After a relaxing afternoon of friends, family and a few beers, Robin and I got a ride to her dad's house. My hangover had disappeared and I was ready to kick start the day into another long haul.
Her little sister Shorty had a softball game at the local grass-and-sand field. We were there for moral support and not much else short of hanging out with the rest of the family. Upon entering the seating area for the respective team, we got an idea of what we would be in for. All around us, parents young and old with garish fashion accessories were yelling and cheering and talking. The conversations were vapid, the mindless drone of their voices completely shallow. Those of them that weren't having meaningless conversations were screaming at the players, ordering them how to play the game.
As if the overbearing parents weren't enough, the coaches on both sides were the textbook masculine, sportaholic dads. Perfectly tanned from a bed and not the outdoors, their wrinkled exteriors superficially covered their far more sinister interiors. With perhaps the exception of one coach, these men were more like monsters. I witnessed them berate their players for apparent ignorance and shift the hierarchy of their teams in such a way that would only leave hurt feelings and bruised hearts in their wake. I saw one coach go so far as to inappropriately boost the morale of a player by putting his hand where it didn't belong. These "men" had come to such a place in their lives, settled down in such a way that the only thing they had to live for was the success of their daughters' softball team. That was not and will never be my definition of success, settling or home. The whole scene made me sick.
I kept an eye on the clock and on the scoreboard. Each minute that passed was one minute closer to getting out of the sickening situation. Being that it was school property, I couldn't even have a cigarette to quell the burning hatred in my gut. I patiently waited for the game to end, rooting for Shorty when I got the chance.
We headed back to the house, more than ready at this point for some alcohol. I needed to self-medicate after seeing such a disgusting affair. Robin's dad encouraged us to share his whiskey. Gestures like that from her dad should be taken at more than face value. It wasn't just out of generosity that he offered us his well-earned whiskey. It was an offering of unity, of family. Whiskey is a unifying thread between the three of us. It's how Robin and I wound up together. Over the years, it has fueled many late nights and marathon conversations for the two of us. At the last cookout we had with her dad before we moved, he toasted a Jameson in our honor. It meant we were one of his kind. I have never taken those kind of gestures from him for granted.
After a couple of stiff drinks, J Busch and Colleen picked us up from the house. We barreled down the road to Corner Pocket, the lot of us looking forward to an evening of bullying the jukebox and drinking to our hearts' content. A lot of people we haven't seen in quite some time were there. There for the beer, there for the people. Ashes mixed with foam from abandoned glasses. There was a friendly fire burning the hearts of everyone at our table, imperceptible to the naked eye, but tangible nonetheless. I don't remember how the night ended, which is almost always a good sign. There is no one else I'd rather blackout next to than Robin and those who are always there by my side, regardless of any circumstance and far removed from the future obligations of the next morning's shift at work.