and this was my home story. it's what i wrote over the month of april 2004, san francisco like a fucking miracle, and that's when i knew for sure that i was coming back here, as soon as possible, and never leaving again.
i was basically living in bernal heights, where one of my best friends lives, and spending a lot of time in the mission and the castro district. i would hear some line of description in my head and pull the car over to scribble it down. all the city-specific stuff is absolutely true.
this is also the first story where eric chavez is referred to as 'ricky.' it's caught on so well!
the 'challenge' mentioned in the notes was fulfilled with this story, which contains no metaphors, and another, "going nowhere," which contains no run-on sentences. from that experiment, i came to the conclusion that i can live without run-ons (and probably should), but cannot live without metaphor. i mean, there's none below, but it was fucking hard, yo.
i love the hell out of this story.
Title: Falling Down With a Pure Heart
Author: Candle Beck
Category: MLB, Oakland A's
Pairing: Barry Zito/Eric Chavez
Rating: PG-13, because I’m in a corrupting sort of mood.
Archive: Hey, knock yourself out.
Disclaimer: No harm intended, just good clean fun. Well . . . not really clean.
Summary: It's like, you know, a picture of how things are, how you get to be nuts for someone.
Note #1: This has nothing to do with ‘Wreck Your Life.’ (The story that has to do with 'Wreck Your Life' is actually in the works, but we're not talking about it yet. Bad luck, don't you know.) For some reason, at this juncture in time, I can only write Chavez’s point of view in the second person, and while avoiding the name of the significant other (if anybody is confused as to who I'm talking about, dude, it's definitely right up top where it says "Pairing"), but the stories are unrelated. It’s weird, I know.
Note #2: I ‘challenged’ myself, as they say in the business world (or so I’m told, anyway, since I couldn’t pick the business world out of a line-up), to write a story that would lack a) metaphors, and b) run-on sentences. I got to be a big fan of the declarative, and was mostly successful (the occasional slip-ups were unavoidable, because I find this is too well carved into me to stop entirely), but it was harder than it sounds.
Falling Down With a Pure Heart
By Candle Beck
The skin at his hips is perfect, absolutely perfect. It’s never seen the sun, so pale it glows in the four a.m. dark. Smooth and tight and soft, the bones underneath making this slow curve. It’s so flawless you don’t want to leave marks, no fingerprint bruises. You try to keep your grip light as you close your hands on his body, your thumbs in the hollows, the curves snug against your palms. It would be a crime to mark him here. It’s almost a crime just to touch him here, because your hands do not deserve this.
He shivers when you hold him down, clenches his fingers in your hair when you press your mouth to the wings of his hips. You think that you will lick away all traces of your touch upon him, because here he is perfect and every time you feel him moving beneath you, you know that you are getting away with something.
When he was a kid, in September he would start drawing the San Diego Padres logo on the side of his wrist, where the line of his thumb runs down into his arm. The linked S and D, in blue or black, permanent ink that took weeks to wear away. For good luck, he says. Seeing that every time he looked down, being reminded, not that the pennant race was ever far from his mind. He’d retrace it every morning, getting it just right. When the Padres were officially knocked out of the chase, he’d stop drawing the logo and it would fade slowly.
He also used to carry around a baseball card in his sock. If the Padres lost, he’d switch to the other side to try and change the luck. The card would get irretrievably bent from being molded to his leg all the time, the edges tattered.
You can almost see him at sixteen, a worn baseball card sticking out of his sock, hooked letters on his arm. You want to tell him that this is a wonderful thing to think about, him at sixteen, trying to channel all the world’s luck into his favorite team. You can’t get enough of the image.
He comes around, off-days, days before you have a night game. When you can stay up late. Weird for him to be a night-owl, because he belongs in the sun, but he tells you that his favorite time is two in the morning, after most everyone else is asleep, when he can feel covert, far away from dawn.
He drinks all your Gatorade and breaks your drinking glasses and keeps you up later than you would be otherwise. You don't do much over at your house, because Mulder's often there, or will be there soon, or might be there at any time. This is what you get for being twenty-six and still having a roommate. You've invented a girlfriend to explain to Mulder where you're spending four nights a week, to explain the marks that are impossible to hide in the locker room.
Early into it, you were afraid that Mulder might be catching on, and tried to stay away for awhile, tried to wait for things to die down. But then he came knocking on your bedroom window at three in the morning, you climbing out into the yard with your jeans unbuttoned and no shoes on, him saying, "I'll have you back by sunrise, he'll never know, I swear, I swear," and you ended up kissing him so hard at a stoplight that he pulled into the first alley he could find, ripped off his seatbelt and hauled you to him, frantic and not enough room and your back wedged against the steering wheel and his hands under your shirt, his mouth on your neck.
You wish you’d known him while you were both growing up in San Diego. You were in the same class, but different schools, and you are almost exactly five months older than him. You could have been friends with him since kindergarten, if your two families had lived just a few miles closer together. You could have had years of him, decades. A history.
If you’d first fallen for him back then, you wouldn’t have had to worry about it being a scandal, a national news story, just about which of your parents were out of town for the weekend, which house was empty.
He tells you about a string of after-school afternoons when he was nine and his sisters had declared the whole house No Boys Allowed, made him play in the yard until their parents came home.
He liked it better in the yard anyway, the scuffed grass and the pop-flies he flung up into the sky, tracing the course, parabolic and running over to get beneath the ball as its ascent slowed, slowed, and then the frozen moment when it hung motionless in the air, trying to decide whether it would fall or continue to rise.
He was banned from the house for probably two months of his nine year old spring, and it never rained, not once.
You have met his sisters—they adore him. They think he hung the moon. His whole family is so proud of him.
You tell him about the first nickname you ever had, before you were Chavvy or the Sixty-Six Million Dollar Man (you hate being addressed as the latter, dully uncomfortable with it, although you like putting on a deep voice and saying "We can rebuild him. We have the technology."), something your brothers used to call you when you were kids, wrestling on the lawn, denting aluminum bats smacking golf balls across the high school's playing fields, playing wiffle ball on the beach, your little feet tearing up the sand. You answered to 'Ricky' back then, but only when it was one of your brothers calling to you. Now, though, sometimes you still turn when you hear that name yelled across a crowd.
You will never do anything to hurt him. It’s a promise you’ve made to yourself, not to him, because you are a little embarrassed by it, the certainty of it, the strength of your resolve.
Maybe you will never see the inside of a World Series dugout, maybe you will never break the records you’ve set for yourself, maybe you will never be all the things that you have the potential to be, but you will never do anything to hurt him, and this is the most important of all the vows you’ve ever made. All your other promises, they were just practice for this.
He likes to meet places at midnight. He's got a heart with a fine appreciation for the underworld power of twelve o'clock, the sense of spells and incantations. Midnight and crossroads, under telephone wires hung with knotted sneakers, baleful yellow streetlights, you see him pacing around in the circle of light, his hands in his pockets, his head tilted up. When the moon is full, it catches him out, spotlights him.
It's a prison break on the street in the middle of the night, and you're never sure whether it's him or you who is trying to escape.
He's got a St. Christopher's medal. It's small, not as wide as a thumbprint, gleaming silver. St. Christopher's got a staff in one hand, a small child on his shoulders, walking across a river, and the plain script around the border reads, ‘Pray for us.’
He wears it on road trips, a thin leather band around his neck, tucked under his jersey. You like to think about the medal resting on the tight skin of his chest, bouncing around as he goes through his motion, a cool little oval. In his hotel room, you pull his collar out and kiss his shoulder where the leather slips across.
He said to you once that he wears the medal because St. Christopher is the patron saint of thieves and travelers, his mouth tugging up to let you know that he loves the taste of the words. Your family is littered with both devout and recovering Catholics (Catholicism, like drug addiction and an obsession with baseball, being one of those things that can be treated but never fully cured), and you know that the travelers part is true enough, but the patron saint of thieves is St. Nicholas of Myra. You're not sure how he got this misconception stuck in his head, but it's not something that you'd be able to convince him of otherwise, because he loves the taste of it, it sounds so right to him.
And anyway, you don't really want to tell him. He is a thief, you've known this for years. He's stolen a mason's jar worth of spare change from you, your old high school batting glove with the hole at the thumb, your self-control and will power, two years of your issues of Sports Illustrated, half of every order of fries you've ever eaten in his company, and your ability to want anyone else, just to name a few.
You keep as close to him as possible when you're traveling, because he's the one who’s got the power of God with him, he’s the one who will be protected.
You play Thumb War a lot. All the sitting around you do, in airports, on planes and buses, in the clubhouse, in the dugout waiting for the rain to let up—Thumb War is a lifesaver. Once there was a big tournament, the whole team involved, complete with bookies taking bets and odds on who would win. Then Scott Hatteberg surprised everybody, the sneaky bastard. A dark horse with his tough converted-catcher hands, Scotty went undefeated all through the semifinals, then beat Miguel Tejada in a championship bout that lasted nearly half an hour and was cheered on with pennant-game fervor.
Now most of the other guys are bored with it, so just you and him play. He keeps up a running commentary the whole time: “See, see that right there, that’s the stealth thumb, comes out of nowhere. Can’t protect against that maneuver. Of course, you’ve gotta have the requisite thumb strength to hold down the other guy. But that’s true of all the moves.”
You’ve never known if this chatter of his is strategy, trying to distract you, or just him pulling out the stops between his brain and his mouth. You can’t quite believe that anyone would actually spend this much time thinking about how to win at Thumb War.
Ironically, he’s not very good at it, you beat him all the time. He always looks surprised when he loses, but then he shakes your hand and solemnly says, “Well fought, my friend, well fought,” before challenging you to a rematch.
It's strange, but he's not really left-handed. He pitches left, bats left (although you wouldn't really call what he does at the plate 'batting'), but that's it. He writes right-handed, plays the guitar right-handed. His mind is split. It's only on the field that he's a lefty. One of the many ways the game makes him exceptional.
He calls you ‘babe’ sometimes, when he’s not thinking about it. It’s always been a baseball term, but it sounds different coming from him in the middle of the night than it does on the field, where it’s mixed in with ‘rook’ and ‘hack’ and ‘ace,’ just another of the dozens of one-syllable substitutes that fit the game so perfectly. Mostly, though, he calls you 'dude,' which is what he calls everybody.
Some of the guys have been calling him 'poster boy' ever since he won the Cy Young and ESPN.com put up his picture on the banner for their MLB home page. He doesn't really like being called that, you can tell by the way his mouth tightens, but he always just laughs it off.
You were back home in San Diego once, and he called your parents' house, using his good-boy voice, "Hello, is Eric there, please?" So out of place, your first name from his mouth. You call him ‘Manilow,’ because it irritates the hell out of him.
Once, just once, it was three in the morning and you weren’t quite asleep yet, and he came in from the other room yawning, pulling off his shirt, and you said to him without thinking, “Turn off the bathroom light, will you, love?” It took you a second to realize what you’d said, and when you shot your eyes over to him, he was staring back at you, stunned.
When he can’t sleep, he sits in the chair by the window and reads by the streetlight, not wanting to turn on the bedside lamp and wake you up. He wears his headphones and mouths the words to the songs, bobbing his head in time, rattling out piano breaks on the table. He could just go into the living room, but he seems to like it better at the window, squinting to make out the words, where he can keep an eye on you.
When you can’t sleep, you lie perfectly still beside him and let your breath fall into rhythm with his, and you try to figure out what he’s dreaming about by the ghostly expressions that flicker across his face. Sometimes he says your name. Sometimes he says other people’s names. Sometimes he reaches out and you shift carefully so that his hand will find your head, petting through your hair, and he sighs and smiles.
He goes through phases in which all he wants to eat is different forms of potatoes, French fries, hashbrowns, chips. And then a week later nothing but pizza will do. And a week after that he claims that if he could have his way, the only food in the world would be the ice cream they’ve got at the cone shop down by Golden Gate Park, where there’s a giant wheel with all the flavors listed, so if you can’t decide what you want, you can take a spin, the only rule being that once you’ve chosen to spin the wheel, you are honor-bound to accept whatever fate selects (a true risk, as there exists in this shop flavors such as Jalapeno Pepper and Cheese & Red Onion (no lie)). His diet is laughably unbalanced, but whatever harm it’s doing him is invisible.
His best-loved joke to play is, when he's talking to you, to let his gaze drift over your shoulder, his face tightening with vague confusion, his eyes widening in surprise. You turn to look behind you and of course there's nothing there. When you turn back he's doubled over laughing. He's been pulling this one for as long as you've known him, and you fall for it every single time.
Your favorite day of the week is the day he starts. You can watch him without suspicion then, because everybody is watching him, unable to take their eyes away. When he’s on the mound, the whole stadium is in love with him, and you think that this is the way it should be, because he deserves the love of fifty thousand, he deserves so much more than just your poor heart.
He never talks about what’s going to happen, and neither do you. Someday it won’t just be the bay separating the two of you, someday it will be mountains and deserts and rivers and vast sprawling lengths of the continent.
When you are no longer on the same team, when you will be on opposite sides of the chalk line for the first time, only seeing him when he swings through your city or you swing through his, you wonder if you will be able to face him from the batter’s box, you wonder if your body will have the strength to send his curve rocketing back at him. You think that when that day comes, you will not want to take the field against him, but then he will say something like, “You gonna make me work for it today, huh?” grinning at you during batting practice as the two of you stand there in different uniforms, and you know that no one will be happier for you than him if you clobber one of his pitches, send it ricocheting around in the bleachers.
He gets bored easily. Or not bored, exactly—restless. He always needs to be fiddling with something, his hands always looking for something to play with.
You have an image, almost certainly apocryphal, of him at one or two years old, reaching out and closing his tiny fist on air, crying at the emptiness of his hold until his parents, trying to find *something* that would calm him down, laid a baseball down in his crib, watched as he quieted, touched this strange new object, laughed at the rough of the stitches, having finally found what he'd been searching for.
A baseball is still the old stand-by, these days. He works it between his palms as he reads the paper in the morning, tosses it to himself as he walks down the street, goes through his pitch grips as he rides shotgun. But other things will do too.
Your hand has become a recent favorite, particularly when you're both sitting around watching TV. Keeping his attention on the screen, he learns your hand as a blind man would, studying each component with abstract dedication, fitting his fingers into the dents between your knuckles, tracing the veins of your wrists, bending your fingers open and shut. He does it absently, distractedly, and especially when he's a little drunk. You sometimes wonder if he's even aware that he's doing it at all, and whether he could describe your hand from memory at this point, should anyone ever ask him to.
You'd like to think that it came out of nowhere, but that's not really true.
For a long time, you had what you considered, when you allowed yourself to consider it, a straight-guy crush on him. Just because he was cool and funny and always forgot where he'd parked the car. Because you'd call him up when you had nothing to do and he'd talk about giant sea turtles and wind-surfing, and he never seemed to find it odd that he was the one you called when you wanted someone to talk to about stupid stuff. Because he was always snapping chocolate bars and giving you half without you having to ask. Because nothing seemed to touch him, nothing seemed to stick, and you wished you could be like that. Because the rest of the world was in black and white, and he was the only thing you could see in color.
And then you were thinking about his eyes almost all the time, and you were thinking about his hands, and you were thinking about how he was better-looking when his features were serious and composed, but somehow more attractive when he let a goofy grin break across his face. And then you sighed and admitted that probably most straight guys don't think about their friends in this manner.
And then he reached out one night and brushed his thumb across your cheek, saying, "Eyelash. Make a wish," holding his hand out to you so you could blow it away, blinking at you and his eyes dragged you down and you dragged him in and he made a surprised noise against your mouth, which made you think that he probably hadn't realized any of this about you, but he didn't shove you away and the next noise he made was rumbled and happy and after that it was all over but the shouting. There ended up being quite a bit of shouting, but it was the good kind of shouting.
His music tastes are baffling and without a pattern, and he wishes he hadn't talked his parents into letting him quit piano lessons when he was eleven. The guys who play the guitar *and* the piano--those are the guys to be.
He practices guitar with his big air traffic controller headphones plugged into the amp, his fingers shifting soundlessly through the chords, his lips moving slightly, his eyes closed.
You never ask to hear any of the songs he's written, because you find it kind of strange, the musician side of him, not something you've had a lot of experience with before. It's not what you would have expected, that sleeping with another ballplayer would also involve sleeping with a 'creative type,' which is what you've been calling all artists since high school, always with a slight eye-roll, a significant cocking of an eyebrow. Artists aren't bad, just . . . different.
You have heard him, though, on the radio, and you didn't know what to think or feel. You figure you're probably biased towards considering him as awesome at this as he is at everything, and you wonder if other people will like it when they hear it. You can't decipher the sick/happy clutch in your stomach when you hear his voice coming out of your car radio, deeper than his normal voice, smoother. It's weird to think that you're sleeping with someone who sings on the radio, even if it is only on sports talk programs.
There's this dream he has sometimes. A nightmare that's been following him around for years, crossing time zones and aging as he ages. Sometimes it'll go away for months, and then every night for three weeks straight it'll shock him awake. It always comes back. It took two months of him waking up beside you, every time this same sharp little gasp, this jolt that wracks his whole body, before he finally told you what the dream was.
A car crash when he was seventeen, his best friend driving home from a party, both of them just a little too drunk to realize that they were too drunk. He told you about how his eyes were closed when they hit the telephone pole, dozing, cruising to the radio. He told you about how he pulled his friend out of the shattered driver's side window, his arm looped around his friend's chest, dragging them both backwards, his friend's foot twisted in the seatbelt, strung up somewhere between laughing and crying, his friend's head rolling back on his shoulder, blood and soot in his eyes, and how he kept saying, "It's okay, it's okay, look, the moon, it's okay, because look, look, the moon," and the approaching sirens were spiraling, splintering, and he couldn't even hear his own words anymore, their two nearly-dead bodies strobed with red and blue light.
He didn't tell you this expecting you to do something about it, stop the dream. He's gotten used to it. He'd probably miss it if it went away.
You don't wake him up when you see his face pull scared in his sleep, when he starts to shake. At some point you got it in your head that it was a dangerous thing to wake someone in the middle of a dream, that they might get stuck in the dream forever if they don't come out of it naturally.
So you just wind your arm across his body and whisper deaf good-intentioned words into his chest, making no sound, your nose rubbing, your breath on his skin, whispering about the moon, whispering anything that comes to your mind, and it never settles him down, he still wakes up every time with a gasp and a jolt, another reminder that there are a lot of things that you're not strong enough to stop.
You can see his eyes change when he gets into trouble during a game. Two men on, no outs, the heart of the order coming up, and this gleeful sort of darkness creeps into his face. Once it becomes imperative that every pitch be perfect, his body somehow tightens and relaxes at the same time. This is where he belongs. This is the game he loves. A strange kind of love, a terrified, exhilarated form of it, much like what you feel when he says your name in that low desperate rasp, pulling you hard against him, skin to skin and searing his mouth down your body. Pitching for his life, this is his life, the only one he wants to live. Here and now, he is unearthly, he is fueled by something so much more vast and eternal than himself. The rain is falling in blinding sheets and he will find a way through it, he will come out dry, sparkling. At such a moment, he is stronger than anyone you've ever known, stronger than you ever imagined a man could be.
At such a moment, the forces of fear and pride and mute, ungodly desire crowd in your throat and you can barely breathe, you can barely keep your hands off him when he comes down the steps of the dugout, his hair streaked with salt, his hands still shaking with adrenaline, his gaze maniacal and glittering, sightless, the hook and the cut and the soft hallucinatory float of every pitch he threw holding residence in his eyes.
He doesn't see you then, because he can't see anything, and you know he can't quite believe his own brilliance, detached from it, studying it from afar, and you wish you could be removed too, you wish it wouldn't hit you as hard as it always does.
He is infatuated with San Francisco. Crazy about the city. He takes detours to see the best views, pulling the car over at Church Street and 20th, the near-vertical hills of Dolores Park, the whole skyline laid out, City Hall's huge Byzantine dome, the jukebox hotel downtown, the firefly white lights of the bridge, the span of the bay.
He says, "look at that, just look at that." You are profoundly endeared to him at these moments, sitting beside him in the dark car, lit by the glow of the dashboard and the scattered stars and the pastel gleam of the Victorian houses.
He can't believe how beautiful this place is, he can't get over it. He stares out at the city with a silly grin on his face, and you stare at him, because San Francisco's not the only thing that will take a person's breath away.
He does this thing when he's rolling through yellow lights, when he's gunning it through the red. Kisses his fingertips and then touches the roof of the car, just at the moment when he's bulleting across the intersection. It's another one of these superstitions that he collects, stock-piling, a careful inventory of luck and hope. Having never once gotten pulled over or in any kind of an accident after he does the kiss-touch thing, he sees no reason to stop. His logic in this matter is implacable and hard to argue with, not that you would argue anyway.
It's become instinct at this point, he couldn’t stop doing it if he wanted to. You see him do it in taxi cabs, even on buses, his hand lifting and hitting nothing, just waving around up there, a kid raising his hand in class. He doesn't even think about it anymore.
Sometimes, when he's in a good mood, he kisses his fingers and then reaches out and touches your cheek instead.
He's got a scar on his shoulder from surgery when he was in high school. It's skinny and precise, the marks of the stitches faded, a short abbreviated twist of the 108 across his skin. He's got scars on his knees from tree climbing, wave jumping, skidding after bunt pop-ups. He's got three little pock scars on his arms, because he scratches mosquito bites until they bleed, until they're there forever. He's got a scattering of tiny shallow scars on his ribs that he won't explain to you. He's got a scar on his lower back that he doesn't know is there.
You've never known anybody's body the way you know his. You wonder if he could say the same for you.
Down in San Diego during the summer, the triple-digit temperatures overload the power grids and whole sections of the city are placed under brownout warnings, rolling electricity failures, everybody walking around waiting for the lights to go off, stocking up on cold drinks and battery-operated fans.
It's a strange way to live, waiting for darkness to fall down sudden and unexpected. This is what you both knew growing up.
It was an adventure before it became an annoyance, loitering in the elevators, hoping for a movie-perfect moment of a stalled car and a beautiful stranger, because that would be a good story to tell. He used to go hang out in his high school's old bomb shelter until the lights and air-conditioning turned back on, cooler down there underground, pitch black, the bright flag of a Zippo, the campfire faces of his friends. You haunted the freezing aisles of the grocery store the next town over, sitting on the linoleum reading magazines, stealing candy.
You are never surprised when the power goes out now; it's something you've been anticipating all your life.
He loves your dog, a brown and white mutt named Mickey Mantle Jr. Mickey loves him, too, always jumping up on him when he comes through the door, paw prints on his shirt. They've both got good taste.
You like him best when he comes to bed after pitching a good game. Seven and a third, seven hits allowed and two earned runs. Eight innings full, four hits allowed and only one earned run. His brilliant early-June complete game shutout, ninety-three pitches and five hits, scattered.
It’ll be all he can talk about, in the dugout, the clubhouse, the ride back, when you show up at his place later that night. He’ll say, “Man, they were getting deep in the count but they couldn’t read anything, I was coming down strong, you know, kept getting the good push off the rubber, my arm doesn’t even hurt that much.”
He’ll say, “Jermaine’s homer, that was no doubt all the way, the second it hit the bat, you knew it wasn’t gonna land for, like, a day.”
He’ll say, “That play you made in the fifth, that was fucking incredible, dude, saved my life, I guess everybody was wrong when they said you slept your way to three Gold Gloves, huh?”
He’ll be running fiercely, sheer nervous energy, all night, and then at one or two in the morning he’ll take a shower and climb into bed, the softness of his drying hair, the slick wet spots on his back, the tips of his fingers white, his body flushed with warmth, clean and slipping through your palms. You’ll be able to feel the adrenaline drain off him, skimming away from his skin, everything going slow and vaguely endless.
Both of you will have your heads under the covers, cave-like, hidden, and when he kisses you, it’s drugged and sleepy and makes your mind blur, your heart doing this crazy kind of dive, his hands on you spiriting away every thought you’ve ever had that you might be able to live without this.
And he’ll keep talking about the game, even as his breath begins to draw unevenly, even as your near-silent pleas crack around him, even as you pull your fingers through his hair and lick the water and the rising sweat off his chest, making his eyes tighten and go dark. You’ll make it your single goal to shut him up, to drive him past articulation, biting, pulling, rolling over, sliding down.
And just when you think you’ve succeeded, he’ll whisper raggedly in your ear, his hand doing its utmost to make you insane, “That strikeout to end the seventh, man, I swear I could feel the wind from his swing, it was so cool.”
And you’ll laugh without breath and try to pull him as deep into you as he will go, and you’ll know that there’s nothing in the world you can do that would keep baseball from being the best thing that happened to him that day.
He drives too fast. It's a felony in California to go double the speed limit, and he should have a longer rap sheet than most Mafia dons, but despite having been pulled over a half a dozen times, he's never once gotten a ticket. An incredible thing, considering that he's not a girl and shouldn't be able to charm cops the way he does, but nobody ever seems to want to get him in trouble for anything. You can understand the impulse.
He throws the car into neutral going down the steepest hills in town, Bullitting over the rises. He knows exactly how much time and distance he needs to go from streaking with the wheels barely touching the asphalt to coming to a gentle stop at the signal. He's an excellent driver, and he's broken every traffic law in the books.
He tells you about the girl who broke his heart when he was seventeen. The girl who re-broke it when he was twenty. You tell him about the first time you met the woman you would end up marrying, but not about the slow disintegration, not about the way the collapse got faster and faster until it was a stone you were tied to, dragging you down.
You don't talk about any other guys. You don't talk about your minor league teammate with the chaotically beautiful eyes or the stuff that happened in dry motel rooms in the Southwest, the way his hands would pull clean across your dust-smeared body, finger streaks on your sides, the way he was angry with you almost all the time, the way he said, "it's just a sex thing, Chavez, and would you please chill the fuck out?"
You're pretty sure there were guys in his past too, if for no other reason than that he's far too good at everything for this to be his first time. Sometimes he talks about his friend Nick from college, and his eyes get strange and unreadable, and you think there's more to the story there, the way his recollections start, "and I was sleeping over at Nick's house," "and Nick was driving," "and I ran into Nick at the show and we ended up going to Texas."
But you don't talk about that stuff, and you don't talk about how he smiles instinctively when Mulder walks into a room, or how if someone asked who his best friend was, you know his response wouldn't be you, or how the first time anything happened between the two of you, he came over to your house looking for the other man, ended up hanging out with you and spotting eyelashes just because you were the one who was home at the time, or how he's the one people ask where Mulder's gotten to, not asking after Mulder by name, but rather, "Hey, man, where's your boy?" or how you're sometimes sure that if Mulder had half a brain to recognize what was right in front of him, none of this would have ever happened.
He takes you to a rock show at the Fillmore, the walls lined with all those old posters, the floor of the hall rumbling beneath your feet, shouting the lyrics and howling with applause when the lead guitarist busts open the palm of his hand slamming through a solo, the pressing beat forward of the crowd, the kids hanging off the rail of the long balcony, the big metal bucket full of free red apples, the lights in sweeping cones across the stage, violet and deep maroon and California blue.
He takes you to the best sushi place in town, the no name place just off the Castro, where they don't serve drinks and people bring beer in brown paper bags.
He takes you to over the Golden Gate Bridge to John Muir Woods, the redwoods there the oldest living things on the planet, already ancient when Christ was born.
He takes you home to meet his family.
He takes you to Holly Park in Bernal Heights after midnight, when the fog has settled so thickly on the city that the thrown dusky yellow of the streetlights is tangible and swift in the wind, the criminals snaking through the hillside park, living within a cloud, and you try to pretend you're not scared.
He takes you to Stinson Beach, where you walk two miles from where the car is parked, through the wilderness to the shore, and it's dead quiet, the hushed surf, the stars in the moonless sky the only light for miles around, and he says, "nobody knows we're here, we can do anything."
He takes you as you are.
He takes you to Pescadero and he's right, it's unreal out there.
He takes you to his apartment after you go one for thirty-three during a terrible stretch of ten games and fixes what's gone wrong.
He takes you to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and you get splinters in your bare feet.
He takes everything like a man.
He takes you out to Ocean Beach and you spend hours sitting on the sand with his shoulder tucked against yours, watching the waves pound white against the shore, rhythmic and clean and hypnotic, and later, driving back down the Great Highway, you will feel blessed.
He asks for nothing from you, just your simple presence in his life. This seems to be enough, it seems to make him happy. You never have to explain yourself to him, he doesn't care about all the stupid shit you do, all the ways you fall short of what you could have been.
Once, you went oh for five in a game he started, twice striking out with men in scoring position, twice grounding into double plays, and later that night, after he got tagged for the loss despite only allowing two runs, knocking him under the .500 mark for the first time in the season, you began to stammer, torn up by it, "Look, man, I know I didn't get it done for you, I know, I'm sorr-" but before you could even get through it, his eyes flashed and he pinned your shoulders to the bed, hovering over you, saying low and certain, "You never have to say anything to me. You never have to do anything, just be here now."
Somehow, inexplicably, you are good enough for him, you exactly as you are, and maybe this is the first time in years that you have really believed that could be true.
You are in love with him, and you will be in love with him for the rest of your life.