday’s I’d head home to pack up my weekend gear for Mexico. I’d have my bags already packed, but it still seemed like the most daunting task of my life getting out of that apartment. The moment I’d pick up my pre-packed suitcase, the dogs would go mental. They would jump all over me, begging to be put on their leashes in fear of being left behind. When I’d walk out and close the door behind me, I’d hear the thud of the of two of them running and jumping against the front door like rabid beasts. I’d make another trip to get their bag of food and their sets of bowls, all the while somehow setting them into more of crazed frenzy. By the time I got them on their leashes and to the car, I was covered from head to toe in scratches and dog fur. (By about the third month into the season, I managed to use my brain and put them into the car before everything else, effectively reducing scratches, fur, and time spent). We then would make the four hour drive to the Mexican border, where I would drop the dogs at Anthony’s apartment and head straight to the field for four more hours of sitting on my already numb ass.

Speaking of Anthony’s apartment. I feel as though I should at least share a bit about the, um, conditions. It was $250 a month to live there plus internet and electricity. You’d think a guy who hit .350 the prior season would get some help with the living accommodations, but we clearly had not made it to that level of baseball yet. So that money came out of our already withered bank account. I have to be honest and confess that they did offer him to live in a house with four other players on the team. All he had to do was walk outside whenever he wanted to go to the bathroom or take a shower. I told him he’d never see me in that country if I had to walk outside at night to take a pee, or worse a….you know. And I can rough it if it’s absolutely necessary, but being barbaric was out of the question.

So having our own place was a positive, and it had four conjoined walls and a roof. In some parts of San Luis, that is considered a luxury so we’re chalking that up in the ‘win’ column. But the door happened to have a gaping crack under it which kind of negated the idea of having a solid foundation. Without fail, we’d wake up in the mornings to at least one or two cockroaches dead and upside down on the shower floor and piles of dust that blew in from the parking lot all night.The running water that came out of the faucets in that place smelled of what I can only describe as mildew, rust and sewage all mixed together and simmered in one dirty pipe. I used to stand in that shower (on that mat I bought from Target) and make Anthony pour water from a gallon jug into my hands so that I could wash my face with it. You start to really acknowledge the blessings of America when you contemplate showering for fear of getting dirtier. And if the idea of cleaning yourself with feces-water didn’t make your skin crawl, then you just needed to take one glimpse at the mattress that they graciously provided for you. The thing had to be mashed down to about an inch thick and was covered in whatever stains the imagination could haunt you with. We covered it up with our queen-sized air mattress, two egg crates, a mattress pad and sheets, but there was no solace in sight while sleeping in that apartment. I just knew that if Mama D was right all along, then God was going to repay me handsomely for these years of sacrifice.

The place had a stove, but no oven so we got real crafty with the food we would cook. And by crafty, I mean we just ate an abnormal amount of tacos. I think we consumed enough red meat in those four months to stop a toddler’s heart, maybe even a teenager’s, but if you’re ever in Mexico you should do yourself a solid and get a street taco. Those things are a small slice of heaven in that hell hole. Anthony even started bribing the owner of the restaurant with tickets to the games in exchange for free food. They really loved him at that place despite his short-comings in the Spanish language: “Hola. Dos tacos. Carne y queso. No mas. Por favor.” That’s literally what he said. Every. Single. Time. Eventually they just started bringing him the two tacos with “steak and cheese, no more,” We’d then hand the tickets to the owner who sat at the cash register with his wad of cash everyday, and he’d smile at Anthony and give him a fist pound.

There wasn’t much we could do regarding the apartment, but I gave it a good effort. I must have brought a new set of sheets every time I visited. I laid down a cheap rug and hung up some cream colored curtains to really brighten up the place. A bright white shower curtain and bath mat gave me hope that the bathroom might feel cleaner, but no. Epic fail. They just got dirtier, quicker. I also bought a mini vacuum in some delusional state thinking Anthony might zoom it around and suck up the never-ending dirt. I think that happened exactly zero times. Instead, we just opened the front door and swept it back out into the parking lot.  Like everything else we had been through up until that point, we just compromised with what we had. The two of us managed to make the best of a situation, and I was hanging on real tight to Mama D’s mantra – “God’s got a plan for all of us!”

Reflection


I don’ t know if I can accurately describe what happened in the thirty days between Anthony quitting his job and leaving for baseball in March 2014. At first, I was sure that we had finally hit a point that we couldn’t come back from. I sought council from my best friends who also assured me that there isn’t a soul in the world who would do this to me, if they in fact loved me. At least not without the common decency of a conversation or game plan first.  I had to agree with them. I knew they were right. Anthony had managed to make me feel isolated and alone in the relationship, especially while I was thousands of miles away from my family and friends. And it was never news to me when someone told me Anthony was being selfish or inconsiderate. I was always pathetically aware of how one-sided things had been. One friend in particular even told me that she was always waiting to pick up the pieces of the next downfall that inevitably would come from my investment in Anthony. I didn’t have the strength or ground to stand on to argue with her anymore, and just agreed that everything up until this point was so unfair. For the first time I felt truly embarrassed about my constant rallying and support behind Anthony’s life, and spent the majority of his last days at home being angry and defensive towards him. As much as I told myself to let things go, his very existence in our apartment (that I was now paying for entirely) made my skin crawl.

But time flew by, and the days leading up to his departure crept up on me. The reality of a breakup filled my heart and stomach with nausea, and I started to reflect on what was really happening between us. It isn’t a secret that Anthony and I were raised very differently. His family had rallied behind his dream of playing baseball sometime during his college success, and that was his main focus in life. Baseball. They believed in his ability to succeed as a professional athlete, and that is where they encouraged him to always focus. As a result of not being drafted, Anthony spent much of his early twenties attending baseball tryouts and training in a gym, which as we all know, does not earn a paycheck. By nature, Anthony grew up working side jobs and relying on others. I knew this about him, for the most part, when we met and started dating, and yet it did not deter me from being interested. In extreme contrast, I grew up working as many hours as high school kids were allowed by the State of Maine and was expected to contribute to car and cell phone bills. Once in college, there was really no choice but to grow up and support myself. And though I struggled to do that financially sometimes, I still learned to be ashamed or embarrassed by not staying on track with my life. It became second nature to work hard and build a career, and that was the choice my parents made in raising me – which for the record I wouldn’t change for anything (so the both of you can stop wishing you could have done more, because in reality you’ve done everything). But I started to really open my mind up a bit more, and remember that Anthony was working toward a career as well when I met him. Our worlds collided and we both made changes to the paths we were on in order to compensate for the love we had for each other.

Up until this point in the blog, you’ve heard from my point of view and my perspective. Undoubtedly this story, whether factual or not, would sound much different coming from Anthony’s perspective. In all fairness, Anthony began the process of growing up and living on his own after he met me. I have to imagine that I had some influence over the pressure he felt to do that. Even if your opinion is that he should have done that long before meeting me, as was my opinion, it is only just that. An opinion. For more than three years, I did not see a value in baseball as a career. It was a waste of time because it did not prepare him for the real world, if it in fact did not work out. I have since learned from Anthony that you don’t always look at the glass half empty. People were calling him to play baseball. They called every year that I’ve known him and offered him cash to play America’s favorite pastime. It isn’t a realistic dream. It isn’t likely that he’ll play in the majors. But it is a dream, and it’s possible, and I’ve learned to live a little since watching him pursue it. Sometimes life looks better when you focus on the possibilities and the dreams, instead of the impossibilities and unlikeliness of things. And I tried my hardest, even though I was hurt and resentful, to remember that he did give it up to work on things with us, if even for a short time, and broke up the path he was on when we first met.

I know that my perspective is the norm. The majority of people agree with me when I complain, and the majority of people agree that working a nine-to-five is the only option in life. I’m very proud of where I have been in my career in corporate America and I don’t know that I’d ever be comfortable leaving it. In fact, I did leave it for a boy, and an RV called Grandma and my whole world shattered around me. I was miserable, depressed and never felt more lost in my life. I have to imagine that is what Anthony felt when he left his baseball career behind him to sit at a desk at Citi Bank and harass people for their money on a daily basis. So it wasn’t difficult to come to Anthony with this revelation, just days before he left for San Luis, Mexico. And it certainly was not eloquently put, as it has been laid out here, simply because I’ve had so much more time to reflect on what we’ve been through. Frankly, I was still quite angry and disappointed about the way he had gone about things, but we decided on the night before he left that we’d try this damn thing out again and see where it would take us. And for the first time, I felt as though I was genuinely behind him and his endeavor in baseball. As it turns out, that made all the difference in the world.

Decisions, Decisions

I was so excited about Anthony having a full time job in corporate America that I posted a picture of his first check on Instagram. That’s right. A real live contribution to our expenses after two and a half months of not working. I chose the “valencia” photo filter because let’s be honest, that thing makes everything look better – even a two-week, eight hundred dollar paycheck. No, he wasn’t going to be my sugar daddy anytime soon, but he was home and we were together and from what I could tell, he was happy. He would come home from his training classes excited about what he had learned, and the fun activities they would participate in throughout the day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most corporate trainings were a blast and then they throw you to the wolves of real-life. Instead I let him ramble on with his stories and  throw around his newly-learned word “legalities” like he was some big shot. I heard that word at least fifteen times a day for a week straight, but I didn’t care because I was just happy that he was content with his decision. Things were finally, actually becoming normal in our life.

After training ended, Anthony got assigned to a shift that started at 6:30AM every day. That meant his alarm went off at 5:15AM every single morning, and like clockwork he would lay there non-nonchalantly farting in between snoozes. I wish I was exaggerating when I say this happened every single day, but sadly I’m not. I couldn’t and still don’t understand his comfort level with farting. Most people would at least chuckle with embarrassment at the release of such filth and play it off like a mistake, but no, not this guy. He would let them rip and then lay there in the dead silence of the morning like it was as normal as breathing oxygen. I would lay there, back to him, and jerk my eyes open to the rippling vibrations coming across our bed at me. I had been with him for over three years at that point and never had the balls to fart in front of him. Not even once. And yet here was Anthony so kindly subjecting me to more gas than one person should ever have to endure in a lifetime. For someone who has their alarm noise on their phone set to “twinkle,” farts do not generally resonate well with me as a soothing way to wake up on a daily basis. And because I’m high-strung and irritable in the mornings (Anthony lovingly refers to me as a bear), I could only refrain from losing my mind for about three weeks. From that point on, we started our mornings bickering about farts.

If farts were the extent of our unhappiness, then this entire blog would have been able to come to an end in another paragraph or two. We would have floated off into the sunset of our monotonous, boring routing lives that I craved so much and live (un)happily ever after. But there was more to our dissatisfaction than we ever discussed. We went along with our days at work, would come home and grocery shop, eat dinner, sit on the couch to watch TV, and get lost in our phones. Anthony started to call out of work here and there, and I chastised him for being irresponsible like a six year old. We fought because there was nothing better to do most of the time and dipped into a small funk. Not the kind of funk where you move across the country to live in an RV with someone and then get dumped a month and half later, but a funk nonetheless. Anthony shared that he was getting tired of having a desk job and couldn’t stand being tied to a phone all day long. But then by the following week he would be on board with sticking it out in order to progress in his career. This happened a couple of times before it all came to a head.

Anthony walked in from work one day, and I was sitting on the couch finishing up some work. He said his friend Antonio had been fired that afternoon and that he also couldn’t stand to work there another day. I looked at him and said, “It’s almost time for baseball season to start again Anthony” in a calm, but I’m going to kill you kind of tone. He immediately got defensive and said he never mentioned baseball or said that’s what he wanted to do, but that he was losing his mind at that job and it wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing with his life. With that, I knew what he meant he was supposed to be doing, and Anthony vs. Angela 2.0 erupted in our apartment. He denied that he wanted to play baseball the entire argument, and I accused him of ripping the carpet out from under my life for the gazillionth time since meeting him. I had made him promise just four months earlier that he was making the right decision for himself, and he couldn’t have been more convincing that he was. He swore. Then the way he was just changing his mind without regard for anyone else, especially me, was infuriating.  We had bills to pay, and with the snap of a finger they all fell back on my plate again. He just quit his job and decided he didn’t need to be responsible for them because Citi Bank just wasn’t his cup of tea anymore. The lack of respect for me and my life at that point was maddening. I went to bed that night with so much disappointment and anger that I tossed and turned non-stop. I battled internally with whether or not this was something I could endure any longer, and hated him for putting me in the position to make that kind of choice again.

Early the next morning, Anthony was texting on his phone. Generally, I pay no mind to what he’s doing on his phone, but I just knew what was going on so I asked him, “Who’s texting you at 7:00Am?” and he wouldn’t tell me. So I pried until he gave in and showed me that it was the owner’s wife of the San Luis baseball team back in Mexico, and they were negotiating pay terms for the upcoming season. Even though I knew this is what he quit Citi Bank for; even though he denied it the entire day prior; even though I had come to expect this kind of bullshit from Anthony, I still couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe the audacity and selfishness and disregard. We fought all day long and I eventually decided that we were over. Again. It wasn’t worth it anymore. The tumultuous ups and downs were killing me, and we both agreed that no matter what we did in this relationship one person would always have to give up the life they imagined for themselves. So we decided that when it was time to head back to San Luis for baseball, that we would part ways for good. And so we spent the next thirty days just waiting for that day to come.

 

Life Without Baseball

I suppose the wretched baseball devil from the hollow depths of hell wouldn’t have had it any other way. Why would he stop beating me with his wooden bats and extra inning games now? I was only three games away from a life without baseball, and yet the notion couldn’t have felt further away from reality. The last series of the season was to be played in Gary, Indiana – a thirty hour bus trip from El Paso. Thirty. Hours. So basically that meant baseball wasn’t ending in three games. It was more like three years by the time Anthony would be able to go and come back from the damn mid-west. So we did what all rational adults would do in an instance like this, and faked a grandparent’s death. Anthony went to his manager with a heavy heart and said it was a sudden loss and he needed to go back to Maine with his girlfriend. We thought it was real masterful. Who could refuse someone the need to stand by their grandmother’s side and say their last goodbyes? The baseball devil, that’s who. His manager said “Alrighty. You can go, but we’re freezing your contract and you won’t be able to play or be picked up by anyone else ever again.” Amazingly, grandmother was resurrected and Anthony stayed for the horrendous last trip while I sat at home anxiously waiting.

Eventually, Anthony did make it home, but not without our usual encounters with trouble. The trip back to El Paso took a little longer than expected thanks to El Paso’s exquisite planning. With only one hired bus driver, he had to stop every twelve hours to sleep for seven before getting back on the road again. It took the team over thirty-six hours to get back to the Motel 6. Well, what was left of the team. Most of the players and coaches booked flights back home from Indiana, but we were clearly too poor to pay for a ticket out of Podunk, America so the sleeper-bus was Anthony’s only option. Then, since the trip back took a little longer than expected, the motel cleared out all of Anthony’s clothes and belongings from his room and jammed it all into trash bags to make room for other guests. Unshowered and covered in sleeper-bus grime, he just demanded his things and tossed it all into the back of his trusty Buick. Four hours separated us, finally, from a life of normalcy and togetherness.

When Anthony came home and carefully shared his insight about Mexican Winter baseball leagues, I pretended that I didn’t know what he was implying. I was going to make him squirm and suffer while he tried to tell me that yet again he wanted to go play baseball instead of getting a full-time job. So he danced around the facts for a few days before finally sharing that he had made some connections who were trying to get him a Winter-ball job. He said he didn’t want to start working  a job before knowing if he was leaving, and that it could be at any time, so he should just sit around and wait to hear. While I worked. Full-time. And paid the bills. Because the 700 dollars he had just made last month after tax had really given us the buffer we needed for him to sit around and play Madden all day. Needless to say, I fumed and fought before finally agreeing that he would at least search and apply for jobs while waiting to hear from no one in particular from Mexico.

Two months went by and no one had called. Anthony finally said that if they didn’t ask him to play by a certain date, then he was hanging up his cleats for good and focusing on a career outside of baseball. I couldn’t argue with that, and I cringed at the sound of his cell phone ringing every day until that date. It came and went, and Anthony officially gave up the journey to make it in baseball. He very conveniently got called shortly after for a phone interview with Citi Bank, and then a follow-up live interview which he thought went really well. I was so excited for his chance to be on a legit, American payroll and he seemed to really be thrilled with the idea as well. It would be the first job in corporate America for him, so it was a great opportunity to gain the experience and get his feet wet for whatever was ahead in his future. A great resume-builder, if you will. Then came the call.

Mexico decided to stir up my life and offer him a winter job somewhere I had never heard of. He broke the news to me after work one day, and I immediately flew off the handle. I couldn’t even possibly comprehend why he was even considering it or bringing it up to me. We had discussed the plan with baseball, and the opportunity had passed. I reiterated that the plan to move to Arizona was to build our new lives together. Baseball was never meant to be a part of it, and I didn’t sign up to leave family and friends behind just to live alone while he chased Puff the Magic Dragon and his unrealistic pipe dream. He tried to explain that his decision wasn’t made, but I just didn’t believe he’d ever turn down this “one last shot.” He left me at our apartment while he went to teach a hitting lesson, and I did something more desperate than I’d ever done before. I called Mama D. Surely my own parents would tell me to let him go, and to move on with my life that had been on hold for so long so I avoided that conversation all together. Instead I sought advice from the world’s biggest baseball and Anthony fan that ever lived – not my finest moment looking back on it now.

She picked up the phone and I just started crying. I think I asked her how to deal with her son. I said I couldn’t take the roller coaster of all the changing decisions all of the time and how selfish it was to never be considered. Mama D remained calm in her usual jesus-takes-care-of-everything way and just said I had to let him make the decision for himself. While I knew this to be true, I started regretting not calling a friend or my parents who would have bashed him for his inconsiderate ways. She told me that we could visit him together if he chose to go play and that she knew he had been raised to be a little… spoiled. Anthony D’Alfonso should come with a tattoo on his forehead that says “spoiled,” but I didn’t curse her for stating the obvious. Instead, I thanked for for listening to me and sat in silence for awhile. Surprisingly, something – and I don’t know what – from that phone call resonated with me. I knew that in my own way I was being selfish too, always hoping he’d choose the way of life I imagined for myself and abandon his own ways. One of us was always going to have to sacrifice for the other and in that moment, I truly realized that. I didn’t accept it, but I did realize it.

Still angry from being put in the position I was in, I ignored the texts Anthony was sending me. He was telling me how much he loved me and that he couldn’t imagine a life without me in it. I found that funny since 85% of the time I wasn’t in it because he was off playing baseball somewhere, but I let my stubbornness over-rule my urge to make that jab. Then he just called me. He said I was the most important thing in his life and that he wouldn’t risk losing me to baseball. Shortly after he left for his lesson, Citi Bank called to offer him the job he applied for and he was going to accept it and stay in Tucson. I found it easy at that point to tell him that he needed to make the right choice for himself, but in my heart I actually did mean it. I didn’t want to make anyone’s life miserable and I made him promise this was a decision that he wanted for himself. He told me it was. When he finally got home he talked about how excited he was to have the opportunity for this job and that he wanted to finish his degree and work on us and our life. He shared that the father of the boy he was teaching lessons to that night was an ex-NFL player who had been injured in his first year of play. In the blink of an eye, his dream had been ripped away from him and he was forced to focus on an alternative life. Anthony said that he felt as though this man was placed in his life at that very moment for a reason, and that it made his decision clearer and easier. Like a girl in love does, I believed it.

He called Citi Bank the next day and accepted the position. He was set to start training in a couple of weeks, and I felt myself relax mentally and physically for the first time in a long time. Mama D texted me about a week later and said it sounded like he made the right decision. I knew she didn’t believe that, and in my heart I’m not sure I believed it either.

“Angela’s Law”

There I was. Starbucks in hand, embarking on my next life adventure in Tucson, Arizona…alone.

I told myself I was going furniture shopping, but the negative balance in my bank account caused by our astronomical moving expenses really meant I was just driving around wasting gas that I couldn’t afford to replenish. On top of that, I rolled into Ethan Allen with a Starbucks latte – which everyone knows is code for “I’m a rich bitch and this here latte is my gleaming status symbol” – and pretended I could afford the $4,000 couches I was perusing. The saleswoman, bless her heart, flocked right over to me and asked what she could help me with. Short of asking her for her credit card and bank account information, I politely answered with, “Oh, I’m just browsing, but thanks.” She followed me around the store for the next twenty minutes like my Starbucks was going to magically transform into a $10,000 line of credit, so I’m sure I broke her entire soul when I left it on an end table for her to throw in the trash before I left. “Thanks for your help!”  I waved with a gleaming smile, and headed off to my next moments of retail deception.

By the time I walked empty-handed back into my apartment, Anthony had made it to El Paso and was settling in. He was able to stay temporarily with a team mate from San Luis who was also playing for the Diablos. The season was already more than half over with just over a month of games left to play, but I still was annoyed at why he was even bothering with a single month’s pay of $800. This was after all the last time he’d be playing organized baseball. I mean, THIS was it so why even bother with this last placed, independent league team?? I was so fed up with being told “one more year,” “one more league,” and then having that time come, only to be let down again. Every time I felt I was on the brink of normalcy, he’d change his mind again and rip the carpet out from under me all over again. Most people in my shoes would have learned to remove all expectations from dating Anthony D’Alfonso by this point, but some sorry part of me loved him as much as he loved the god forsaken sport of baseball. Chaos was just the way of my life now, and that was about all I had agreed to accept when I packed up my bags and my dogs for a weekend adventure to El Paso.

A four hour drive after work on Friday landed me at El Paso’s finest Motel 6 where Anthony would be staying for the rest of the season. It was a quaint two-story building situated just seconds off the I-10 highway, and by seconds off the highway I mean you could step outside the bedroom door and throw rocks at El Paso’s morning commuters. The parking lot was crowded with some of America’s finest machinery like the Dodge Dart and ’93 Ford Mustangs, so my 2012 BMW was yet again a glaring misplacement. But after whipping through dusty trailer parks and Mexican podunk towns in my German luxury, I couldn’t even be bothered by the petty bullshit anymore. Motel 6 in America, even four minutes from the violent Mexican border of Juarez, was amateur hour. It was 10:00 at night – I worked all day, drove all night and just wanted to get some rest. Since this was Anthony’s first night at the motel as well, we checked in at the front desk and got our magnetic strip key for our second floor accommodations. Walking to our room, some of the dwellers had left their curtains open for a good look into what was in my near future. Despite my new found tolerance for poor living standards, I still sighed a heavy breath thinking about how I continued to spend my weekends off from work. It was Angela’s Law (Murphy’s Law really no longer held a candle to the crap that continued to go wrong in my life) that the key didn’t work on our room. I stood there holding bags and dog blankets and the twisted leashes of two mental dogs while Anthony headed back to the counter to get a new key. I looked over the railing while waiting and thought about throwing in the towel. But then I decided I loved my dogs too much, and that there’s no way God puts someone through this much of a menacing test without the chance of a big reward at the end of it. Plus, the fall was really only enough to break some bones or paralyze me and I was not ready to sign up for that shit.

As we opened up the door to the room, I regretted my desire for the key to work. Angela’s Law strikes again. The room had clearly not been visited by housekeeping. Ever. The blankets on the bed were thrashed around, there were left-over snacks and dip-spit bottles on the nightstand, the toilet seat was still up (I’m gagging all over again), and the room smelled of dirty-man-laying-around-in-his-underwear-rubbing-his-gut. The place contended with some of the Mexican badlands I’d seen. And wouldn’t you just know it, Motel 6 was booked solid on this Friday night with no housekeepers available at 11:00PM to clean the place. They sent us off with some new pillows, clean sheets and towels, and a “sorry ’bout it” look on their face. No longer a stranger to this sort of debacle with sanitation, I walked down to my car to grab my 33% more free tub of Lysol Wipes. Without plastic gloves or seriously a care in the world, I went to town cleaning that room. I wiped down everything from the door handles and TV remote to the toilet seat and shower floor. Anthony did the real dirty work and made the bed with our new sheets and pillows. I didn’t even have the energy to be annoyed anymore so I just went to sleep and tried not to imagine what sorts of things happened in El Paso Motel 6 bedrooms.

The next night was Anthony’s game. It was really tough to take this league seriously since they not only paid their players in sweat shop wages, but they also ran out of pitchers one game and actually had Anthony take the mound. I’m not sure what sort of outcome they expected with that strategery, but needless to say I wasn’t expecting too much from this game. I sat there with one of his team mate’s girlfriends – Martha – and enjoyed a real-life, English conversation. Finally, another girl who understood me when I said, “This life is for the God damn birds!” We chit-chatted about psychotic, super-fans and Mexican minor-league groupies and cheers’d each other as we laughed about the similar bullshit we’d been through. It was refreshing to know there was some other poor soul out there that was in love with a gypsy-souled, baseball player whose picture would show up as some random girl’s Facebook profile picture. “Bitches be crazy,” she said, and we laughed til we cried. Tears of laughter or tears of despair – who knows – but at least we were laughing.

In the next moments, there was a bench-clearing “brawl” where all the guys were rushing at each other, only to stop in each other’s faces and yell empty threats across the infield. Anthony of course had to take it a step further and give a guy an instigating shove that ultimately got him ejected from the game. Oh how thrilling. I drove four hours to El Paso to text back and forth from the stands while he hid in the clubhouse. But then my dear friend Martha mentioned that the club house had a frozen margarita machine. I took to my cell phone and hastily started texting Anthony: “Make me a margarita, NOW!” He popped out of the clubhouse entryway with a cup in his hand and delivered the goods. If I was going to sit in El Paso and be subject to another six innings of Anthony-less baseball, I was going to at least get a good buzz going. Let’s not forget I needed to numb myself a bit more before returning to that motel room, too. Even with the margarita in my system, the game dragged on, finally ending at what felt like 3:00AM. We returned back to the room to find it still hadn’t been visited by housekeeping all day. Their lack of customer service made me feel a little less guilty about the pile of crap my dog left in the corner of the room that night. Woopsie.

I headed back home on Sunday afternoon with zero plans of going back to El Paso. Baseball was almost out of my life (have I said that before?), so I just decided I’d wait for Anthony to be home for good. It’d been a long time coming, but it was only a few more weeks after three years of waiting around for us to finally get a real life started together. Believing that would actually happen this time around though, and that Anthony’s word held any real substantiation, was seriously delusional. I was living in a world of “Angela’s Law,” and it was just about time to learn to accept that.