Mathieu Sessions entered the Thames River Valley with a temporary stay in mind. He wound up trapped in Preston, the town like flypaper attaching to his bare skin, draining the life from him. He met his wife while traveling throughout New England as part of the contingent sent from the Lesser Antilles to represent the Caribbees Baseball League in exhibition games against local double- and triple-A ball clubs. Merita was a free spirit. Mathieu was just as free. What began as a fling, a place to lay his head anytime the team visited the river valley, soon sprouted roots, E-Z planted inside Merita’s belly.
Mathieu took delight in the prospect of welcoming his first child into the world. He had been his father’s big guy, his first son. He was overjoyed to learn they were expecting a boy as well—first son to a first son. His mind swelled with thoughts of all the things he would teach his son to do: to stand firm in the batter’s box waiting for a curve ball to break from its collision course with your head, prepared to swing the bat just as the ball veers across the plate; how to catch a fish with a simple hook and string; how to skip a rock across the skin of a restless surf.
Mathieu was proficient in the field, sure with his glove, a switch-hitter batting with equal on-base percentage from either side of the plate. He worked to remain just as industrious in the off season, helping build boats and construct boat docks back home in St. Martin. There was nothing he could not fix with his two hands, no adversity his mind could not overcome. He took odd jobs repairing diving rigs, wenches, small cranes, setting aside a few dollars each week to supplement the meager stipend he would earn come springtime as part of the traveling team.
Baseball season came to a close, leaving Mathieu for the first time on his own, his teammates having returned to their respective island existences as responsibility mounted across his shoulders. He landed a job at Electric Boat as the due date approached, vowing to return to baseball in time for spring training the following season, the smell of freshly cut grass and the residue from newly chalked lines lingering in the air, framing his love for the game.
He rushed to the hospital when the call came. He was ushered into a tiny recovery room surrounded by his wife’s people—soon to be his people, his mother insistent on seeing him do right by the woman who bore him a son. Mathieu took the child in his arms, counted fingers and toes: ten of each.
He struggled the following season to muster sufficient time off to play ball, joining the team when he could during their brief time in the tri-state area, relinquishing his spot to someone with fewer worries away from the field as the team headed south to the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida.
He watched with dismay as his son grew. Ezrah’s feeble hands competed against clumsy feet in an effort to disqualify him from even playing outfield. He talked incessantly as though fascinated by the clicking of his own tongue. He preferred to stay indoors, watching the ebb and flow of people in the street, listening for the slow trickling of cars moving past. By age four he could name the make and model of every American car brand, could identify a good number of Japanese and European makes as well, yet had no answer when asked to name one team from the National League and one team from the American, despite constant coaching from his father. Mets or Yankees—what could be simpler?
Mathieu blamed his son’s poor conditioning on the climate in Connecticut, on the harsh winters, the abbreviated summers. Mathieu and his friends had spent their days on the beach climbing trees for fruit, searching mangrove roots for crabs and other small creatures, testing their worth against the will of the sea. Yet his adult steps in life became less sure, a man tasked with raising a son in a land foreign to him.
The following year another son came along stricken with a similar strain of physical ineptitude, a slow-footed playmate stuck behind the looking glass alongside his older brother, content to watch the world go by. Another spring training season came and went with Mathieu Sessions’s feet planted in dry dock at Electric Boat. A couple seasons in and interaction inside the Sessions household became limited to basic coexistence among relative strangers: eating together, sleeping underneath the same roof, otherwise failing to relate. Fly-paper was the only thing holding their family together.
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