Lorenzo Cain, #6 | By Jade Hidle
Past the musty hollow of dinosaur ribcage in Cabazon where we did our best PeeWee Herman impressions, monarch wings splatter and smear the windshield, catch in the grill of my dad’s Ford pickup. Under the cab, I caterpillar into a sleeping bag next to surf-wax melted into the metal, cans of chili rolling around with every bend in the desert highway, and Dean Koontz books, dogeared with print smudged from my dad’s thumb sh-sh-shing across the page. “Speed-reading school,” he said. “What a gyp.”
In the desert, my dad was all mustache and heartbreaker styled after the thunk-whir of Zappa and Rude Dog tank tops, windows down with Tom Petty, John Fogerty, and Prine; the tinny of Dick Dale’s string wave reverberating in the truck’s rattling metal frame, and beehived black women in the “The” groups singing sweet harmonies into the dry wind. This seemed to be the dad he wanted to be.
In the desert, I was all mimic like the viceroy butterfly camouflaging to match monarchs bravely venturing far from home. I tanned without my mother there to color grade me; I ate whatever and however much without her refugee proverbs about wasting food. I wish I’d had my dad around more to balance her out, more than the every-other-weekend and one-week-a-summer glimpses of the different ways I could be. With him, I shook off the fear of being outside that I had inherited from my mother, and I journeyed with my dad in what I believed was an untouched landscape.
But only the mistaken read the desert as empty instead of full.
At Angels spring training in Tempe, El Diablo Stadium, March desert winds push heat into the crescent between eye and socket to dry out all I see and through the sweat beading on my scalp, blowing out strands like the seismic glass of Pele’s hair. Out here I’m close to the players’ voices, to the slap of leather, to the lip-to-lip thwa thwa spit-arc of chewed tobacco and sunflower seeds.
Older, I wear halter tops to get autographs, to hear the distant whistle from the bullpen. My dad keeps distant, reads the changing count on the pixelated glow of the scoreboard.
Night in the desert feels clean. Under the hive shine of stadium lights, my dad and I share deep-fried Oreos. The sweater keeps the sun in my arms and chest, as goosebumps pepper my bare kneecaps. Oreo cream and crumb gray into chunks in the corners of my dad’s mouth, and I’m glad our sweaters prevent our skin from touching as we reach for more.
We look ahead at the grass and dirt diamond, behind Royals’ Lorenzo Cain fielding right.
The first error he fumbles with a smack to his thigh;
The second with a grunt that we giggle over as the last fried Oreo grows cold;
The third he “fuck!”s to the open star-pocked desert sky and my dad mocks, “Ooooh” like he did every time I made trouble to test if anyone cared;
The fourth almost brings Cain to tears, and in unison my dad and I breathe, “Oh, Lorenzo.”
The fifth–the fifth–sets a record for him. And us.
Lorenzo drops his head, still and silent, as his teammates run to the dugout. We don’t address it. “I gotta hit the head,” my dad says, and I nod and cringe because I’ve never told him how much I hate that saying, along with “hitting the spot,” or “You’re so grouchy,” or his refrain of “Be nice,” as much as I know he hates all the silences I keep out of fear I’ll say something he’ll hate even more.
My dad returns with a Lorenzo Cain jersey and drapes it over my cold knees.
Now that our roads are shorter, I wear my jersey, #6, every third time I see my dad, to tell him, without words, that I remember the errors that were made, but am proud they were with him.
About the Author:
Jade Hidle (she/her/hers) is the proud Vietnamese-Irish-Norwegian daughter of a refugee. Her travel memoir, The Return to Viet Nam, was published by Transcurrent Press in 2016, and her work has also been featured in Michigan Quarterly Review: Mixtape, Southern Humanities Review, Poetry Northwest, Witness Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, The West Trade Review, Bangalore Review, Columbia Journal, New Delta Review, and the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network’s diacritics.org.
You can follow her at @jadethidle.