I wanted to tell Cash about Fadi, about Italian soccer, and how when the rain fell in slants I thought of him, but he had hit a homerun that afternoon and I knew he’d want to talk about that. How he was down in the count, how he should have been looking fastball, but anticipated slider away and hit it to the opposite field.
He would say, “I talked to my agent today.”
I’d ask him about his mother.
He’d say, “I can’t wait to see you. I have to go to bed.”
“ Cash, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And he’d say, “Don’t worry baby. I’ll be home in a few days. At the end of the season I’ll have a new contract. You can live with me in Oakland or Baltimore, maybe even Boston.”
I’d say, “Cash, I don’t want to.”
• • •
I lived above the garage of a widow whose only son was killed in Afghanistan. She said I could call her Gigi. She said that’s what he grandchildren would have called her. She was rarely home. I believed she had a lover and didn’t bring him here. Here, where there was no dishwasher, no washer or dryer. She offered to take my clothes with her to the Laundromat. I declined. She left milk in the refrigerator. She said it was because her son loved milk. Drank three large glasses a day, not including with cereal. I gave it to the cat in a little bowl.
Our street was a gravel road with potholes full of mud and water. There was a black family whose children raced plastic boats in the puddles. One time the smallest boy was sat in the road with a toy fishing pole.
“Catch anything?” I asked.
“Damn things won’t bite,” he said not looking up. A handful of worms crawled at his side.
Next door lived a Hispanic family with low riding Lincolns in the driveway. Sometimes at night they would play music out of them with the doors open. It helped me fall asleep. The children walked to school holding hands, except for the two oldest boys who led the way.
I used to think I lived in the neighborhood because it reminded me of home. Reminded me of the walks I took with my mom and dad. It carried the same smell of coming rain, of charcoal barbecues and marijuana, of thick dust and freshly cut grass, of rotting apples and cherries. But I no longer believed that was why I lived there.
• • •
I watched traffic from the conference room on the thirteenth floor that was never used after a secretary found human excrement covering the table, the walls, the ceiling. They said it was a disgruntled former employee and that the smell never left. I was usually alone as I looked out the window over the city, except for today. I noticed someone from the corner of my eyes.
He said, “I can tell a lot about a man the way he looks out these windows.”
I said, “It’s a good thing I’m a woman then.”
Carlos smiled. He wore brown loafers, black slacks, and a blue oxford. “Maddy, I need to warn you, not as your editor, but as your friend. They’re doing an article on Cashmere once the Senate report is released. Fadi is said to have a source who helped purchase Cash’s steroids. Danny is ready to nail him and I can’t stop it now that it’s rolling.”
“You mean you don’t want to.”
“I just wanted to warn you.”
I grabbed my purse and walked to the door.
Carlos said, “Some people watch is close, either to see it fail or to figure out how to fix it. That’s how I Can tell.” I opened the door. “Why don’t you want to fix it Maddy?”
I turned and looked at him. He had his back to me and was watching the clouds creep across the sky like old men in a hurry.
I said, “It smells like shit in here Carlos.”
• • •
I parked my car next to the curb and Fadi dashed across his yard and pulled me out by the arm.
He said, “We’re late. We have to run.”
“Why don’t we drive? And you said seven.”
“There is no parking and the game starts at seven.”
I jogged behind him trying to zip up my jacket. He took my hand and told me to hurry.
He said, “Your hands are cold, take my gloves.”
He gave me yellow mittens.
I said, “You knit these yourself?”
The bar was packed with groups of men sweating, smoking, smiling, and growling. Hands and fists hammer the air. Many wear black and blue striped jerseys. Chants mingled with the smoke rolling and climbing to the rafters. Fadi took my jacket and put his hand on my back leading me through the throng. At a table sat four men staring at a television fixed from the ceiling. A lone woman smiled at Fadi. We sat and he introduced them. Abdul, Jalal, Sadd, and Nabih. They didn’t look down. The woman’s name I couldn’t make out over the crowd, but I smiled and mouthed an exaggerated, “Nice to meet you.” She reached her hand across the table and pulled me close to her.
She said, “What the fuck are you doing with Fadi?”
I pulled my arm back and knocked over a glass of beer. No one noticed. The men were fixed on the game. A man with an apron emerged from the crowd and wiped the table down and set a fresh glass in front of me. I drank it all then stood up and pushed my way through the crowd to the restroom. I stood at the sink and half expected the woman to follow me. I press my head into the mirror.
I sank back into the throng of men and grabbed another beer at the table. Fadi winked. I headed for the big screen television where the men pushed and shoved.
They chanted, “Inter—nazu—ale! Inter—nazu—ale! Inter—nazu—ale!”
We shook our fists and spilled our drinks. Thunder clapped and my ears rang. Men leapt into the air. I looked at the game. Nothing happened.
I yelled, “We didn’t even score!” They looked at me laughing. “Nothing happened. Stop celebrating when we miss a shot, when we make a pass.” Someone shoved another beer into my hand.
We sang. We screamed. We celebrated. The men shrieked and kissed cheeks. We danced. It was all a dance. The way the athletes on the television moved, passed, ran. And we moved and flinched and yelled in synch. Back and forth, side to side, up and down. The world laughed and bellowed. And I was just a little girl running down the street. All I wanted to do was dance.
My face was in the toilet and my toes curled against the cold tile. I searched for my purse. I walked down a street.
“Fadi, where’s my jacket, I’m cold?”
“You’re wearing it.”
“Fadi, we scored.” I threw my arms in the air. Fadi stood me up straight.
“Stand Maddy. Stand up.”
We were at the passenger side of my car. Fadi searched through my purse.
“Maddy, where are your keys?”
I said, “Take me inside.”