So me and Keaton were able to make good on our plan to take Travis to a Dodger game after he got out of the hospital. And none too soon: the game we took him to was the Dodgers’ last home game of the regular season.
The only thing is we almost had to kidnap him. His parents – who hadn’t let us visit Travis a second time in the hospital – were still being weird and didn’t want him going out, when we thought the best thing for him would be fresh air and seeing his friends. I guess maybe they wanted to keep an eye on him. I don’t know. I’ve never had a son, let alone a son who tried to kill himself, so I’m not sure what I’d do in their shoes. Maybe they’re just being overprotective…and all Travis’ parents knew about me and Keaton is that we’re on the same softball team as their son.
I drove to Keaton’s and we drove together to Travis’ house in San Marino – the place we had the Labor Day picnic last year. I reckoned that Travis’ parents might feel better if they got a look at us. We’re a clean-cut couple of guys (even with Keaton’s messy haircut), and I’m sure we looked plenty normal in our Dodger gear.
I told Keaton he had to buy a Dodgers jersey to wear to games this season. He went for one with Kershaw’s name and number on it. I think I told y’all before: if you’re at a ballgame with me, you gotta wear some kind of team gear. If you go to several games a season, you owe it to yourself to buy a jersey. They’re not cheap, but they’re not crazy expensive, if you get the kind that doesn’t have the red number on the front. Neither my Seager jersey nor Keaton’s Kershaw one is that kind. Besides, why spend $250 on something you very likely are gonna get beer spilled on sooner or later lol?
Turns out the people we saw leaving the hospital when were going to visit Travis were, like we suspected, his parents. They seemed a lot less freaked out than they’d looked when we saw them in the hospital. Both me and Keaton are Southern-polite when we meet older people: the “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am” come naturally. I think we made a good impression.
Then Travis came downstairs wearing a Bellinger jersey (he had the kind with the number on the front), looking a heck of a lot better than he did when he was in the hospital. He had a ball cap on, but I reckoned he’d been able to comb his hair in front of a mirror before putting it on. He still didn’t look 100%, but it was a relief to see him looking something like himself again.
He also didn’t look so incredibly sad, although he didn’t exactly look happy either. If anything, I think he looked a little scared. Maybe because this was the first time he’d be out in a big crowd after getting out of that place. Y’all know how I hate it when gay guys give each other limp hugs and air kisses when they meet – Dad made me into a shake-hands-like-you-mean-it man – but…you know how people sometimes say they need a hug?…Travis totally looked like he needed a hug. So I gave him one that was neither a bro hug or one of those gayass things either. I think it was the right thing to do.
First pitch was at 1:10 and they were doing a fan appreciation thing before that, so we figured we should get an early start. I like getting to the ballpark early anyway so I can eat my hot dogs before I bring out my score book. So it was still only around 11 when we pulled away from the curb in front of Travis’ parents’ house.
(Yes, that means I missed church. I think even Meemaw would have let me off the hook, seeing as I was helping out a friend. It’s not like I blew church off just so I could go to a ballgame.)
Getting there early was a good idea, and parking wasn’t crazy. (I went to half a dozen games this season; parking has never been crazy. I don’t get why people are always complaining about the parking at Dodger Stadium. Just get there early and everything’ll be ok. And don’t forget to buy your parking online for a big discount.)
I was in charge of buying our seats. I knew that Travis is a huge Bellinger fan, so I got us seats in the 4th row of the reserve about halfway between home plate and 3rd. I reckoned that would give us the best view of Bellinger’s fielding, assuming he was playing at 1st (he was.) It also gave us a good vantage point for me to watch Seager, although it didn’t quite give me that shortstop’s view of the game I like.
The seats were good (they cost a little more than I usually pay, but it was the last home game of the season, so there was probably more demand for them) and Travis looked pleased.
Next order of business: food.
“What can I get you?,” I asked Keaton. I reckoned me and Travis would go get the food while Keaton got the beers. “I refuse to get you one of those grossass Doyer Dogs though.”
Keaton groaned. “Never again. Y’all just get me a couple regular Dodger Dogs.”
“What do you want on them?,” Travis asked.
“Yeah, I like my hot dogs straight. But get some ketchup for the fries.”
“You’re 21, right?,” Keaton asked Travis. “You want a beer?”
“Um…no.” Something awkward was going on. “I can’t have alcohol with some of the meds they started giving me in the hospital. I’ll just get a Coke when we go to get the hot dogs.”
“You’re not missing much,” I told Travis as we were walking up the steps towards the concession area, “the beer here is nothing to get excited about.”
“It would just have been cool to be finally old enough to have a beer at a ballgame.”
“But you’re 22. You must have had the chance to do that already.”
“Not really. I haven’t been here in three years, I think. Nobody to go with. My best friend…my ex-best friend…wasn’t into baseball. Trey’s dad used to take us when we were younger, and sometimes I’d get someone to go with…maybe drag a girlfriend…but I just watch the Dodgers on TV. Good thing my parents get Spectrum.”
“Me and Keaton come pretty often. You should have let us know you wanted to go and had no one to go with…”
I kinda bit my tongue there. I wasn’t entirely sure, but I think that telling Travis what he ought to have done so he wouldn’t have tried to kill himself wasn’t the best thing I could do for him. But the truth of the matter is that he did have more friends this summer than he realized. It’s a shame he didn’t know it…but I reckon that’s water under the bridge. What matters is that Travis knows he has friends now.
We got the hot dogs, left Keaton’s alone, and both put mustard and relish on ours. (I didn’t need another reason to like Travis, but I had one in his being a mustard and relish man.) Then we headed back to the seats. I’m not sure how he does it, but Keaton always gets back with the beers before I get back with the food.
We put Travis in the middle, with Keaton on the aisle seat I made sure we got. He’s not super tall, but he’s got long legs and gets all gayass and whiny if he can’t stretch them out. Somewhere in the middle of his first hot dog, Travis looked all around him…and got a strange look on his face.
“Anything the matter, man?,” I asked.
“No…well…I was just wondering what all these people would think if they knew I’d just been released from a mental institution.”
“They wouldn’t think jack shit,” answered Keaton before I could swallow the Dodger Dog I’d just bitten off. “You’re just one more normal guy at a baseball game…even if you put too much shit on your hot dogs. Nobody’s hanging a sign around your neck that says ‘beware of fuckin lunatic’.”
Travis smiled. A little smile. But still a smile. We were making progress.
“It’s just that…well…I feel like having been locked up in a mental institution has made me officially crazy. I always kinda knew it…but now there are other people telling me it’s true.”
“Fuck ‘em,” said Keaton. “If someone calls you crazy, kick his ass.”
That got another little smile.
“That’s a lot of ass to kick,” said Travis. “I’m not sure I can.”
“Come to boxing lessons with bubba and me. Working with El Tigre would probably do you some good.”
“It would,” I said. “But he works us pretty dang hard. He’s determined to make Keaton into a boxer instead of a streetfighter. He’s already made him way faster than he used to be.” I told him about the non-fight two weeks ago at the Volcano, when Keaton saved Carter’s ass for like the tenth time.
We went back to our hot dogs. It was already a hot day, and they went down dang well with the cold beer. Even if the beer up in the reserve is crap. But who wants a craft beer while you’re sitting outside at a ballgame? If you could make beer gay, that would be the way to do it lol.
Travis was still thinking about the place they had him, because he said to both of us, “you know, I’m no longer allowed to buy a gun….”
I reckon most people in California would just have said who needs a gun in the first place, but me and Keaton are from places where the right to bear arms is taken pretty dang seriously. And y’all know we both have guns. Keaton even has a concealed carry permit. So taking away any part of our right to bear arms would be a big deal for us.
Keaton thought of something to say before I did. It wasn’t original, but it was something:
“That’s just fuckin bullshit.”
“It’s not like I want a gun. I know that I shouldn’t have one and that my parents were right to get rid of the one they had when it started to become clear that I had problems. I wouldn’t know what to do with a gun if I got one. I don’t even know where the safety catch thing is…but I don’t like the idea that my rights have been taken away. It’s another thing that makes me feel like I’m officially crazy now.”
“Fuckin bullshit, man. I told you.”
“Not much you can do about it anyway,” I said, trying to find the right thing to say. “What’s done is done. I know that sounds totally lameass,” I added, seeing that Travis wasn’t looking any less unhappy, “but it is true. And some official State of California bullshit bureaucracy ain’t gonna make you crazy neither.”
“This 5150 is going to follow me for the rest of my life,” Travis said, lowering his voice when he said 5150. “It means I can’t get a job in law enforcement either.”
“Work the door at the Volcano with me one Saturday night,” Keaton said. “That’ll make you never want to work in law enforcement for the rest of your life.”
“Did you ever want to be a cop?,” I asked. “Even as a little kid?”
“Naah,” said Travis. “Although I did want to be a fireman when I was 3. I got in super big trouble once when I turned the hose on the house because I was pretending it was on fire.” He paused. “Oh great, now you’re gonna think I was a 3 year old pyromaniac.” He paused. Then he laughed at his own joke. I was real glad to see him laugh, even if it was only for a few seconds.
That got us talking about what we all wanted to be when we were little boys. As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a pro ball player, so my answer was pretty boringass. I was interested to hear what Keaton would say – it probably wasn’t any of the things he’d done as a grown-up, but it turned out it was. His dad loved watching westerns, so, when he was a little boy, Keaton wanted to grow up and be a cowboy. Then he became a cowboy at one point, although he told us that the reality of being a cowboy wasn’t a whole lot like what you get from watching westerns.
Travis looked like he wanted to know more about Keaton’s career as a cowboy, but it was time for the game to start. So we focused our attention on the main reason we came to Chavez Ravine.