My future went missing at a minor league baseball game. Hurricanes vs. Growlers. It was the hottest day of the summer, and the heat bent the field, putting a mirage over everyone’s head. Then a man turned from the bleacher in front of mine, slow like death, and said, “I’m the kidnapper.” Or he mouthed it and smiled, drinking from his beer before turning back to the game.
The ball came off a Growler’s bat and cut a line in the sky from home to center field, where it landed against the fence and bounced around like a little animal. The crowd went out of their seats with joy, screaming at the runner to take another base.
In the chaos, my head did a backflip. When I looked down, the man was gone, confirming what I didn’t want to accept. The closest thing to reality, to the real horror of it, was the disappearance of my future. The tips of my fingers came alive as if for the first time. Then, the next batter hit another, a line drive whose sound gripped me by the testicles and ran them all the way up into my tailbone. A white heat filled me. I stepped into the aisle between the seats, just behind home plate, fell to my knees, and threw up violently. I had mistaken this ballpark for a church, but I pleaded anyway. “Tomorrow, tomorrow,” I said. “Where are you?”
I was living with three classmates of mine from college at the time, but college had long been over, and they were talking about moving. That afternoon, one of them, Kyle, told me I had a daughter, and when he saw me remember her, he laughed in my face. I hadn’t seen my baby daughter since she said her first word. I can’t even say what happened. Who knew where it went. But when I saw the stadium lights, they pulled me into their arbitrary game.
I woke up in one of the bathroom stalls transformed into an agent of time. Head rising from the toilet bowl, the bottom of the earth visible all around. The goal became so clear I could hear it in my ear like a piece of intelligence. It was the sound of my mother saying my middle name, my empty gut folding in on itself and saying Run. My future was out there, and all I had to do was find it! I began moving through the crowd, the noise and excitement as my disguise. My long black hair sways in front of my eyes, and I’m convinced: what’s to come is the blessing of America. Keanu Reeves, my spirit brother.
I started seeing it everywhere. Little flashes between shoulders, between the hands of a toddler holding her father’s hand by first base. It was running too fast. Aren’t most people given a sign, a hint, of things to come? Nothing serious or inspirational had been spoken to me about my future, not since I held my baby girl and cried with her while a group of medical students watched. I shouldn’t have given them permission to watch, but I did. My future was sitting on my shoulders back then like a tailored suit. I kept walking on this post-puke high until the 9th, ready to reconcile with my soul over a beer and pay the ransom. But my chest was glowing with the confusion of fear, and a reoccurring epiphany of mortality played over and over. The time you have left dangles in front of you for however long it takes to fuck you over, never the thing you dreamed to life.
One night you’re having a great time at the bar with friends or you’re at the ballgame or the grocery store and it slips by. It runs through your thirties, out the back window like a teenager in the night. Maybe it depends on your relationship with it, your grasp of what reality does to a friend like your future. You invented it as a child and when people asked you about it you always spoke sincerely of it, but someone else wanted it too. They played baseball better and they wanted the promotion, the beautiful family and the comfortable pension. You got pulled into the blender of the American spirit.
It was probably eating a hot dog and working on its fifth beer, finally free of the past. I sat alone along the fence and thought briefly of asking the left fielder if he’d seen it, maybe in the sky or in his glove. Maybe it was strapping on its big cleats with steel spikes on the end, coming into home angry and filled with revenge. It did want to fuck me up one more time for what I hadn’t done. It was off somewhere getting the rest of my time, rounding it up and turning it into a goon disguised as a person, some guy with leather pants and eyes like my father’s, leaning against my car outside the ballpark, waiting to ask me the time.
Kenneth Jakubas holds an MFA from Western Michigan University, where he continues to serve as assistant poetry editor for Third Coast Magazine. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, Birdcoat Quarterly, Zone 3, Midwest Review, Carousel, and Sundog Lit, among others. He lives and teaches in Kalamazoo, MI.