i know all we're trying to do is win series (serieses? seres? who knows latin?), and that's already taken care of, but still. and now it's tied and now it's in extras and i have to leave in ten minutes and that is not cool. stupid barbecues in stupid parks in stupid berkeley. honestly.
anyway, i was gonna say about how this next was the first time i'd written about someone other than an oakland athletic, and then i remembered that i kinda wrote a novel co-starring a tiger. eh.
notice darling noah's mysterious shiner.
They found out they lived in the same building by accident, which was the only way it was gonna happen, because it wasn’t like either of them still talked to anybody from college.
Noah Lowry was coming back from 7-11 with ice cream, and Danny Haren called his name from a half a block away. Lowry didn’t turn; he thought it was a fan, and he was in no sort of mood.
But Haren caught up to him in the crosswalk, painted steel lines gleaming around them, Haren’s hand on Lowry’s elbow. Little green man telling them to walk, little blinking red man telling them to stop. They got to the sidewalk, under the awning of the Mexican produce market, unripe bananas and bruised tomatoes.
The ice cream in the plastic bag made Lowry nervous, he kept checking the ground to see if it was dripping. Eventually, he said, I gotta get back, and it turned out they were walking the same direction. Turned out they were going to the same place.
They drank and caught up and Lowry kept thinking he was gonna leave pretty soon, no real reason for him to be here. He didn’t leave, for whatever reason, Haren’s beer, Haren’s grin, Haren’s hands, whatever. Haren still made him feel like he was fourteen years old, all this time later.
And something happened and Lowry would never be able to say what. Teeth, nails, Haren’s facial hair rashed on Lowry’s face. Nothing so clear.
The next morning, Lowry woke up, with a hangover and a black eye, to find that the view out his bedroom window had changed. No matter what he tried, the buildings wouldn’t melt back into the bay, and Lowry got scared, terrified, really, thinking that he had woken up in some alternate universe, and what then?
It was just barely dawn. The sky was faded like metal, and when Lowry rolled over, panicked, he rolled into Haren’s body, naked under the sheet and his eyelashes spiky on his cheeks.
Lowry bolted into the other room. He snuck back five paced minutes later, got his clothes, and dressed in the hallway, thankfully alone, five in the morning on a Saturday. He ran up the seven flights to his own floor, locked the door, and somehow fell back asleep, somehow dreamt of Danny Haren’s legs tucked up against the back of his own, folding them both inwards, Danny Haren’s open mouth on his neck, Danny Haren’s wide shoulders curling around his body.
Lowry woke up for the second time that day, trembling, his throat aching.
It got out of hand.
The building where they lived had small louvered windows set into the doors, perfect squares the size of Haren’s spread-out hand. When the light in the front hall was on, the square glowed yellow and pink, warped like the air in Phoenix.
Lowry found himself at the end of the hallway, seven flights below his apartment, leaning against the wall and waiting for the light behind Haren’s door to go out. Lowry found himself drunk every night, beer-drunk, whiskey-drunk, insomnia-drunk, trying to figure out how he got this black eye and trying to remember when Haren’s hand had slipped around the back of his neck.
Way down deep in the midst of the Third Night Since, and Haren knocked on Lowry’s door, Haren stood with the square of light on his chest and pushed Lowry up against the wall without even saying hi.
Lowry didn’t even like Haren that much when they were at Pepperdine together. Haren with his carved upper body and his filthy split had been everything the team was waiting for, and the coaches kept telling Lowry to develop a fucking slider, already. They hadn’t gotten along very well; they’d hardly ever even talked.
So this didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
And Lowry was only happy that at least Haren was as fucked up as he was, because they weren’t allowed to fuck guys, and they were absolutely, no ifs ands or buts, not allowed to fuck guys on other teams. There’d be hell to pay, and that right quick.
Didn’t matter. Made no sense. Anyway, they used to be teammates. Welcome to the loophole.
Haren licked the bruise under Lowry’s eye, the skin yellowing like parchment. He held Lowry’s wrists in his hands and asked, how’d that happen, man?
Lowry shook his head, mouthed silently, don’t know, can’t remember, and tipped his head back, freed his hands to run up under Haren’s shirt, find something smooth and warm and clean, the structure of Haren’s ribcage neat in his palms.
Haren liked to come over late at night, or early in the morning. Lowry left the front hall light on when he wanted company. Left it on every night, tell the truth. His ice cream was going bad in Haren’s freezer; they hadn’t been back there since that first night.
Lowry wanted to know, when, danny, how, what’d you do, what’d I do? But Haren didn’t know. Haren didn’t care all that much, he’d shrug and twist his fingers in the hem of Lowry’s shirt, tugging petulantly.
They didn’t talk about baseball. Not even twenty miles between SBC Park and the Oakland Coliseum, and in June, Haren’s team got better and Lowry’s team got worse, kids and veterans, pitching and offense. Their teams were exact opposites, mirror images, like the two of them when they faced each other and Haren’s right arm wedged against Lowry’s left.
When Haren had pitched that day, they had to position themselves differently, because he couldn’t brace himself over Lowry with his fists jammed in the mattress beside Lowry’s head, couldn’t cradle Lowry’s leg in the bend of his arm.
They found out the hard way, when his arm gave out and he fell like sweat off his forehead, crushed Lowry beneath him and Lowry couldn’t breathe for awhile. Haren, his face screwed up from the pain, fit their mouths together and exhaled, counted to three, exhaled. Red Cross-certified.
When Haren had pitched, he could barely summon the strength to lie on his side and let Lowry do all the work, sighing and flicking his eyes, lazily drawing his tongue over Lowry’s shoulder blades, his hand loosely clenched on Lowry’s chest.
But they didn’t talk about the game, didn’t talk about much at all. Lowry was scared to run into him on the street again, to have to make small talk for two-three agonizing blocks when all either of them could think was, you’ve totally sucked my dick. Nothing was real outside of Lowry’s apartment, which was the exact same as Haren’s apartment, save the interior design and the view.
After the Giants got swept by the A’s in Oakland, after the A’s won 16-0 in the last game of the set, kindly one-hitting the Giants as if 16-0 wasn’t fucking bad enough, Lowry waited and felt his heart shrink uncomfortably in his chest, his lower lip chewed ragged.
When Haren showed up, led like a moth to the light, he had an apologetic look on his face, and Lowry couldn’t stand that, couldn’t even believe it. He got so angry, four fingertip-perfect bruises smiling on Haren’s shoulder, and knelt on the bed, gripping the headboard and pressing his face into his arm.
Haren got behind him and laid his arm along the line of Lowry’s, something for Lowry to close his teeth on. Push forward, slam back, and paint chipped off the wall. Lowry’s photographs were shook free of the Scotch tape and rained down around them, stuck to Lowry’s hair, to Haren’s back. Lowry had never in his life been fucked like that, and it was him in control for every moment of it, it was Haren who would feel the burn tomorrow, just like it should be.
Lowry kept waiting for them to become friends, but that wasn’t going to happen. Blue-eyed Danny Haren was coming around because they were seven flights away from each other, convenience like the 7-11 being open all night, because Lowry was one thing and Haren was another, and it wasn’t about friendship.
Sometimes Haren stayed, especially if he’d shown up closer to dawn than midnight, and in the morning Lowry feigned sleep and listened to him clinking around in the kitchen, showering and humming as he got dressed. One of these mornings, Lowry was gonna lift his head and say, kay thanks danny, I’ll see you around, and it would be over as easy as that, painless and leaving not even a memory in its wake.
Instead, Lowry lifts his head one morning and gets as far as, danny. Haren looks back at him, long slow smile, wet hair curling blackly on his forehead, and Haren says, don’t worry, the light’s on, I can find my way.
endnotes: they do live in the same apartment complex. they carpooled back from the coliseum after the bay bridge series, yo.