Safer at Home

Like things weren’t bad enough, it all got even more weirdass and depressing last night, when the mayors of LA, Pasadena and Long Beach announced a ‘safer at home’ order – which basically is the same thing as the ‘shelter in place’ orders they’ve had all week up in San Francisco, only it sounds less threatening. After the mayors spent an hour thanking people and the mayor of LA went on and on about how he loved us and the city, and only then making the announcement, the Governor came on the TV and said it all over again, only faster and with more facts. I don’t get why there was any need for local government to make the announcement if it was about to become a statewide order in the first place. I guess the mayors are gonna want to be reelected after the crisis has passed.

(I gotta confess…I didn’t know that dude was the mayor of Pasadena. I didn’t vote for him, and, if he’d come to the door and said ‘hey Hunter, I’m the mayor of Pasadena’ I’d of had to believe him lol.)

Ok…so what do we do now? And what do I do now? I reckon it doesn’t matter that I got laid off earlier this week…practically everyone in my new industry is out of a job for the duration. The number of people out of jobs is gonna be staggering: 80,000 people who applied for unemployment in California on Tuesday…and I bet it was even more yesterday when I put my application in. Maybe the unemployment office would have been a better place to get a job than at the L******.

They’re telling us to stay at home as much as we can…but I’m not the stay at home type. Even Chuy’s closing – the only car washes that are gonna be open are the ones that are attached to gas stations, and he’d of had to close the batting cages – so there’s not even anywhere for me to go and hit balls. I like being around people. I’m used to working with the public, and I like hanging out in places where other people hang out. My main leisure activity requires 21 people to play (counting the umpire), and, well…ok, I’m feeling kinda sorry for myself when I write this.

I do have a best friend who lives on the other side of my apartment complex, and I can go visit him as much as I want. Keaton’s got his apartment all fixed up by now, and it looks dang nice…way nicer than mine. We’re cool staying 6’ from each other, but it means no shaking hands when we meet…and that’s still taking some getting used to. We even decided to get super careful and took out a tape measure from Keaton’s toolbox to make sure that the bean bag where I sit is a full 6’ from where Keaton sits on the couch. We’re doing our best with this ‘social distancing’ stuff, and you’d think it would be easy since it’s not like me and Keaton are gay and used to being all over each other (ew!), but it’s still tricky. There are all kinds of things you do so normally (like go to the kitchen, open two beers, and hand one to your buddy) that I reckon you can’t do anymore. We’re both trying to be careful, and we both get that it’s about keeping everyone safe, not just ourselves, but it’s not easy to play by the new rules…especially when it’s not always clear what they are.

(I wanna make it clear that I’m not one of those jerkoffass young people who aren’t taking this seriously and doing shit like going on spring break. I’ve been doing my best to be responsible since the beginning. I’m not saying I’m being perfectly responsible…but I am doing my best.)

They have said it’s ok to go outside in the park and hang out, as long as you’re 6’ apart from everyone else. That’s good news and bad news as far as Lucas, Cody and Noah are concerned. Cody’s the easiest, since, since last week already, we’ve just been going out into the backyard and playing catch. We’ve started trying to make crazy catches (what Cody likes to call ‘Cody Bellenger Catch’ even though me and Lucas named it ‘Kiké Hernandez Catch’ when we invented the game), which is the most fun I had last week. I’ve been tossing him some balls to hit – you also don’t need to be closer than 6’ apart for that – so he’s kinda getting some batting practice, but I haven’t pitched since high school, and I wasn’t even good at it then.

Noah is a little harder to work with because, well, Noah is harder to work with. But his dad was determined to keep me on, and at least it’s getting Noah out of the house and getting him some exercise. Mostly we play catch, although it’s way more fun playing it with Cody than it is with Noah. Noah’s not into diving for balls and getting dirty; he’s also not a whole lot of fun to talk to when we’re throwing the ball back and forth, but at least it’s something. I’ve also got him running some laps around the park. He could be a better runner, although it’s hard showing what I mean he should do from 6’ distance.

I shouldn’t complain about Noah. What I make from his dad is a huge piece of my income. I found out what I’m gonna be making from unemployment; I need the money under the table from my baseball pupils big time.

And Lucas?

Lucas is in dang bad shape, and I feel for him. We (mostly he) put in all that work to get him on the team, he got the spot on the he was hoping to get…and, now, there’s no season, there’s no team, there’s no nothing. He was so fuckin angry when he found out that he actually went outside and busted a bat banging it against the stone steps. This is Lucas…a kid who loves the game so much that he’d never abuse equipment like that…but a disappointed 18 year old is a pretty dang bad thing to be. Everything is huge at that age…and, this time, things really are huge. I think Lucas has got as bad a broken heart in his way as I did when Shoshanah broke up with me.

Since then, he’s been more depressed than angry, although he does get angry still too. His mom called me earlier this week and asked me to come over one afternoon she was afraid that he was gonna take a bat to some part of the house. He was back to being depressed when I got there.

“Hey, man,” I said. He was in the backyard, just sitting in one of the pool chairs and looking down at the pool. “You ok? Your mom’s worried.”

“Yeah,” he said, still looking down, “I’m ok.” I gave him a chance to go on. “This just so fuckin sucks, Hunter. It so fuckin sucks.” He just sat there and shook his head. It really was like how I felt after Shoshanah.

“Just don’t get all gayass and tell me you need a hug,” I said. “It’s hard to hug someone from a 6’ distance.”

That kinda got a little laugh outta him. Not much, but at least he didn’t look like he was fixin to cry anymore.

“What am I going to do?,” he asked. “They haven’t officially cancelled the rest of the school year, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to. Did you see what the Governor said on TV about telling his daughter not to expect to be back in school before the end of the year.” I watched the Governor’s speech, so I nodded. “You know what that means? It means missing all the shit that goes with senior year. We’re not gonna have a graduation, no Grad Night at Disneyland…and, of course, you know…” It’s like he didn’t even want to say ‘no baseball’.

“I don’t know what to tell you, man,” I said. “I’ve never been through anything like this. No one has. It’s not like my folks or your folks or even my Meemaw can tell us anything to make it easier, because they’ve never lived through anything like this. I’m not sure the whole world has ever lived through anything like this.”

“There’s always the Black Death,” said Lucas, kinda smiling.

“Know what I heard from my Mom yesterday?,” I asked. “She said she saw somewhere that Shakespeare left London to get away from the Plague…and, while he was away, wrote King Lear.”

“Your point being…?”

“I dunno,” I said. “I reckon that some good can come from shit like this. You should take advantage of this time and write your own King Lear.”

“But I want to play baseball!”

He whined that. It made remember that, even though Lucas was a buddy and looked grown-up, he still was a kid.

“Best I can offer is a game of Kiké Hernandez Catch,” I said. “Put on something you won’t get in trouble for getting dirty.”

So he put on an old pair of baseball pants and we had a wild game of catch. It started out pretty slow and depressed, but it picked up, and we started throwing balls that we were sure the other wouldn’t be able to catch…and most of the time we did. I don’t think I ever made as many diving catches in half an hour as I did that afternoon with Lucas. I reckon we had a lot of built-up aggression to work off, and diving catch is a pretty good way to do that and still stay 6’ apart.

“Think we can go swimming?,” I asked. It was a cool but sunny day, and you know I never pass up the chance to get in the water.

“The pool is full of chlorine; it’s probably the cleanest part of the house,” Lucas said. “I swam a shitload of laps this morning.”

So I got my boardshorts from the shitbox and swam a shitload of laps myself. I still had energy to burn off. Lucas joined me for a couple races in which we did our best to keep 6’ apart. Fit though he is, Lucas was never the fastest swimmer; it was never really his sport. So I beat him every time.

“Want me to let you win one?,” I said after I’d left him way behind in a 4 lap freestyle race.

“Fuck you, man,” he said, finally with a big smile. I know I wasn’t making up for baseball season being cancelled, but I at least got something positive out of him. I felt better after some exercise too. It’s a blessing that they’re still saying we can go outside and should go to the park and take walks and shit. I’m not the only active guy in California, and, since my sport is an outdoor sport, I’m happier being active outside. I’d rather dive for balls and swim than workout in some gayass gym…not that there are any gayass gyms left to workout in.

On the way home, I stopped off in Target again. The good news is that they’d restocked the Oreos and the Cokes, so I was able to get packs of both of those. I also got another container of strawberry ice cream, just in case. Ok, I have a full one in the freezer here already, I’ll admit it. So maybe I’ve had a little insight into the hoarder mentality lol.

Now it looks like ‘dry goods’ are the thing to hoard, since there was a sign about limiting purchases of those to 8 per guest…and the shelves were empty. That makes me wonder: is that per guest or per party of guests? I had this vision for a second of a family where each member, including toddlers, was checking out with baskets of 8 packages of rice or pasta.

But that’s not the really big thing about my visit to Target this afternoon. The big thing is that I couldn’t fuckin believe how close people were standing to each other. The fuck?? How clear could they make it about ‘social distancing’? I saw these three latina chicks walking down the main aisle with their arms around each other. Not only were they blocking traffic, they were also seriously endangering everyone’s health. How the fuck do you not know you’re not supposed to do that? The people on the self-checkout line were one on top of the other too, so I got in a regular line where I could have one of those bigass Target carts keep 6’ in front of me and someone else’s cart behind me doing the same job.

There was a dude who got in line behind me, and he stopped his cart leaving about 2’ of space between me and the cart.

“You get it,” I said, turning around. “What’s the deal with everyone else?”

The dude shook his head. “Guess they don’t know how far 6’ is. Or they’re just stupid.”

“Maybe it’s easier for us to know how far 6’ is because we’re 6’ tall (I lied for the purposes of my argument, and I am actually a little more than 5’11”, so…)…and all we have to do is project ourselves lying on the ground and there you got 6’.”

The dude laughed. We talked some more about the situation. I think for over 10 minutes, since the line was moving slowly. I eventually got to pay for my shit and headed home.

Keaton went out briefly to pick up some things for Mrs. LaSalle and dropped them off on her doorstep, but he was in his apartment when I got there. We planned an evening of beer and Wingstop, which we were gonna go and pick up before we had too much to drink. It seemed like as good a way as any to pass the time, since…this may just be me…but it feels like time is going more slowly. It’s like it’s 2 o’clock, then you think an hour’s gone by, and it’s only 2:30. That’s probably only gonna get worse.

“You doin ok, man?,” I asked him. He’s taken to brooding, and that can’t be a good thing.

“Fuck yeah,” he said. “I’m doin fuckin terrific. I’m a fuckin prisoner in my apartment, I don’t have a job, and we’re all sitting around waiting to get some weirdass disease that’ll make us fuckin stop breathing and then fuckin die. I couldn’t be better.”

He downed the rest of his Dos Equis in what Cian would spell one ‘draught’.

“You sure you’re my buddy who says it’s gay to complain?”

“Fuck you, bubba,” Keaton said. It wasn’t until he finished saying it that I realized it was a good ‘fuck you’ and not an angry ‘fuck you’. That’s how on edge he is. “I need another one of these. You’re driving to get the food.”

“We could have it delivered too,” I said. “Give a delivery guy a job.”

“Somebody might just as fuckin well work,” Keaton said.

So we ordered dinner and let the delivery guy bring it to us. He did have to come closer than 6’ to collect his tip, but we weren’t gonna not tip him, and we all managed not to sneeze on each other. So I reckon that’s ok. More or less. Maybe someone should have had a mask on, but, let’s face it, those masks look so fuckin gay. I mean, I’ll put one on if they say it’s absolutely necessary, but, until then, I’m going to abide by the 6’ foot rule and stay away from people who aren’t.

I’m staying away from most everyone, actually. I know that’s the point, but it’s still hard getting used to.

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