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First Game

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When the monsoon season ceases to exist,
We brush up hair-sprayed ponytails,
Stretch out smooth leather gloves,
Examine our blue and white nails.

The first game is always under the lights,
Like Cinderella’s secret midnight ball.
Standing underneath the monstrous bulbs,
We hunch our shoulders, feeling small. 

Before us, a wide expanse of dirt,
Raked in red rows that stretch on forever,
Freshly cut grass to help us win,
For us, a nearly impossible endeavor.

Visors, failing to stop the slipping sun,
Cleats, quill pen ink black and clean,
Shirts, tousled from the long school day,
Crisp gray pants, ironed neatly at the seam.

We will think back to this day in late August,
Once we learn that cotton shrinks in the dryer,
And we can barely see day one, before
A plethora of softballs get lost in the tangle of brier.

Through the summer, we lost our lucky pair of socks,
Every game (except we beat a team from Maine),
Significant amounts of body fluid from crying,
And the ability to walk without throbbing pain.

Three girls quit over the following winter,
Forgetting all the things we’d gained in July:
An annoying extended family we loved,
And the capability to throw a ball ten feet high,

The memories of the perfect first game,
And the following months of bitter pain
And the laughing, the joy, the people,
The photos, the party on the Robin Lane,

And the knowledge that wins and losses come in pairs,
Because for every blister there’s a double,
For each out, there’s a stolen base;
Each sliding catch comes with some trouble,

We all quit over the following years:
Tina learned that magnifying glasses
Can light leaves on fire in the backyard,
Sara was forced to take summer classes,

Jessie started a candy empire,
Two dollars for a Hershey bar,
And later became a Colombian drug kingpin.
I started basketball, but never got far.

Lacrosse and tap dancing and swimming
And sprinting (to what, I still don’t know)
Never provided the same rush as softball.
The first love, starting pure, will never go.

The first game is the only perfect one.
After that, we lower our expectations,
Accept the bittersweet, and just have fun,
Because even losses can bring elation.

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