Overlooking a bakery

It’s snowing in St. Paul this morning. I am sitting at my kitchen table, writing, and watching it drift down onto the parking lot outside my window. The skinny trees at the edge of the alley still have their leaves, their light covering of snow incongruous with their yellow-ish green. The world is wet, and droopy, and lovely, and perfect.

On the other side of the world, in Hyderabad, India, earlier today, Umesh took a ten-for and India beat the West Indies by 10 wickets in three days. It happened as I slept, as I dreamed. As the cold drifted in through my leaky storm windows and I felt its chill settle in the room around me. In Hyderabad it was 90 some degrees with humidity and no breeze. The opposite of this 40 degrees with damp snow. Here, there is no cricket, only wet streets and grumpy midwesterners. Here, cricket doesn’t even exist. It’s like we are on separate worlds, but we’re not, we’re on the same planet, together, linked, hurtling through space.

Umesh’s ten-for reminded me of a post from the Old Batsman:

Simon did it. The last two, from memory, were bowled. We surrounded him. We had Junaid Khan smiles. He was a lovely guy, always great to play with. He deserved it. It had taken maybe an hour and a half. They’d only made 60-odd and we knocked them off quickly, on the ground surrounded by trees, underneath the perfect sky.

It’s a melancholic feeling, thinking about it now. I wonder what happened to Simon, and to everyone that played that day. Have they had good lives since then? I hope so. Nothing ties us except that game, but I doubt that anyone who played has forgotten it. All ten. Not bad. Well done, mate.

And so when I pulled up Cricinfo this morning, I didn’t think of India or Umesh or 10 straight home series wins, I thought of the Old Batsman, and Simon, and I wondered too where he was, where they all were. And I thought about life and the places it takes us, and the changes it brings, sometimes without us even knowing that the change was happening. We are always drifting away from a past, always moving away not just from places but from people, things, dogs, books, comfort, homes.

Today I am writing this on West 7th in St. Paul. Earlier this year I was somewhere else. There’s been so much change. Life has taken me not to the other side of the world where the world is baking in high hazy sun, where cricket exists, but still to a place so alien, so new,  so different than all that I am accustomed to. And there’s a life that I had that is now gone, and in that life were people, and I am drifting away from them, and they from me. Some of them were Simons, small heroes that I loved, that I will think about now and again, and I will wonder how they are doing, where they are, whether they still think of me, of a memory of a day we shared.

That post quoted above is from February of 2012. Six and a half years ago. If May seems alien to me now, than February of 2012 feels like another plane of existence entirely. I was writing about cricket a lot then. Almost every day I would post something here. But then I drifted away. But cricket kept going, and the Old Batsman kept writing, though maybe not as much as he used to. I drifted away, but then I came back. It wasn’t the same, but it was still familiar. We hold on to these old houses that we used to call home, we keep them in our hearts, maintain them, keep them up, go back now and again and fix peeling paint and weed overgrown gardens, so that someday, if we want, we can go back, move back in, accept that they’re different, that we’re different, but also familiar.

And then we are reminded that the houses inside us are just that, inside us. We build them, we hold them close, we carry them with us, we can raze them if we want. They are moveable feasts. I can write about cricket and read the Old Batsman at this kitchen table that looks out over a parking lot, or at my old kitchen table that looked out over a half acre of green. You can’t go home again but you can go home anytime want. Sometimes all it takes is an Umesh ten-for to bring you there, to remind you of the way.

A few years ago I wrote a post about how important the smallest of things are — in life, and in cricket. Those small things are not always small, or are different sizes for different people. Umesh’s ten-for was massive for him, but small for me. But did he know just how massive it was? That it rippled across oceans to St. Paul, Minnesota, to a little apartment above a Home Health Care business overlooking a bakery where someone was sleeping, dreaming, and would soon wake and read about it and spiral back through time to someone else’s moment, to the Old Batsman, to Simon. What we do matters, what we do is a wave across the world.

Three days ago I was struggling. Then I found records that I didn’t know I still had. That I thought were gone from my life forever. And a switch flipped. And I felt better. Six years ago the Old Batsman thought of Simon and a day decades in the past. And he felt not better but maybe less alone. And he wrote about it. Today on the other side of this giant world Umeshkumar Tilak Yadav took his 10th wicket and together we spiraled down into a chasm of memory. Years and decades like cliff walls hidden in the black, the rush of air drying our tears, the ground forever away.

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