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Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
The Expanding Man
by Phil Bencomo
Several times each week, my legs grow agitated, as I suspect any anthropomorphic body part would if it too spent hours each day stored under a desk while important tasks are carried out above. "Preposterous!" my legs exclaim. "You know full well just how relative of a term 'important' is. Just think of all the 'important' things I can do!" I try to explain the valid reasoning and necessity of sitting at my desk, forcefully adding, "This is not a democracy." But legs chafe at such tyranny, it seems, and before I can muster the militia to quell the treasonous revolutionaries, I am unwillingly out of my seat, walking out of the building and into the great unknown.
I try to console myself, choosing in my mind some plausible destination that I will, in truth, never reach. I instead wander aimlessly, led by legs that weave from street to street on naught but a whim. But frightened I am not. Perhaps I was once, but the legs always grow tired or bored after a time, and order is restored once more.
I've come to cherish such walks, in a way, when my feet carry me unimpeded over the always-growing mountain of tasks to be completed and down into the deep, fertile valley of boundless thought. My mind wanders in such times of quiet solitude.
Some of my most inspired thoughts and ideas come to me as I walk, and in similar situations that leave the mind free while the body performs some thoughtless, rote act. These thoughts may meander toward the Cubs, but they just as likely will not. I have spent the last several days searching for words to fill the void in my head where the 2008 Cubs ought to be, and inspiration eludes me. But tonight, my legs stirred once again.
* * * *
As I walk, Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues" plays in my head. It'd been lodged there, in my head, for a few weeks, but yesterday it suddenly broke free. Where before it was a soft buzz that occasionally floated through my mental chaff and into consciousness, "Blues" now plays endlessly, only dropping into the background, as if on some mental audio ducker setting, when I am distracted from it by thought or stimulation.
* * * *
I'll learn to work the saxophone
I'll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues
* * * *
I walk, and I think. Why have I struggled so mightily to find words for the winningest team of my lifetime? I ask myself. It was pointed out to me last week that, largely, I only write posts of substance following a poor showing. That is, I thrive on the Cubs' setbacks and, in turn, my own misery. I'm not sure that's completely true, but it lands close to the heart of the matter. Have I become such a cynic that I cannot motivate myself to write anything positive, for fear that something dastardly is close behind to negate my enthusiasm, my hope, my carefully crafted words? Do I even have the capacity for optimism anymore?
The lake comes into sight. Perhaps my character has become irreparably flawed, I think, returning to my thoughts. Consider: Among Cub regulars, only Ryan Theriot (95) and Kosuke Fukudome (92) have OPS+ numbers under 100. Swap Mike Fontenot for Mark DeRosa at second, DeRosa for Fukudome, and put Jim Edmonds in center over Reed Johnson, and only Theriot has an OPS+ under 111. And that every starter in the Cubs' playoff rotation recorded an ERA+ of at least 110. And that the bullpen, though a bit shaky at the lower rungs, is, among those due to throw the bulk of the innings, outstanding.
And I can muster nothing.
I've taken to appending "if they get there" to the end of all my statements regarding the Cubs and later playoff rounds, and it's entirely indicative of the shell that surrounds me, deflecting unbridled passion and keeping me safe from its potential harm. Then something clicks. But is that shell, I ask silently, protecting or depriving?
Removing the scar tissue may leave me vulnerable, and may result in great emotional pain, but does not the chance at boundless ecstasy outweigh any cost? A life steeled against potential harm is steeled against both good and bad. What kind of life is worth living in anticipation of failure?
Maybe, I think, I can change. Maybe I can open myself to the world as never before, and leave both parties better for it.
* * * *
You call me a fool
You say it's a crazy scheme
This one's for real
I already bought the dream
* * * *
My feet slow to a stop. They've been carrying me along the lake. The sun has since set, but it is hardly dark. I look ahead, my gaze running parallel to the shore. Chicago, lit up in all its glory, dominates the view, and fireworks fly from Navy Pier into the night sky. I stand, and I watch. Minutes pass, and even as I turn toward home, I cannot tear my eyes away. Yes. Warmth fills me, despite the cold, and I smile.
* * * *
This is the night
Of the expanding man
I take one last drag
As I approach the stand
I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long
This brother is free
I'll be what I want to be