Last Sunday was the last home game for the Dodgers, and me and Keaton took Travis to cheer him up and get him outside and in the sunshine after the time he spent in the hospital following his suicide attempt. We got our hot dogs as soon as we got to the ballpark and Travis got to tell us about some of the things that were worrying him.
Then it was game time, so out came my score book and pencil.
Travis was interested in how I was keeping score – he’d never seen anyone do it up close. I suggested he give it a shot, just for the heck of it, using the blank scorecard they give you in the program. He gave it a good try for the first few innings, then he started losing track of things.
“Shit, man…this isn’t easy. I keep fucking up.” (He was running out of eraser too ; he was using my extra pencil.)
“You need to get the hang of it,” I said. “It takes a while. I’ve been doing this since I was 8. Me and my buddies worked out our own way of keeping score. Everybody’s got their own system, but ours is better. Or at least we thought so when we were in middle school.”
“So you and your buddies were real close?,” Travis asked, waiting for the TV break between half-innings.
“Yeah. There were three of us.” I really didn’t want to get him feeling bad about his ex-best friend by talking about Turner and Gardner. “I reckon we were the three biggest baseball nerds in Tennessee.”
“Are you…are y’all, I guess…still in touch?”
“Two of us are. Turner’s a sportscaster in Alabama now. We don’t hear too much from Gardner, though. He moved up north for college, and he’s still there.”
“Traitor to the Cause,” said Keaton. “No self-respecting Son of the Confederacy takes a football scholarship to a small school in the northeast.”
“That sucks. That you drifted apart, I mean…not the part about being Sons of the Confederacy.”
“Hey…we still take that pretty seriously,” I explained. “We were the Maryville High Rebels.”
“That’s so weird to me,” said Travis.
“All part of being Southern,” I said. “We’re proud of where we come from. You don’t get that with people from other parts of the US. You’re from here, right?”
“Yep. Born and raised in San Marino.”
“But you don’t consider yourself a proud Californian.”
“Not the way you two are proud of being Southern.”
“I’m a Texan,” corrected Keaton. “Sure, I’m proud of being Southern…but I’m more proud of being a Texan. I’ve lived everywhere from the Gulf of Alaska to Amsterdam, and I still think there’s no place like Texas.”
“You want to go back there?”
“Someday,” Keaton said. “I don’t plan to die in Southern California.”
Keaton’s turn to bite his tongue. I could see it in his face.
So did Travis.
“You don’t have to be so careful around me,” he said. “I can talk about dying without going off and trying to do it again. Fuck, I think about dying all the time. I’ve been thinking about it for as long as I can remember. Suicidal ideation is part of having bipolar disorder,” he continued. “You get used to it. Most of the time it’s nothing you think of acting on, even when it gets real bad. I’ve only acted on my suicidal thoughts once, and you know when that was.”
“We just missed the first two pitches of the inning, man. You can’t talk to bubba when the game is on.”
Keaton and Travis did talk some during that half-inning, even though the Dodgers were batting (it was the bottom of the 3rd). I rejoined the conversation after the 3rd out and decided to be like Keaton and asked a direct question.
“Have you seen your own psychiatrist and therapist since you got out…home, I mean?”
“Yeah.” Travis took a slurpy slip from the melted ice in the bottom of his Coke cup.
“Did you feel better after seeing them?”
“My psychiatrist is totally freaked out,” he said, “which isn’t very helpful to me. He must have had to deal with another suicidal patient somewhere in his career. He’s got to be over 50. He’s leaving my meds the way they the sadist psychiatrist in the loony bin left them. That includes something to calm me down…”
“A benzo?,” asked Keaton. “What did they give you? Xanax?” I wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about.
“Klonopin. I really don’t want to be on it for a long time, since I know people who’ve gotten addicted to it…and the last thing I need is a trip to rehab.”
“It’s bad shit. Be careful. I’ve seen some bad cases of people hooked on it.,” Keaton warned.
“I may stop taking it on my own. All it really does is make me think a little slow…and keep me from having a beer at a baseball game.” He sighed. “I told you medication for what I have was complicated. Do you know what the Ancient Greeks did with their crazy people? They drilled holes in their skulls to let the evil spirits out. The doctors may think we’ve come a long way since then, but we haven’t.”
“How’s it going with your therapist? Is he any better?”
“She’s ok…at least she lets me talk about it as much as I want. But I get the feeling she doesn’t know what to do once she’s done validating everything I say and telling me how hard it must have been. It’s like no one ever tries to kill themselves in this part of the San Gabriel Valley…but people try to jump off that bridge all the time – that’s why the cops keep an eye on it in the middle of the night. I told you about that chick who tried to sue her uber driver for leaving her off there.
“Sorry, guys. We came here to watch a ballgame and I’m being a total downer talking about my shit.”
“Don’t apologize,” I said. “One of the things we’re here to do is listen.”
That conversation lasted more than one pause between innings, so we were going into the bottom of the 5th by that point. That was the most exciting inning of the game for the Dodgers, especially when Bellinger came to bat with the bases loaded…and hit a grand slam.
Travis jumped out of his seat and started high-fiving everyone around us. I think he high-fived some of the guys twice. You do feel extra proud when the guy whose jersey you’re wearing does something awesome, and grand slams are about as awesome as it gets in baseball. He sure didn’t look like a dude on Xanax (or whatever that thing was they had him on.) The only thing that could have made him look happier than he did when Bellinger knocked it out would have been if he’d caught the home run ball…but you don’t catch home run balls from where we were sitting lol.
That was awesome – not just the grand slam, but seeing Travis get that excited and happy. I’ve seen him happy on the softball field after making a great catch, but this was by far the happiest I’ve seen him. Hospital or no hospital.
The next part of the game was a blur, I reckon for all three of us, but, in the next inning, my favorite player made sure I didn’t go home disappointed either: Seager knocked one out of the park in the 6th. He’s been doing some awesome things recently – I reckon he’s getting back to his usual form. You don’t just come back from two surgeries and play like yourself right away. It takes a while…especially when you also have that leaner body to adjust to. Still, even without ice cream, it looks like Corey Seager is back. Right in time for the playoffs.
Nothing could have topped that grand slam for Travis, although there was one more important thing for me to take care of. Dad always let us have ice cream at the start of the 7th inning, and that’s still when I go get some. I got all three of us those plastic batting helmet cups of softserve, chocolate for Keaton and Travis, and vanilla for me. I wondered whether this was the first time Travis got to have ice cream since he’d gotten out of the hospital. I’m sure they didn’t have ice cream inside.
I think I was kinda expecting for Travis to tear into the ice cream the way Slater did back in Hickory when I gave him some for the first time. It wasn’t quite that, but he finished his before either me or Keaton (and both of us eat fast), so I knew he enjoyed it. Ok, sure, I realize ice cream isn’t going to solve all of Travis’ problems, but I was pretty sure it made him feel better. Joyce always jokes that ice cream is Dr. Hunter’s Cure-All lol.
The Dodgers won, 7-3. I wasn’t too worried about them losing to Colorado, but it really would have sucked to have taken Travis to a ballgame and then have the Dodgers lose. I could tell Travis was happy: there was a huge difference between the way he was walking when we got to the stadium and the way he was walking on the way out. He got to have a great afternoon outside in the sunshine and fresh air. His favorite player hit a grand slam. He got some ice cream. He got to try out keeping score for the first time. And our team won.
Plus he got to talk about his recent traumatic experiences with two good friends. I think that helped him almost as much as the grand slam.
On the way out, people were all excited about the game, the great season, the post-season to come…and that grand slam in the 5th. I caught Keaton’s eye when Travis got involved in high-fiving a whole group of guys in Bellinger jerseys, and I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was: that we were so glad that our friend was looking normal. We knew it wasn’t going to last forever and that we hadn’t fixed all his problems…but I was obviously right when I said we needed to take him to a ballgame as soon as he got out. I think he felt normal, too: I don’t know what a high-five from someone who just got out of the psych ward looks like, but I know that Travis’ high-fives that afternoon looked like totally normal sports fan high-fives.
We drove him back home, and went inside with him for a little while. We didn’t say anything to each other about it, but both me and Keaton reckoned that just dropping him back into his family after he had such a great afternoon might bring him down. So we hung out a while outside and each had a coke…and I got to look longingly at the pool. I wished I had boardshorts with me, but I don’t keep a pair in the back of Keaton’s truck (although I do keep some in the shitbox…you never know when an opportunity to get in the water will come along.) It did give me an idea, though: get Travis to invite me over to use the pool. Yeah, he has the pool to swim in all he wants, but being in the water is always way more fun when you got someone else to do it with.
I wasn’t going to suggest that right away, though. But we did leave Travis with something else to forward to: the Parrots’ season opener on Tuesday.