Arizona—I am a long way from home, watching the Atlanta Braves play baseball on a television in a sports bar. I am waiting for my wife to finish shopping so we can go to dinner.
The man next to me is from Georgia, but he’s been living in Phoenix for nine years. He asks what I do for a living.
“I’m a writer,” I say.
“Really?” he says. “That’s cool. What do you write?”
“Aviation engineering manuals.”
We share pretzels from a glass bowl. Two strangers from the Southeast, meeting in a state where cactuses grow. Where waiters have never heard of sweet tea.
Our beloved Braves are locked in battle with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and we are the only two in the joint who root for them.
My friend’s elderly mother is ill. He’s leaving for home in a few days to see her. It doesn’t look like she’s going to make it.
He shows a picture on his phone. A photo of a young woman and her two boys, both wearing plaid pants. Hello 1970’s.
“That’s her,” he says. “My dad bailed on us, she raised us by herself.”
I could show this man similar photos on my phone. Photos from my own broken childhood, after my father died. I could tell him I half know how he feels.
I could tell him about the first time someone called my mother a “single mother,” and how it turned my stomach. But I won’t. Because writers don’t talk, they listen.
“Mom gave us everything,” says my friend. “Me and my brother got whatever we wanted, even though she couldn’t afford nothing.”
My mother did the same thing. I could tell stories about the sacrifices she made. But like I said. Writers.
Our conversation comes to a pause. The Braves are at the plate. Josh Donaldson is at bat.
“C’mon Josh!” we are both shouting at the…