As a child, my father would take me and my brother out to play catch and sometimes baseball in the backyard of our house or in a park. Having suffered at least one black eye from poor catching technique, I was never excited to be in the outfield. Paul, my (younger) brother, also made fun of my batting. I had and still have poor timing. My father would jokingly wind-up his pitch and slowly underarm the softball towards me. Scared, I treated the bat as if it were a large tree I could hide behind. "Now!" he'd yell to help me time my swing. But the reaction time was always slow, and I'd make a gesture that was more closely related to a ballet arabesque than any kid on a little league t-ball team.
It started out this way most of the time we played. I would try hit anything besides just the air (and to no avail) for so long that eventually the tears would inevitably spew forth. My cheeks burned red and my face blotched. I shook with frustration and pursed my lips. I didn't feel like crying, but I really wanted to scream. I got mad. If I had possessed a wider vocabulary of swear words, I would have silently called them at my father and brother. Instead, an inner rage overcame me, and it built up slowly, from the very edges of my toes to the tip of the bat. Suddenly, the softball was no longer a ball. On it, I envisioned my father's face. Or my brother's. Or, if my mother had made me mad, it was hers. Or maybe it was a bully at school. It was never always one person, but the more vivid the face on the ball, the more likely I was to hit it out of the park, or at least just beyond the backyard fence. Rather than remaining a girl-child-slug of helplessness, sweet little Sarah was overcome with an endless spout of bottled-up aggression. Afterwards, I was always exhausted. I never necessarily felt better about baseball, but I certainly felt lighter and a little relieved.