Damien was the falcon nosed kid. I forget the color of his hair, but he could stare without blinking. He had pointy bones and liked to fight. He ruled the playground. I learned more about the history of the world from Damien, with all its divide and conquers, survival of the fittest, and begging for mercy than I did in the classroom. It wasn’t just Damien bashing in kid’s heads either. He knew all the books, especially the literatures and yet he talked so street talk colorful.
Damien had the golden tongue, but not the kind that put priests in a holy mood. He mocked and ridiculed. I often hid an extra 10 minutes under my blanket knowing i would have to face Damien’s music, that tongue of his. I never knew what he might say. Some days I slid a thermometer in my arm pit, waited for the mercury to rise and moaned to my momma. What a relief when she insisted I stay in bed.
One day Damien announced he was gonna be a field goal kicker. That changed everything for me because he needed someone to hold the ball and as it turned out, much to my surprise, he liked me.
“A place kicker ain’t no job for no shaky handed boy,” he said. “You’re one of dem’ honest types. I can tell. I can trust you.”
He said it would be easy. The only thing to worry about was the cold, but even that was curable with the big mittens and giant sideline heaters pro kickers used. We walked over to the university and tried our luck. He got pretty good. The longest he kicked was 35 yards. But then spring came and we started playing strikeout and forgot all about field goals and football. I guess we had attention deficit disorder. We learned it from the seasons.
But from then on we were friends. In summer, we got drunk in Damien’s basement. His dad had rigged up one of those makeshift bars, fully equipped with a neon “beer served” sign, a tap, and spirits under the rail. We drank whisky and went to girl’s softball games. We cheered for the first baseman. She was tall and skinny, a definite contortionist, perfect fit for a first sacker. Her name was Sabrin. Damien asked what happened to the “a’ at the end of her name. She smiled and whipped around 180 degrees. Her long blond hair spread out like a Japanese fan.
We made up songs about her, making sure to put a lilt in our voices so she knew we meant no harm.
Sabrin started to come over and talk to us between innings. She told us she liked digging her cleats into the dirt. She wondered if her cat enjoyed the same sensation when she scratched the carpet tower? I think her saying that changed Damien. He started asking her more and more questions. This went on for many days. He stopped picking fights at school. People were free to do whatever they wanted.
I was curious what had happened. So I mustered up the courage and invited Sabrin for a soda at the arcade. She said yes and then gave me one of those 180 degree spin arounds. Once again, her hair spread out like a Japanese fan. I think in that moment I already knew what had happened to Damien.
When Sabrin wasn’t on the diamond, she took to fixing things, mostly dishwashers and washing machines. She learned to take them apart and put them back together again. She did the same thing with herself and soon gave up first base and batting third and baseball all together. She turned her bats into bird feeder ledges and her mitt into a nest for her cat. She took her collection of balls and rolled them down a hill and watched them disappear.