Finding emotion at the stroke of a pen
For me, reading someone else’s words, or formulating thoughts in my own mind, was never enough; I always had to write it down on paper. Writing my own stories made the simple descriptions come alive, placing me in a different world of my own choosing. Microsoft Word became my escape hatch from the doldrums of my humdrum life in suburban New Jersey. Finding my own life to be too boring, I put myself in the place of people I wanted to be, even for a day. Using various movies and television shows as inspiration, I created new worlds filled with fascinating characters, either by reaching back into the past or extending into the future. I dovetailed my desire to write with my budding interest in history, attempting to see what life was like in a different era by recreating it on paper. I would base stories off of Sherlock Holmes in order to understand life in Victorian England. I would write a murder mystery based off real events in 1940s Los Angeles to recreate the Noir Era. I would put myself in the shoes of an American soldier in Afghanistan (mixed with some futuristic Frankenstein-like technology) to try and see the conflict that has been raging nearly all my life. And, by putting myself in a different place, I tried to discover the underlying emotions in things I did not experience much in everyday life: grief, tragedy, loss. Despite my escapist desires, however, the one story that sticks out in my mind actually became a reflection of my own life, allowing me to connect more deeply with the experiences I had in this world.
One day, my teacher gave us an assignment to write a story from the perspective of an inanimate object. I ended up writing from the perspective of a baseball, since baseball was my favorite sport growing up. I played baseball from kindergarten up until seventh grade. Some of my fondest and earliest memories recount me posing in a high school gym with my bat in hand and crisp yellow tee-ball uniform on. My dad and I bonded in our shared devotion to the New York Mets, even though they constantly disappointed us with stunning collapses or outright bad play. We would watch every game, whether they were in the cellar or on their way to the World Series. The minute spring came, my dad and I would try out my new glove in the backyard, prepping for my own season. Even though I quit playing in eighth grade (and I often regret that I didn’t put enough effort towards the game), it still holds a special place in my heart. Ironically, a baseball was the perfect vehicle to express feelings of tragedy and loss, since I was most familiar with that object, and it held meaning far beyond the red laces for my own childhood.
Though a baseball is just any old object, I tried to inject as much feeling as I could into its own thoughts. I recounted the trepidation the baseball had sitting in a bin with hundreds of other similar looking baseballs, worried that no one would ever buy it. I recalled how nervousness filled the entirety of its sphere as the new owner held it, unsure whether he would treat him better than the salespeople. I described how panic consumed it as it wondered whether it would be relegated to another dustbin. In the bin, it was just another object, faceless and meaningless. In a kid’s baseball glove, it brought joy to the boy’s face, nurturing his love of the game. The boy would recognize and appreciate it, understanding how much joy it brought to him. These feelings were my way of expressing my own trepidation about growing up. I was painfully shy and reserved in social interaction, loathe to reveal any personal reservations I had about myself. My constant worry about meaning something to another person, to not just be another soul walking the earth, were encapsulated in this baseball.
Though seemingly a minor object, this one baseball alone had significant events in its existence, which I tried to convey in the grandest terms possible. It faced a winding journey from the bottom of a sporting goods store bin, to a boy’s shelf in his room, to the dustbin many years later. It faced many threats to its survival, from its spot in the bottom in the bin, to the boy growing up and cleaning out his room of childhood objects. However, the baseball withstood it all. Why?
Well, it wasn’t just any baseball. It was the last object the father got for his son before he died in the Twin Towers on 9/11. (Admittedly, I got some of the ideas from the trailer for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” with the key switched out for a baseball.)
Looking back, this story presented a tragic version of what-could-have-been for my own life. My own father was in New York City on 9/11, sitting on the train as he watched the towers burn. He, somehow, made it on the last train back to New Jersey, even after he took the time to go to Virgin Records for a new Bob Dylan CD (which earned a stern reprimand from my mother). This story was my way of being thankful for having my father be there all those years, nurturing my love for baseball. Instead of having a baseball stand in for my father, he was always there, ready to catch my throws. I never had to throw pop ups to myself, or always run after the ball; my dad was there to do it for me. Especially since there were not many kids in my neighborhood, having my father was a lifesaver. Just saying “thank you” to my dad for being there would have never been adequate; writing allowed me to express that gratitude. By writing from the perspective of another boy who had the same childhood in nearly every way save one, I was able to fully appreciate the impact my own father had on my development, and why baseball is such an important facet of my own character.