On my first day of classes at Moreau Catholic, I arrived with converse sneakers, damp hair and a make-up free face. Over the next four years, none of my male classmates ever came close to casually leaning against my open locker, crossing their arms in a sheepishly confident posture, and making banter with me about my Friday night plans. None of them ever requested my company at a dance. Few, even asked for my AIM screen name. I oscillated between blaming this oversight on my lack of Filipino heritage (unlike the majority of my fellow students) and my preference for sleeping over hair styling, and suggesting to myself that this lack of attention correlated with my four-plus GPA.
Enter Jason Barrera. Initially, we bonded over our passion for a baseball team who had lost the World Series in seven games in 2002, whooping about the results of the previous day’s games when we crossed each other in the stairwell. A season ticket holder at the time, he offered me a ticket to a game in late September of our senior year and we stared at our dumb phones as the bullpen recklessly let the Reds back into the game. We left in the 11th inning when he and his best friend wanted to go to a party. The majority of friends humored my ardor for baseball, but for Jason, this was the webbing of our relationship.
When the high school baseball season commenced the following spring, I accepted his invitation to cheer for him and his fellow Mariners on a Tuesday in March. The following Thursday, I sat in the score-keeping booth with my high school math teacher (and former ballet teacher’s husband!) and grilled him on a brief history of the varsity team. I was promoted to operating the balls and strikes on the outfield screen several weeks later. At visitor ballparks, I clapped and hollered to myself when a rally broke out and muttered under my breath when my classmates botched “routine” plays. During spring break, I drove two hours to gossip and relive inside jokes with a summer camp friend—who coincidentally lived a town over from where the team was playing in a tournament. Internally, I observed that the frustration I felt in the classroom for the intellectually apathetic jocks decreased the more I logged hours studying them in their element on the field. Jason informed me how my presence boosted team morale. I wrote a column for the school newspaper about finding my groove as the(?) high school baseball fan. As someone who at times found herself borderline resentful that my accelerated classes had established a relatively rigid divide between the academically and athletically inclined, at long last, I made peace.
Seven years after that spring, Jason and I only intermittently chat about MLB. Instead, he has prepared mate for me in an Argentine cup on a bridge in Fremont. I have stuffed my face with tacos with him on lawn chairs in his former Los Angeles backyard. We send text messages about the discomfort of being brown people in white spaces. Two weeks ago, we pedaled nearly 20 miles around Chicago’s South Side before traipsing on unreliable rocks on the shore of Lake Michigan. We can munch on chips and guacamole in my patio under twinkling lights and interrogate each other about the inexplicabilities of the opposite gender. We can imitate Jon Miller’s “Travis Ishikawa” NLCS incredulity. We can analyze the Bernie Sanders’ effect. We can grow old and we can grow more together.