“Who let all of the riff-raff out tonight? The place is mobbed with rabble,” Mark asked as much to himself as to Liz.
Liz winced. It seemed to be getting harder and harder to go anywhere with Mark. He’d always hated crowds, but it almost seemed as if he now actually hated the individuals that made up the crowd. They weren’t people, they were obstacles.
“Some of these people, I just don’t understand,” Mark said. He motioned over to a man leading a screaming 12 year old boy. “Spoiled kid, at that age. Why’d they let them out of their cages?”
He purposeful cross paths with the man and bumped into him. Mark stopped. He just stood there, eyes wide, mouth open, all of the color drained from his face. Something was seriously wrong. Liz grabbed his elbow. “Are you OK?” she asked.
He nodded, tore free and turned back the way they’d come. After only a few steps he came up to the man with the screaming child. The man was in front of the child, pleading with him.
“Excuse me, sir,” Mark said.
The man turned on him, face flushed red. “I’m sorry,” he said. “My son has severe autism. His mother recently passed away. Now if you’ll…”
Mark put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I’m very sorry, sir,” he said. “I came back to apologize for the way I treated you and your son. I can’t express how sorry I am, both for your loss and for what I did. I’m very, very sorry”
The man opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out.
“And you, young man,” Mark continued to the child. “I bet you love baseball. No, not just baseball, you love the Red Sox.”
Liz was amazed that the child seemed to be calming down and actually focused on Mark.
“Mister, I’m sorry, but,” the man said.
Mark ignored him and continued with the son. “In fact, I bet you love the 1975 Red Sox. We all thought they were going to finally break the curse. And they almost did. Seven games, but the curse still got them up until recently. But that team, they almost had it. Am I right, these are the guys you love?”
The boy nodded.
Mark smiled. “When I was about your age I found a Carlton Fisk baseball card in a pack of gum. Yeah, back in the day they actually had gum with the cards, did you know that?” The boy nodded proudly at his knowledge.
“It was a few weeks before the series when I found it. Amazingly, I had a chance to meet Mr. Fisk. I asked for his autograph and he signed the card, ‘going to the series’. How about that?”
The boy’s eyes were wide.
Marked reached into his back pocket. Liz gasped. He’s not going to get it out, is he? She had only seen it once. He actually sewed it into a secret pocket. Marked took his wallet out and pulled on a piece of thread that was sticking out. Nothing happened. He pulled a little harder and part of the lining come out. A baseball card was behind the lining.
“I held this in my hand the whole series,” Mark said. “And the end of game six, well….. Can you believe that the same hand that hit that ball; that waved the ball from being a foul to being fair actually held this card, actually signed this card? And just a few days before the amazing hit, too.”
Liz gasped. Mark handed the card to boy who gingerly took it and outlined the signature with is finger. Mark straightened up, took Liz’s elbow and started to leave.
“Sir, sir, hold on, you forgot your card,” the man said.
Mark turned back to him. “It’s not my card, it’s his,” he said. “I just happened to be its trustee for the last 40 years. Look at his face and tell me it doesn’t belong with him.”
The boy was glowing. Liz noticed the tears of the man as he watched his son. Mark grabbed her elbow again and drug her away. She looked up at his face. He was beaming at everyone they passed, giving each person a slight nod and a small hello. She looked around and noticed all of those human beings, each with their own joys and sorrows, beaming back.
The city never looked so alive.