I learned how to fly a few minutes before midnight on Oct. 27, 2004. I always thought I could fly, watching those seagulls gracefully drop out of the sky to spear yet another French fry from the MDC trash cans across from Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere, but I never had given it a shot. The Boston Red Sox gave me strength.
“If the Red Sox can win the World Series,” I said, stepping from the house just moments after reliever Keith Foulke fielded a ground ball and flipped it to first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz for the final out and the 4-0 sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, “then I surely can fly.”
I flapped my arms as fast I could, jumped into the air and was off. Simple as that. I soon was soaring across Boston Harbor and then downtown and then directly over the celebrating crowds in Kenmore Square. I buzzed a couple of Northeastern University kids climbing a lamppost, startled a TPF trooper into dropping his truncheon, took a hard left at the Prudential Building, and glided back home.
”I can fly!” I exclaimed to my cocker spaniel, Slugger, the only one still awake in the house.
”Sacre bleu!” he replied.
I always thought Slugger could talk. He would stare at me with those brown eyes and that little panting sound and I knew conversation was possible. Now he could. In French. And I could understand him. I always thought I could understand French, three years in high school, just wishing the people would slow down when they talked, and now I had no problem.
”Tres bien, beau chien,” I said.
I slept my best sleep in ages -- a delightful dream in the middle involving New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, chained to a post in the lowest circle of hell -- and made breakfast for the family in the morning. I always knew I could make perfect Eggs Benedict. I sang while I served, exactly like Frank Sinatra. I moved exactly like Fred Astaire. I always knew I could tap dance.
I felt an energy I hadn’t felt in years. I felt as strong as David Ortiz. I felt as fast as Dave Roberts, as happy as Manny Ramirez, as focused as Curt Schilling, as solid as Jason Varitek, as smart as Theo Epstein. I whistled “Sweet Caroline” (uh-uh-ohh), typed out a 500-page novel that I always knew I had inside me, took care of some plumbing and electrical work around the house that I always knew I could do if I just tried, yodeled goodbye (I always knew I could yodel) and hit the streets.
What next? I ran from Hopkinton to Boston, just for the heck of it. I walked on my hands. I juggled a Ted Williams baseball card, a copy of the Baseball Encyclopedia and an apple. Didn’t drop a one. I swam with the L Street Brownies. I dunked a basketball. Backward. After jumping over a Toyota. I drove the length of Massachusetts Avenue and all the lights were green. Every one of them.
I found a parking space. I found an honest politician. I tried broccoli and liked it. Every now and then a picture would pop into my head. Ortiz, clapping his hands, grabbing the bat, swinging as hard as he could, the baseball flying into the night. Schilling, the dollop of blood on his white sock. Derek Jeter looking befuddled. Every office I called, a real person answered the phone. I signed to appear in a feature film. (Leading man.) I was computer literate. I baked a cake. I changed my own oil. Fast as a cat, I multiplied large numbers in my head.
All items were on sale everywhere. All stocks were up. The pictures just kept coming. All those people that the Fox network showed biting their nails, crossing their fingers and their toes during the first three games against the Yankees. Where were they now? What were they doing? Derek Lowe on the mound. Talking to himself. Mark Bellhorn. Saying nothing. I played the piano, discovered I had a strong left hand. Went to the post office and found no lines. Roller bladed. Rode a motorcycle. Never fell down. I always knew I could that. I booked a trip to the Dominican Republic. I joined a gym, started a diet, bought a new suit of clothes. Something funky.
The Charles River -- it appeared to me, at least -- had been turned into buttermilk. The John Hancock building now was made out of chocolate. The strings on the Zakim Bridge played a melody when the wind hit them just right. The hospitals all were empty. The churches all were full. A heart seemed to beat in the middle of Fenway Park, right under the mound.
I always had wondered what it would be like when the Red Sox won the Series. I suppose everyone under the age of 86 in New England had wondered. The Red Sox story had gone along for so many years with its annual disappointments that the pain had become an almost masochistic delight. Sort of like record snowstorms in winter. Sort of like the daily bad cup of coffee from the company cafeteria. Sort of like a mole on the tip of your nose. Endurance and acceptance had become virtues. Life had to be lived within limitations.
What would it be like without those limitations?
I suppose I’m not much different from anyone else around here. I thought about departed friends and long-ago moments. I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in years. I told my wife I loved her. I told my kids I loved them. I drank a little champagne. I flew through the air. I talked to my dog in French and he talked back. I smiled a lot.
I say so far so good.