“Maybe you should have picked another song,” I said to him.
We were in our living room on North Halsted Street, surrounded by the glass walls comfortably sheltering us on the corner of the eleventh floor. We just finished dinner—two takeout boxes of grilled walnut-crusted salmon, roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed asparagus Matt packaged from the field. I offered venturing into the city to celebrate his good game earlier, but he was tired. It was a long, but successful two-homeruns-one-double-four-runs-scored-kind-of-day.
The sun’s warmth flushed my cheeks too willingly for dusk, but it was a beautiful August sunset, and I didn’t mind. I sat in the nook of the couch and watched its delicate rays gently fall lower into the Chicago skyline, casting burnt orange reflections off the tall buildings and lighting up Wrigley Field like a birthday cake, where fans still trickled out of the bars surrounding the friendly confines, celebrating yet another Cubs win.
“Why is that?” Matt asked.
“Why is what?” I said.
“Do I need another song?”
He was standing in front of me taking practice swings with his bat.
“Don’t you ever stop?” I said.
“Can’t, Bones,” he said.
I still giggled inside whenever he called me Bones. It was a childhood nickname given to me by my uncle for being so skinny when I was little. Don’t you ever eat, he used to ask. You are skin and bones, he used to say. Truth was, I ate a lot and was blessed with a fast metabolism. How and when Matt picked up calling me Bones, I didn’t know.
I studied him intently as he swung. It was almost soothing to watch him—the way his body moved in one long, continuous motion, every muscle working in accord to form one perfect harmony. It looked so easy, but I knew better than that. He had his fair share of slumps and swings. Every baseball player did. Matt’s slump simply wasn’t today.
I slowly lifted myself off the couch and drifted out to the balcony. The breeze was warm and light and danced through the hair falling loosely down my back as I leaned against the rail and took in the view before me. Chicago was so full of life. It pulsated with energy of all kinds in each different section of the city, bouncing off the buildings, filtering through the restaurants, filling the streets and singing from inside the bars. And I longed to be a part of it.
With the shrill screech of a dog down below, I flickered my attention across the street, where Bobby Love’s was preparing to open its doors for karaoke night. It was a ritual of ours each week since the beginning of the season to listen to drunken karaoke from our balcony late into the night. We saw all sorts of different people, each one seeking some answer or another, wonder into Bobby Love’s, but the people who emerged were always the same. They were the ones too intoxicated to stand by themselves, who lit five cigarettes in a row and huffed them down to the filters before staggering off and disappearing into the night air. I see you, I’d say out loud into the darkness. Please get home safely.
He was next to me on the balcony before I realized, his hands placed firmly against the rail adjacent mine.
“Bobby Love’s is gonna be poppin’ tonight!” he said.
“I hope we hear some Britney Spears,” I said. “Although, nobody can beat the guy singing Whitney Houston last Sunday. He actually wasn’t too bad.”
“He was just okay,” Matt said. “And speaking of songs, you never told me why I should change my walk up song.”
I turned to slowly face him.
“Come here,” I said. “I have to show you something.”
Matt followed me back into the living room and sat next to me on the couch, where I already had my laptop open on my legs.
“It’s on the computer?” he said.
“Okay, well you’re going to think I’m crazy,” I began.
I gave him a playful shove and brought up YouTube.
“So playoffs are coming. Like, kind of soon, you could say. And I know you guys are definitely expected to be in them. That’s pretty much a given.”
“Just play my song,” he said, smiling as he grabbed the laptop off my legs and typed in Renegades by X Ambassadors.
He liked it because it motivated him, but even more so for the lyrics. When he played it for me the first time, after spending hours of much thoughtful consideration choosing his walkup music, all I could think of was the new Jeep commercial.
“That’s what people are going to think of when you’re at the plate, you know,” I said.
“No they won’t.”
“Yes they will. They’ll be picturing you splashing through puddles in your new silver Jeep Cherokee.”
“Why does it have to be silver?” he said playfully, before his face fell into serious mode. “It’s not about the car, Bones,” he said.
“I know. I’m just playing devil’s advocate.”
“Did you listen to the words?”
“Yes, of course I did.”
“All hail the underdogs, all hail the new kids,” he sang. “All hail the outlaws, Spielburg’s and Kubrick’s.”
“I get it, but—”
“It’s our time to make a move. Our time to make amends.”
“And I said hey. Hey, hey, hey.”
He was dancing now.
“Living like the renegades.”
“Okay, renegade. I get it. It’s a good song. Good message.”
“Been an underdog all my life, Bones,” he said.
He stopped dancing and picked up his bat.
“But that’s okay,” he said. “I’m used to it. And it’s so much more rewarding proving everyone wrong.”
After the third repeat of Renegades, I grabbed the laptop back from him and typed “Steve Bartman Video” into the search bar.
“What are you showing me this for?” he said.
We watched together as a young Steve Bartman outstretched his arms high over his head to steal away a foul ball from the Chicago Cubs left-fielder during game six of the 2003 National League Championship Series, costing the Cubs the second out of the inning and allegedly switching the momentum of the game. As we learned from the video, without Bartman’s interference, the Cubs would have been four outs away from winning the pennant, up three games to two against the Miami Marlins. Instead, the Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs in the inning and lost the game, eliminating them indefinitely.
“Poor Steve Bartman,” Matt said.
“Poor Steve Bartman?” I said. “That’s all you can say?”
He turned to look at me.
“I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Bartman didn’t lose the game for them. They lost the game for themselves.”
“So you don’t believe in the domino effect? You don’t believe in the whole billy goat thing?”
“No,” Matt said. “And neither does anyone else on the team. We aren’t afraid of some old curse.”
“A curse that has been a part of Cubs history for decades,” I interjected.
“We don’t care,” he said. “We’re going to break it. We’re going to win the World Series, Nat. It’s gonnna happen.”
Matt sprung off the couch, picked up his bat and started swinging again.
“But did you see what his sweatshirt said?”
“No, and I don’t care,” Matt said.
“Can you just look at it, please? For me?”
“Is this really necessary?”
“Just look. Here, I zoomed in on it.”
I held the laptop up to the face of my crouching husband, his eyes squinting to see the screen.
“Hey, that’s pretty funny,” he said.
“What does it say?”