Last summer I lost my job and lost everyone who used to be friendly with me at the office, and then everyone else I knew went away for the summer. There was nothing left in the city but me in my apartment and the smell of new tar on the streets, rising all the way to the fifth floor where I lived.

That's when I started listening to the baseball game every night. The team became my only reliable companions: Wade the handsome pitcher and Mike the supercool shortstop and Jim the catcher, who was always being thrown out of the game for arguing strike calls. I liked it when they dived hard for balls that were almost impossible to catch, and I liked the fact they were all friends who hung out together, and I liked listening to them being interviewed on the postgame show so I could see if they were smart or had a sense of humor. That whole summer I thought about baseball, I listened to baseball, and there were baseball players in my dreams.

My best friend Berty came back from California in early September, after the team was out of the pennant race and Wade had been injured and I had a pretty steady temp job, so my enthusiasm for baseball had waned a bit. Berty was all glowing from his first small role in a film, and besides, he had a new boyfriend.

I never ended up meeting the boyfriend, who was working on a detective series out in L.A., but I'm sure he looked just like Berty, all thin and square-jawed and energetic. Berty always went out with guys who looked just like him. In the five years we've been out of acting school, Berty's met a lot of people because he's auditioned all over the place for any role that was open, whereas I've had the luxury of waiting because, unlike Berty, I can type well enough to make a living at it.

Berty and I ate dinner together almost every night, talking about the theater and about Berty's wonderful boyfriend. We went out sometimes, too, although I felt kind of stupid going to clubs and parties where everyone else was a gay guy looking to meet other gay guys. I usually went as Berty's date, because his boyfriend was always out of town. In a way we were a couple; we had a crazy kind of intimacy. But Berty seemed to assume that he'd always be the one with the boyfriend, and I'd always be the one listening to the stories.

Library of Congress Copyright TXU529170