Ain't No Reason, by Ben Tanzer

I am in bed and staring at the ceiling as I always do at bedtime. I am not sleeping and I am never going to be sleeping. I am thinking about the endless things that keep me up at night, school, war, my looks, sex, being cool and my parents’ voices that I can always hear drifting up the stairs as they talk, and talk, long into the night.

I am on the little league field down by MacArthur where I go to elementary school, and it’s hot, upstate New York hot, all humid and moist, the air thick and full of gnats, endless gnats getting in my ears and nose, flying around my face, and sticking to my forehead when they get too close and their wings no longer work.

I am in bed and staring at the ceiling as I always do at bedtime. I am not sleeping and I am never going to be sleeping. I am thinking about the endless things that keep me up at night, school, war, my looks, sex, being cool and my parents’ voices that I can always hear drifting up the stairs as they talk, and talk, long into the night.

I picture them down there, the empty bottles of beer, now long polished off, the cups of coffee now cold, the cigarette butts scattered across the coffee table, and the two of them staring at each other, my mom knowing what’s about to come, always knowing, and already accepting it.

My parents are never much for friends. It isn’t that they can’t be friendly, but how can you make plans or build something more lasting if you are never quite sure whether your husband will be home to join you? Further, how can you face those friends alone time and time again, with their sad, knowing expressions and pity haunting you long after you leave for the night?

I am on the little league field down by MacArthur where I go to elementary school, and it’s hot, upstate New York hot, all humid and moist, the air thick and full of gnats, endless gnats getting in my ears and nose, flying around my face, and sticking to my forehead when they get too close and their wings no longer work.

I am in left field and praying that the ball isn’t hit my way. I will take any and all heat, whatever the day will bring, I’m cool, even the bugs are okay, I will deal with them, no problem, but don’t make me try and shag some towering hit that once hurtling towards sun, so high it almost seems lost, is now crashing towards me, no rhyme or reason just a free-fall, and well out of my control.

I picture them down there, the empty bottles of beer, now long polished off, the cups of coffee now cold, the cigarette butts scattered across the coffee table, and the two of them staring at each other, my mom knowing what’s about to come, always knowing, and already accepting it.

I usually can’t make out a word they say, but tonight is different, tonight when they actually speak, they are loud.

My parents are never much for friends. It isn’t that they can’t be friendly, but how can you make plans or build something more lasting if you are never quite sure whether your husband will be home to join you? Further, how can you face those friends alone time and time again, with their sad, knowing expressions and pity haunting you long after you leave for the night?

Marsha and Norm are the exceptions though. They have all been drinking together for years, Yuengling by the case if it is a lazy afternoon get together and Bloody Mary’s by the gallon when we gather for brunch. These are friends they don’t have to talk to, and friends my mom doesn’t have to fear, they all speak a common language and the relationship doesn’t require nurturing or attentiveness.

I am in left field and praying that the ball isn’t hit my way. I will take any and all heat, whatever the day will bring, I’m cool, even the bugs are okay, I will deal with them, no problem, but don’t make me try and shag some towering hit that once hurtling towards sun, so high it almost seems lost, is now crashing towards me, no rhyme or reason just a free-fall, and well out of my control

My eyes drift to the parking lot and I see my dad walk-up and wave. He isn’t alone though. He’s with Marsha. They’re stumbling and smiling, standing close together. She laughs at something and these big smiles erupt across both of their faces. My dad waves again and then points to the sky above me. I look up and see a baseball flying far into the summer sky only to just as quickly begin its sickening descent to the earth.

I usually can’t make out a word they say, but tonight is different, tonight when they actually speak, they are loud.

“The fuck we are,” my mom says.

“What?” my dad replies. “This is all in your head, it’s crazy thinking, and crazy-making. Relax.”

“No, don’t pull that, I’m not fucking crazy and we’re not going to be friends with them anymore, not us, and not you. No.”

My eyes drift to the parking lot and I see my dad walk-up and wave. He isn’t alone though. He’s with Marsha. They’re stumbling and smiling, standing close together. She laughs at something and these big smiles erupt across both of their faces. My dad waves again and then points to the sky above me. I look up and see a baseball flying far into the summer sky only to just as quickly begin its sickening descent to the earth.

I try to line-up below it, following it, bracing myself, focusing on the ball, the ball which is now falling, falling, falling so fast it’s just a blur. I thrust my mitt into the hair eyes closed and feel the back smack into my palm, safe and now nestled into the web of my glove. There are some scattered applause across the stands, but when I look over to the parking lot I see that my dad and Marsha have already headed off into the night.

“The fuck we are,” my mom says.

“What?” my dad replies. “This is all in your head, its crazy thinking, and crazy-making. Relax.”

“No, don’t pull that, I’m not fucking crazy and we’re not going to be friends with them anymore, not us, and not you. No.”

Then they get quiet again and I begin to think about little league and my game tomorrow. How much I hate playing baseball and how nervous it makes me to be on the field, so scared to make a mistake and embarrass myself. I toss and turn for another couple of hours, fitfully, and fretfully, but finally, and thankfully falling asleep.

I try to line-up below it, following it, bracing myself, focusing on the ball, the ball which is now falling, falling, falling so fast it’s just a blur. I thrust my mitt into the hair eyes closed and feel the back smack into my palm, safe and now nestled into the web of my glove. There are some scattered applause across the stands, but when I look over to the parking lot I see that my dad and Marsha have already headed off into the night.

I am in bed and staring at the ceiling as I always do at bedtime. I am not sleeping and I am never going to be sleeping. I am thinking about the endless things that keep me up at night, school, war, my looks, sex, being cool and my parents’ voices that I can always hear drifting up the stairs as they talk, and talk, long into the night.

Ben Tanzer is the author of the books Lucky Man, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine, Repetition Patterns, 99 Problems and the forthcoming novel You Can Make Him Like You. He also oversees day-to-day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life and blogs at This Blog Will Change Your Life – the centerpiece of his vast, albeit faux media empire. He is currently watching Sports Center, but upon his deathbed, he will receive total consciousness, so, he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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