The Nakagusuku Softball team won on Sunday. The other team featured a young – either still in high school or just out of it – shortstop. He made a few errors, but he also made enough plays for myself and other members of the team to say “Don’t hit it to shortstop.” In the middle innings of the game, our first baseman hit a bomb over the fence of the other field in center. It was a home run. Later in the game, the other team’s shortstop hit a bomb into the parking lot in right field for an out. The ground rules state that any ball it into the lot on the fly is an automatic out. It was a nice hit, but ultimately worthless.
“Why would he do that?” one of my teammates asked me. “Youth” I said. It was the only logical answer to a situation that defied logic.
On Friday night I returned to my elementary school for a food truck event. My family and I spent a couple of hours inhaling delicious food from multiple vendors, culminating in this glorious shot of my brothers and I sharing desserts. We simply didn’t have enough stomach to satisfy the wants of our tongues.
As often happens, Madison becomes bored at these events and makes this known by saying passive-aggressive things like “What am I going to do now?” and “I don’t think there’s anything for kids to do.” I decided to give her a little tour of the campus.
I took her upstairs to the back staircase. I told her that the top floor of the school was where my 8th grade classroom was. We found it. I paused at the top of these stairs and looked down them. Once, during my 8th grade school year, I decided I wanted to see if I could jump from the top of the flight to the bottom. I was pretty sure I could make it, but my concern was my momentum taking me into the wall at the end of the flight. I think my friend John – who later attended Saint Louis – was with me. Well, I took a few running steps and launched myself into the air. I made it, then grabbed the railing along the wall to prevent me from flattening myself on the wall. I was 13 or 14 and it was the only time in my life when I would have been stupid enough to try something which offered no benefit other than the ability to say that I had done it.
Madison and I walked down the side stair case to the second floor and I stopped here. Also during my 8th grade year – during something like a Family Fun Fest or something – I climbed over the wall, placed my feet in the holes of the wall, then jumped. My friend Joey was walking toward the school and saw me falling. I made it. I wish I could tell you what I was thinking other than I can make it. But I probably wasn’t thinking. The potted plant wasn’t there when I was in school, and looking at it now, it’s probably been strategically placed so as to disincline people from climbing up the adjacent wall. As I peered over the edge of the wall on Friday, I got that tingling in my crotch. Fear. Anxiety. Whatever. As a 35-year old man, I am afraid of heights. I know it wasn’t always this way.
When Madison and I returned to where my family was seated, I told my mom about it. It was the first time I told anyone in my family about it. I guess 20-plus years was long enough. “Really?” she said. “Why?” she asked. I told her that I didn’t know. But the real answer is probably the one I gave to my teammate on Sunday: youth.
When I think back to all of the stupid things I’ve done in my youth, I feel a mixture of pride and regret. I think that’s just how hindsight works. The older me is jealous of the old me’s athleticism and fearlessness. The older me knows better and marvels at the old me’s sheer stupidity. I cringe when I think about some of the choices I’ve made. I laugh about other ones. But still… I am fine right now, at 35, but sometimes I wonder what my brazenness has taken off the back end.