Francis Fernandes grew up in the US and Canada. He studied in Montréal and has a degree in Mathematics. Since spring 2020, his writing has appeared in over twenty literary journals, including Amethyst Review, Indolent Books, Third Wednesday, Montréal Writes, Underwood, Little Death Lit, Pace Magazine, Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Defenestration Magazine, Saint Katherine Review, Front Porch Journal, and several others. He lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where he writes and teaches.
ALIVE BACK THE
From ages ten to twelve, maybe longer, I would stand thirty feet from the front of the house and throw a tennis ball against the concrete stairs and catch the rebound with my baseball glove. Again and again, like a boy possessed, I would go out there on the sidewalk, throwing the ball like a big league pitcher into the batting zone, which I could see because I had drawn the borders with a chalk. I still heard last night's game on the radio and the calls “High and away, ball one!” and “Straight down the middle, strike three, he's out!”. Sometimes the ball would come straight back to me, bouncing down the walkway into the web of my glove like a mouse running into a hole in the wall. Sometimes the ball hit the edge of a step and drew a perfect parabola through the air before landing straight in the leather of my glove.
I loved the smell of that glove. I would put the glove to my face and breathe in the leather and the dirt and the grass. My older brother solved his physics problems with a neatness I could never muster. My teenage sisters discussed literature with our mother inside a world that issued visas and permits to certain brilliant polemicists but not me. Our father brooded over invoices and science journals in the heavily guarded precinct of his study. So I just stood out there, in front of that resounding home, wearing my baseball cap at a slight angle and with the visor raised so that I wouldn't miss those high pop-ups, holding the glove under my eyes and winding up for the pitch. In the summer, the sweat rolled down my forehead, and I would wipe my throwing hand on the side of my leg like I had seen Steve Rogers and the Spaceman himself, Bill Lee, do in the clutch moments of a game. In the fall I would blow into a closed fist while glaring at the strike zone.
I never wondered what the neighbours or the passersby might think. I just kept score in my head and pictured the scenes on the diamond – scenes I would take great pains to describe in fine detail under my breath. I saw everything: the strategy, the cheering crowd, the signals from the catcher, the crouch of the third-baseman. And the numbers always tallied with a beauty I had never seen anywhere else, least of all in the school readers or my bloody notes. The numbers rolled up and down the ramp of my Sisyphean mind while I moved with the confidence of a tiger or a tightrope walker, in blissful ignorance of the madness of the whole enterprise. It was indeed a strange arrangement I had come to with space and time and the inequities of nature and the social contract. It was certainly invigorating like nothing I knew, not even the real games, where mostly anyway I sat on the bench with my glove lying patiently next to me.
I have a bit of a gut now, and when I kick the mini soccer ball against the furniture, I do it halfheartedly, just waiting for the chance to go to the grocery store and keep my six-to-ten-foot distance. This virus has us all confined to the space within our walls. The way the sun shines during the day makes you long for some made-up foolishness that from within looks anything but foolish. The numbers they throw at you in the media are hysterical entities that have no function except that of a little furred ball that bounces and rebounds with a devastation that loves only itself. It's strange, but the assault of these numbers, which are changing daily, seems more repetitive than those learned movements with which I fielded that tennis ball all those years ago. And no matter how much I now vary my calisthenics and stretching in the living-room, and no matter how much I try to watch a new episode from a different Netflix series in the evenings, the days all seem the same. Back then, in the midst of another sort of crisis – the one involving the blurred speed of ideas and thoughts and cells that tended to replicate and grow rather than annihilate – the only thing that seemed the same was my beloved baseball glove, and that was a good thing. My glove, which always carried the scent of dirt and grass and wild cowhide and the far-flung stadiums of the nation. Everything teemed with a newness that thrilled: amid all that repetition, the days extended into unbelievable potential and beauty and grace. Nowadays, sometimes, I have to wonder what happened to that beauty and grace.