I was young then
How could I know?
The mistakes I made would fade away like names pissed in the snow
It seems like young men
Have a reputation to uphold
Go get drunk, do something dumb, kiss a girl, bite your tongue, do what you're told
“Strike two,” the umpire yelled as the ball went foul down by left field. It was top of the ninth with two outs, and now two strikes on the batter. Their team was leading 7-0, and Patrick was one pitch away from pitching a no hitter.
He saw the catcher signal for another fastball, but shook it off. The batter got a piece of the last one and would surely be ready to make the corrections to keep the ball fair this time. Though his fastball had been consistent all game, he wasn’t willing to risk it. Change up, came the next signal. This time Patrick nodded. Yes, that will do.
He adjusted his grip on the ball, bringing his index finger down to his thumb to create a circle, then spreading his other three fingers across the ball. He took a breath to prepare himself before winding up for the pitch. The ball left his hand, he followed it as it flew toward the plate. Just as the batter went to swing, the ball dropped landing right into the catcher’s mitt.
“Strike three. You’re out!” The umpire made a fist and pumped his arm signalling the call.
The next thing Patrick knew, the pitcher’s mound was flooded with his teammates and he was being hoisted into the air as they chanted his name. Or rather, they were chanting “Brewsky” which was the name dubbed to him by a senior on his first day training with the varsity team.
He did it! He really just pitched a no hitter. He never even thought he’d get much play time as an underclassman on the varsity team, but he really pitched the best game of his life!
Rachel was waiting for him by the dugout to congratulate him as they left the field. She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a hug. He was still riding high he lifted her off the ground and spun her a bit as they hugged.
“I think this calls for celebratory milkshakes,” she proclaimed as he set her feet back down on the ground. “I’ll grab our usual table, meet me there when you’re done?” Patrick nodded, and she leaned up to kiss his cheek, then turned to walk away.
Patrick heard a wolf whistle from behind him and turned to find KD, the team’s captain, standing there looking at Patrick with this look he couldn’t decipher.
“Damn Brewsky’s got game!” He squeezed Patrick’s shoulders in a way that made him uncomfortable, but it might have been the implications of his words more than the physical touch. Though Patrick was still processing the words when KD then threw an arm around his neck in an almost headlock pulling him tow “Come on now, Matty’s gonna sneak some brewskies in after the coaches leave then we’re having a team celebration! Brewskies for Brewsky. A fucking no hitter! Who knew you had it in ya kid?”
By the time Patrick got out of the showers, the celebration was in full swing. He was still in just his towel when the guys tried to hoist him into another cheer, though he managed to get to his locker and at least get pants on first.
It felt good to be included for once. Ever since Patrick joined the team, he’d been feeling like an outsider. He was the youngest one on the team by a year, plus was added to the roster late after a senior pitcher had gotten himself expelled so they had an opening in the bullpen. Most of these guys had been playing ball together since their tee ball days so it was hard to break in, especially mid-season.
And it didn’t make it any easier that Patrick tended to keep to himself in the locker room. As much as he loved playing baseball, the older he got, the worse the locker room culture got, and he didn’t have the safety net of his few close friends from the JV team now. All the guys wanted to talk about was girls. He’d heard more lewd comments about the female anatomy in the few weeks since he’d joined the team than he would have preferred to hear in a lifetime. Plus, Patrick hadn’t even had his first kiss yet. He’d had nothing to contribute.
But then the guys all started asking him about Rachel. Or well they didn’t know her name, she was just the “hottie” KD had apparently told them about. He did try to tell them she wasn’t his girlfriend, but they seemed to respond suggestively to that and he was given multiple high fives. Maybe it was the beer talking. Or maybe it was just the feeling of camaraderie and male bonding. But Patrick found himself leaning into their misread of his relationship with Rachel, and by the time he left to go meet her at the diner, his beer clouded brain was wondering why Rachel wasn’t actually his girlfriend.
Patrick just stood in the entryway of the diner looking at her over in their booth. She was pretty. And smart. She made Patrick laugh. They spent practically every free moment together. Wasn’t that kind of what dating was anyway? Just instead of her being “my best friend, Rachel,” she’d be “my girlfriend, Rachel.” And there would probably be some kissing too. He liked when she kissed him on the cheek. He’d probably like kissing her on the lips too. Maybe he should try it.
Patrick didn’t have any more time to think about this, because Rachel had spotted him standing there in the entrance, and waved him over. He walked over and clumsily slid into the booth across from her, laughing as he stumbled onto the bench.
“Patrick, are you drunk,” she asked.
“No. I don’t think so,” he slurred. “I only drank one beer...and a half” he held up his index finger, gesturing one as he said the word, then pinched his forefinger and thumb making the “little bit” gesture to indicate the half.
“Yeah, okay, you’re definitely drunk. Why don’t we get some food in you.” She ordered a grilled cheese with a side of fries along with their milkshakes. Mint chocolate for herself, and strawberry for Patrick.
As they drank their milkshakes and shared the plate of fries, Patrick’s mind went back to wondering about dating Rachel. She’s pretty. Like really pretty. The guys were right, she should be his girlfriend. Wait was this a date?
He must have accidentally voiced some of his thoughts out loud because she responded to them.
“No, Patrick. Ideally you’d be sober on our first date. And actually ask me properly.”
“Oh,” he let out. So did that mean she thought about dating him?
“Of course, silly. I just was never sure if you did because you know you never asked me.” Oops his brain to mouth filter must really be off from the beer since he spoke his thoughts again. And apparently he was also the last person on the planet to realize he was supposed to be dating Rachel. “But maybe we should finish this talk when you’re sober.”
Patrick nodded and went back to his milkshake.
Rachel walked him home. Usually he’d walk her home, but he was still pretty tipsy and she wanted to make sure he made it safely.
He was struggling a little with his keys, so she reached out to take them and help him out. But instead of letting go of his keys, he instead took her hand in his and pulled her toward him dropping a gentle kiss on her lips.
He could feel the slight upturn of a smile on her lips beneath his, and it made him feel good to know she was happy. That he made the right choice.
She pulled back and kissed him softly on the cheek, just like she did earlier in the evening.
“Patrick. You still taste like beer. Go sleep, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Patrick replied. His bed was sounding really good. All the excitement of the day was wearing off and exhaustion was settling in. “Talk tomorrow.”