Five Baseball Games, Seven Synonyms for God, and Nine Innings

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome playwright and Mets fan Sergei Burbank to Baseball Prospectus – Mets. I think you’re going to like having him around.)

Living in Two Dimensions

Historically — in direct contrast to most other cities — New York has at times put those it wants to ignore on the water’s edge. Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, was an enclave of Russian-Jewish Soviet refugees, public housing denizens, and cut-rate retirement home inmates.

Human traffic patterns followed the inexorable laws of the tide, as the unwanted and discarded accumulated by the shore. Our rent-controlled apartment was affordable, if barely, on a welfare check. It gradually filled with sea shells, driftwood, and animal bones — which in turn became subjects of my mother’s still lives. Her charcoal drawings of vertebrae became abstract shapes. The expensive charcoal was precious, but the drawings themselves — on envelopes and scrap paper — were not; they disappeared down the memory hole, never to be seen again. It was purely by accident — because I couldn’t be left unattended — that I got to see these works before they disappeared, a privileged view of something fleeting and precious.

But even purged regularly, the work accumulated. Games of hangman while we waited for clothes to dry, where I figured out my spelling and the man lived through loops and lines, evolving before my eyes as I saved him from the noose. We lived on paper, in two dimensions, adrift in a sea of books, boxes, and baseball cards. But even while she raised me here, my mother never considered the city home. She arrived in New York at sixteen, her brother’s co-conspirator, confidante, and caretaker — fleeing the aftermath of her own mother’s terminal decline back in New England.

By the time my things went into boxes for the move to college (and hers into a set of boxes bound for upstate New York), she had long been done with this place. She became a mother, her brother had become a husband. They were already ghosts of the people they had been.

1st Inning

How we romanticize the tragedy of baseball. Its protean nature appeals to the obsessive, the vainglorious, the xenophobe alike, as they all see only what they choose to: harbinger of social change, or preserve of the old and traditional.

The game appeals both to the mystic and the absolutist. The ecumenical conclave of baseball — tax exempt, with its national network of publicly funded cathedrals — pretends piety, while passing the plate, for a fool and his money are soon parted (none more quickly than me.)

One of my personal relics: a baseball that I (allegedly) teethed on.

Another relic: a shoebox full of ticket stubs for games at what became the second Yankee Stadium (1975-2008), held in my uncle’s apartment in Greenwich Village.

And another: a baseball card collection that, despite being perpetually broke, my mother and uncle amass for me, one pack at a time. My collection is myopically focused on Yankees cards. Piles of cards, to dearly bought to discard outright, nevertheless go largely ignored, boxed, unloved, an army of anonymous remainders. The chosen ones (Yankees only) live in a binder in pristine vellum sheets.

Back In Coney Island

I am ten. Frederic sits with me in the apartment, looking at our cards. He’s telling me how reasonable it would be to field a team in Coney Island. He grabs at a hypothetical name — the Brooklyn Surfs — from a laundry soap ad that falls under his gaze.

I am twenty-one. The Brooklyn Cyclones play their inaugural season in a stadium on Surf Avenue as the short-season single-A affiliate of the New York Mets; their name is the result of a fan poll (I think ‘Surfs’ would have been better). Their first game comes two years, one month, and ten days after Frederic’s death.

I am thirty-five. The Cyclones are scheduled to play six home games in a row. It’s a rare quirk of the calendar, and a big ask of their fans, to commit to a solid week of admittedly mediocre baseball.

I clear my schedule.

2nd Inning

My first summer league team is managed by a man whose name elicits snickers from my more polished high school teammates. I’m unsure if he is the butt of the unspoken joke, or I am. In our league, we play as the Blue Jays; the blue mesh pullover jersey and white pants become my after-work uniform. After games, I am too tired to change before the train ride back to Brighton; minus my cleats, I trudge from the subway in full uniform, a ghostly player searching for a midnight game.

My mother accompanies me to hand over the registration check and pick up a uniform. She waits in the front of my new coach’s basement apartment — crammed with memorabilia and team photos — while we repair to the back where, in the midst of trying on the uniform, he slides his hand down the front of my pants.

Monday [TRI 0 – BRK 14]

After a split series with the rival Staten Island Yankees to start the season, the 2-1 Cyclones open up this six-game homestand, beginning with three against the Tri-City ValleyCats, a Houston Astros affiliate that plays in the Capital Region.

The ValleyCats’ starter, Harold Arauz, only lasts 2 and 2/3 innings, surrendering eight hits and six runs. The Cyclones’ Matt Blackham, on the other hand, goes seven full, yielding only three hits and striking out seven. The outcome is never really in doubt, with the final score a dolorous 14-0.

Minor league games are usually far more labor-intensive to score than major league ones; scoring this game is an adventure. With the outcome well assured by the third, both managers began rotating in bench players, at such a rate that the announcers and umpires seem to abandon keeping track.

I am still trying to learn the players, so it’s mostly an effort to see whether the stranger playing in left is the same stranger as before. When uniform number nine trots out to left field, I start to write ‘Tuschak’ in my score book, but last year’s regular outfielder was promoted to Savannah in the off-season. The ValleyCats helpfully wear names on their uniforms.

People visiting MCU Park for the first time always ask what level of professional baseball the Cyclones occupy. It is the inevitable product of the consolidation of the sport, the intentional elision of the corporate entity named “Major League Baseball” and the game itself. It is rare for a major league baseball team to directly own one of its minor league affiliates, but the Wilpon family have a stake in Brooklyn; between the Cyclones and their Ebbets-aping stadium for the Mets, it’s clear they wish the Dodgers had never left. Many Mets fans, however, fervently wish the Wilpons would. The Cyclones are the rare money-making outfit in a cost-conscious league. Wherever practicable, teams travel “home” — even in the middle of a series, and even if that means hundreds of miles of bus travel (the New York-Penn League currently hosts teams from as far north as Batavia, New York, and as far south as Morgantown, West Virginia; the Valley Cats’ repeated jaunt between Albany and New York City is a relatively easy run to make). This means six o’clock in the morning arrivals back “home” (in reality, the team’s base motel), only to wake and return all over again in a matter of hours. On a diet of chicken tenders and soda, only twenty-year-olds can sustain this schedule. God preserve their middle-aged or, sometimes, elderly coaches.

The American story has been one of incessant consolidation. As separate cities were becoming the five boroughs of a single New York City in 1898, so the disparate competing professional baseball leagues took their first halting steps toward consolidation around 1901. When semi-professional teams commingled with amateur and company teams, allegiance to a team involved geography. Gone are the Brooklyn Tip Tops, Brooklyn Bushwicks, and Brooklyn Bandits; all that matters now are the thirty teams that constitute MLB’s top echelon. People want to know where the Cyclones fall in the New York Mets’ organizational chart, because they want to know when these hits will happen in Flushing — that is to say, when they will matter. But for me, these are the only hits that do.

Some players have, like me, returned for another tour in Brooklyn — unlike me, they’re not here by choice. First baseman Michael Katz features heavily in these games: he injured himself part-way through last season, losing at-bats. It doesn’t help that his position is jammed higher up in the organization with a major league first baseman (former Cyclone Lucas Duda) hitting his prime, and a higher-ranked prospect (Los Angeles native Dominic Smith, currently tearing the cover off the ball in Port St. Lucie). Nevertheless, by the end of the week, Katz is gone, his two home runs meriting a promotion. It so happens that his departure frees up the logjam at first base/designated hitter, allowing both newcomer Zach Mathieu and returning player Jeff Diehl each more playing time.

Others are back because there are still major problems with their game, and until those are solved, they might as well work with a familiar level of pitching. With right fielder Michael Bernal this move is paying instant dividends. Bernal has prodigious power, but last season could not lay off anything off-speed out of the strike zone, striking out with alarming regularity. Tonight, he goes three for three with a home run and four RBI — and, incredibly, a walk.

To a man, the Cyclones right-hand hitters immediately recognize Arauz’ problem: he cannot locate his breaking ball on the inside part of the plate, gets behind in the count, and has to fall back on get-me-over fastballs that they promptly send right back up the middle. Against the entire staff, only two of the Cyclones’ fourteen hits are for extra bases — the lopsided score is a testament not to their superior strength, but superior pitch selection.

On the other side of the ball, Blackham is brilliant: the ValleyCats hitters wave over his offerings in the dirt all night. He spots a high fastball no one can catch up to, so when they aren’t striking out, they’re popping out harmlessly to the infielders. But it’s not all easy dominance: with the game all but settled, shortstop Branden Kaupe drops a pop-up to the infield. That sea breeze can be a bitch, Branden. Welcome to Coney Island.

3rd Inning

Growing up, I am a Yankee fan, like my uncle — the missionary who converts me. But he was, himself, a convert. When he arrived in New York City in the seventies and started following the Yankees, someone asked him why he didn’t become a Mets fan instead. “Because,” he answered, “they’re in the wrong league.” The bigger question was why he started rooting for a New York-based team at all.

My grandfather was a Canadian descended from colonial-era Tories who fled north of the border, and more of a football man. Although I never met her, love for baseball is bequeathed to me by Gertrude Burbank (nee Schuit) through her children. The death of my grandmother — New Englander, Christian Scientist, Red Sox fan — occurred when the younger half of her four children were barely out of childhood themselves. Her love of baseball seeds deeply with them all, particularly Frederic, her eldest son. It makes double sense that Gertrude’s baseball allegiance adheres to the team from the city of her “Mother Church”; when she falls ill and relies on her faith for recovery, her star pupil, Frederic, is furious. Both Frederic and my mother mask their grief and fear behind condemnations of her religion; her choice to face mortality with dignity, peace, and prayer — rather than with fear, angst, and radiation therapy — offends them.

In the grand American tradition of consolidation, I am an amalgam: English-German-African strains converge in a (more or less) functional melange. I fear that Brooklyn’s absorption into the wider city denied the borough something distinctive; my grandfather apparently felt something similar about his European ancestry when he first met me. A sailor who fought Nazis, he was initially cool to my mixed-race composition.

Moving to New York City, Frederic effaces all traces of his childhood love of the Red Sox. The schism is so complete that the switch is, in effect, secret.

Tuesday [TRI 11 – BRK 4]

Well before tonight’s first pitch, the sky is already spitting rain. As the starting lineups are announced, I dutifully record them in my scorebook while water droplets splatter the paper. It’s clear scoring this game will be a lost cause. Without scoring to ground me, my focus wanders. Two rows ahead of me, a bearded man sits by himself, overdressed for the weather, and rocks back and forth continuously, almost davening.

Tonight’s starter for the Cyclones, Kevin Canelon, is a disaster. He loads the bases in the first inning, and is certainly not helped by a lackluster defense behind him: Pedro Perez replaces Will Fulmer at third (who had been brilliant in his turn), and gets caught in between on a couple of choppers that whizz past him on the ball-quickening artificial turf. Bernal — seemingly determined to be the bette noire to his coaching staff this season — pulls up on a high fly ball to right that looks catchable but instead drops ahead of him for a single. In the write-up the next day, Cyclones beat writer (yes, the Brooklyn Paper has one) David Russell reports that Bernal is struggling with a hamstring issue. I duly relay this information to the Cyclones fan group on Facebook (yes, there is one). I hope this buys Bernal some slack; he tends to get an earful from the regulars. Injury notwithstanding, Bernal will absolutely destroy a baseball in the bottom of the first for his second two-run home run in as many nights, but that is pretty much the only highlight. The Cyclones never catch up, and the ValleyCats get revenge for the night before.

The league’s task is to polish rough gems: from college draftees learning to hit with wood to 19 year olds away from home and overseas — in both cases, for the first time — these players are young. Beyond the details (mastering a secondary pitch, reading a breaking ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, learning to take a smart secondary lead), there are big picture lessons as well: playing in front of 6,000 rude fans, shaking off a bad play in the field when at bat, and the ceaseless repetition. These kids are playing a game with far fewer hours of sleep that I have between bouts of watching them. Sure, they’re a decade-and-a-half younger than me, but tired is tired. Including this week, over a span of 18 days, they are scheduled to play every day.

5th Inning

Scoring a baseball game is a paradoxical enterprise: it is an anachronism, a pencil-on-paper analog process that turns a leisurely three (or four, or five) hours into frenetic chaos. There is always only the slimmest of windows to note everything that happens in a play to snap your head up in time to witness the next one. I am Thucydides, noting ephemera for scholars of the future (noting pitch counts, or how many times a ball is used before it’s fouled away or replaced by the ump) as well as extreme ephemera (like when the middle infielders swap coverage of second base). The open score book also turns me into my section’s resident live box score (even though, yes, the league has an app for that — even at this level). Rather than a keep-busy activity, scoring sets me up for sensory overload. As the last out is about to be recorded (barring a sudden reversal of fortune), I frantically commit the last play to memory so I can start the walk to the train, reciting the last play (4-3 putout, 4-3 putout…) before I’m free to write it down during the ride home, where totals are tallied.

Wednesday [TRI 1 – BRK 2 (12 inn)]

When the alarm sounds in the morning, I am already defeated. Six straight days is clearly going to be far too much of a good thing; how can professionals possibly play on this schedule? Major League Baseball’s recent ban on amphetamines now strikes me as cruel and inhumane. With memories of last night’s listless loss, the prospect of another four nights of this looms menacingly.

Cyclones starting pitcher Jose Celas walks the first hitter of the game, and I groan and sink into my broken, uncomfortable chair. I spend three hours all told traveling to and from games each night, struggling to stay awake, and for what? Celas retires the next two batters, and then walks another. It portends a long, miserable night, with every groan by the crowd shattering a different player’s confidence. When a middle infielder muffs a routine ground ball — which happens more than you would want in a game played by professionals, on astroturf — groans turn into angry grumbling. It can’t be easy to hear as a teenager, although I will argue the source of the crowd’s angst is of a different character than the crowd up north at Citi Field. There, a form of subdued class warfare is always in play: spectators worth a fraction of some multimillionaire will heckle miscues in a game they all wish they could play for a living themselves. In Coney Island, two hours into a three-hour game, every error prolongs the night: added to the game is a two-hour trip home, kids to be put to bed, houses to shut down before the head can hit the pillow, only to await starting it all over again. (That said, some Cyclones are millionaires; thanks to signing bonuses, some draftees are already worth more than we spectators can hope to amass in a lifetime. The difference being that pile of cash is a hedge against a disastrous future.)

But rather than descending into chaos — with one team falling on its face and the other taking advantage of the miscues — the game settles into a scoreless rhythm, with each teams putting up matching zeroes. The scorebook page resembles a major-league game: briskly uneventful. Both pitchers settle into their routine, setting batters down in order on each side. Tri-City gets a run on a walk, single, stolen base, and throwing error by Cyclones catcher Natanael Ramos. (Success in Brooklyn — or larger, less apparent organizational needs — can mean a quick departure. Ramos will join Katz in Savannah before the month is up.) The Cyclones match their run in a bizarre sixth inning. Shortstop Alfredo Reyes hits a leadoff double, and advances to third when Ramos reaches safely on a throwing error by Carrasco, the Valley Cats’ third baseman. This brings up right fielder and returning Cyclone Tucker Tharp, who chops the ball to third; Reyes breaks for home and is quickly run down and tagged out by the catcher. Ramos gets greedy, tries to get all the way to third, and is also thrown out. Tharp is left at first wondering how runners on the corners with nobody out turned into this hot mess. A passed ball by the catcher, Woodward, advances Tharp to second, and he scores on a single by second baseman Vinny Siena. The next six innings pass by without another run crossing the plate.

Tri-City gets at least one man on base in the eighth, ninth, and tenth but don’t score. In the bottom of the twelfth, centerfielder Enmanuel Zabala (who has prolonged the evening with two outstanding catches over the course of the evening, making him our hero or chief tormenter) takes a lead-off walk, but is forced out when Michael Katz’s attempted sac bunt is too hard. Jeff Diehl absolutely destroys a baseball the opposite way to the right field warning track, and Katz — who still wears a brace around his surgically-repaired knee — rumbles around third to score.

Even with the extra frames, because of the efficient pitching, the game is only (!) three and a half hours long.

Most extra inning games aren’t nearly as accommodating as this one. I flip back the scorebook pages to a night from last July, when Brooklyn hosted the Jamestown Jammers for five hours and fifteen innings before finally losing 12 to 7. Eddie Villasmil coughed up five runs in the top of the fifteenth, rendering all his teammates’ hard work (and the sleeplessness of the handful of fans who stayed) for nought.

Both of these long games, however, are positively dwarfed by the 26-inning tragicomedy that unfolded in July 2006, when Brooklyn battled Oneonta for six hours and forty minutes. That also ended with a five-run inning by the visitors at the top of what proved, mercifully at that point, to be the final frame. I was there for all of that game, too (which, also mercifully, had begun at noon). Part of me wishes I had scored that game, though my sanity might not have survived the attempt.

6th Inning

I am seventeen. After decades of futility — all my waking life — the Yankees have celebrated their first world championship the season before. My mother, speaking for her brother, tells me I shouldn’t spend my afternoons after school in the hospital. As it is, he doesn’t let me stay in the room with them for long. I assume he doesn’t want me to see him in this diminished state, but in an adolescent misunderstanding of the world, I have misread the situation: he wants to face this terrifying ordeal alone, with his sister, his best friend. My life is but an interlude within theirs.

There isn’t time to begin to list the necessary apologies one racks up to one’s caregivers — for the petulance, the ingratitude, the messy unevenness that results from learning to live — let alone voice them. So I stubbornly keep my silent vigil in the hospital hallway.

Thursday [CON 2 – BRK 1]

The series split leaves the Cyclones in good shape as they get ready to host the Connecticut Tigers — low-A affiliate of the Detroit team of the same name.

Throughout the summer, all of Coney Island reeks. The stench of rot and corruption is never fully cleared by the breeze coming off the ocean. The amount of consumer waste generated on the commercial strip — much of it meat-based — fill the nostrils with the sickly sweet odor of decay.

One of the roving beer vendors has come to know me as a reliable sale and tip. One week, he breaks off the normal chatter as he hands me my beer.

“You a scout?”

I shrug and shake my head.

“So it’s a hobby? Cool, cool.” It’s nothing to him. My money is still good.

7th Inning

My mother tells me Frederic will try to make it to my high school graduation, but we all know this is a long shot; he is long past able to sit up for any extended period of time. I am almost eighteen — a hormonal, calorie-burning exposed nerve of a person, so of course I act like a teenager: celebrating my pending liberation, chasing girls, the star of my own movie. But Frederic’s decline is a fog that permeates the apartment even as it fills with moving boxes.

He makes it all the way to the final day of exams after my freshman year of college. Without telling me, my mother has largely abandoned living her own life to spend the year with her brother. No longer a New Yorker, she is a once again a visitor, sleeping on friends’ couches as she follows her brother’s siren song — this time not away from decay, but towards it. I’d like to say that twenty years later, they’ve acquired a frank courage in the face of death to say what needs to be said, to make peace with each other, with themselves, with the lives they’ve led and with the people they’ve become. I can’t, because I don’t know; I wasn’t there, and the person who was wont say. We live, after all, in two dimensions. She drives to Ohio to collect me, and is in a motel while, at the hospice back in New York, someone holds the phone to Frederic’s ear so she can say goodbye.

Friday [CON 1 – BRK 4]

Tonight’s vantage point is not Section Three, but high above, in luxury suite 304.

The story I told about getting the first suite was that it was for my friends with children: that it was providing a room their rug rats could commandeer for three hours and give them a kind of break. The second year, I said we were doing it again because the parents had clamored for its return. But the truth is I do it because I like it. I like the distance from the crowd; I like the air conditioning; I like the fancy food; I like the high view.

I return to Coney Island, down the street from where I grew up, where thousands are still trapped in government-subsidized housing, hundreds sleep rough, naked to the next inevitable tsunami. I step over their bodies on the way to my little bubble of privilege, where I sip wine and nibble crudités. I am of them, but I am not with them. Not anymore.

The Cyclones win this night, though I couldn’t tell you how. Without a scorecard in my hand and the ability to focus completely, pitch by pitch, on the game, it recedes into a general blur. The chairs are soft, and the air is cool. Off in the distance from the leather couch embroidered with the Cyclones logo, something will happen and the crowd will cheer.

From the glass-walled balcony, the seats below appear awash with humanity, teeming with energy and given to harmless collective endeavors: the roar of approval for an RBI double, and a cheer of congratulation when a wave bounces back and forth between sections twenty-one (under the left field foul pole) and twenty-four (under the right).

I know that upon closer inspection, the tapestry is frayed, and coming apart at the seams — if it was ever truly knit together in the first place. The tensions — between gentrifier and old mainstays, between every ethnicity under the sun, between the sun-baked, alcohol-shriveled flotsam of the coast and the well-heeled Williamsburg hipster — persist.

America’s pastime, played largely by Latin American emigres with work visas, in front of rubber room teachers who buy beers from former students — who, by dint of being alive, are exceeding expectations. “O’er the land of the free…” on repeat, before every game.

It’s Fireworks Friday, so after the game we stay for the show. Sated on beer and fried fish, I enjoy the display. There were years when rival teams clinched the division and celebrated on our turf, while I seethed. A decade ago I went so far as to travel to Staten Island to watch the Cyclones battle the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. I remember a rival player who’d sparked a beef with our pitching staff by churlishly dragging his toe through the Cyclones logo, scattering the chalk behind home plate.

Tonight, I’m vaguely aware that the Cyclones won, and vaguely happy about it. The entire week has been building to this moment — drinking in raucous fireworks in (relative) silence — and the moment does not disappoint. The rage, the unearned territoriality, the obsession, is weakening. I’m old. And maybe healed. A bit.

8th Inning

I am thirty-something. Going through my mother’s papers I discover a stack of decades-old homemade scorecards Frederic made while listening to Yankee away games on the radio. Through round after round of culling his belongings, a sheaf of yellowing notepad paper with a hand-drawn grid survived. Perhaps they were light enough to travel; perhaps they looked like code; perhaps someone knew that in this family we keep our truest, purest versions of ourselves on sheets of scrap paper.

Scoring live games is frenetic. Scoring them at home is the opposite; there is less (nothing) to see, and the guy behind you isn’t asking what the shortstop did in his last at-bat. If scoring at the ballpark is inadvertently social, scoring at home is the distillation of an even purer solitude. Someone scoring at home, alone, in the dead of night is someone who needs isolation from their own thoughts.

Each of Frederic’s sheets is completed and tallied: total at-bats, runs, walks, runners left on base. With the fierce faith of a medieval alchemist, I nurse the hope that by studying them deeply enough, I can discover a formula that resurrects him. Lead into gold; absence into presence. After all, Frederic kept his scorecards for someone to find.

We go through phases emulating our elders: in infancy we copy them exactly but imprecisely due to the betrayal of our newly formed limbs; in adolescence we try on whatever characteristics will place us as far to the opposite end of the spectrum that we think they occupy; finally, we accept the parts of them that were within us the entire time, and that we cannot shrug off, for better or worse. My mannerisms are my mother’s, I sometimes note in my reflection in the subway window something — the hitch of my hips, the line of my arm — that resembles him, too.

Saturday [CON 0 – BRK 0 PPD (Rain)]

Weather forces them to call the game early in the day, before I even start out for the stadium. Cyclones Week is over. No doubt some — most — on the roster are grateful for an unanticipated off-day, but I’m at loose ends, with nothing to do but stay in an empty apartment.

9th Inning

In everything baseball-related — scoring and attending games, even playing on rec league teams — I am not so much chasing my childhood as trying to reconstruct what I imagine to be Frederic’s adult life during my childhood.

But one can spend hours, days upon days, year after year, throwing a ball back and forth with someone and learn not a thing about them. There’s so much I’ll never know: what position he played — or would have played, had he ever been part of a team. When “Field of Dreams” comes out, Frederic takes me to see it at a subterranean movie theater on Bleecker just off LaGuardia Place. I have no idea what Frederic made of the film — what (or even if) it spurs him to think about his own (Canadian, football-favoring) father, then not yet a year in the ground.

I spend the final semester of high school researching the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. It’s ostensibly a semester-long, resume-padding independent study, but in reality it’s a school-sanctioned excuse to roam about the city at my leisure. I shuttle between NYU and Columbia’s libraries and the site of the fire itself. I swing by the Tenement Museum, which happens to be near where Frederic lives on Orchard Street. I’m still trying out nascent adulthood, visiting college libraries and wondering if college will be like this (it will be nothing like this). It feels strange to ‘just drop by’ to visit a former babysitter.

We sit on a bench on a traffic divider on Delancey Street and speak of nothing of consequence. People I barely know ask about plans for life, college, and girlfriends. But among ourselves, we never ask what we actually want to know. Frederic talks about a piece of music that’s returned unbidden to the forefront of his mind; he talks about something he heard on the radio that morning. I don’t ask why he looks to jaundiced and drawn. I don’t ask if he forgives me for being a stupid, ungrateful child for too long.

To name a disease is to give it power. Christian Scientists have seven synonyms for God, but just one word for everything in the physical realm that might cause our bodies harm. Our faith entreats us to pray, to turn away from the ‘false illusion’ of disease and death, and to instead ‘know the truth’ of our whole and unblemished selves, even as we’re eaten alive from within.

If it wounds you, turn away: from the team of your youth and mother’s elation; from memories of hands that betray your trust; from absences that drive you to consume just to keep the silence at bay. For God’s sake, turn away.

Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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