The Team of Disappointing Men
by Michael Brockley
At the misfits’ lunch table at your professional development conference, you introduce yourself to a man who grew up in a dozen American cities and a woman who earned All-State honors as a field hockey striker in Ohio. Over appetizers your group steers the conversation toward a lament about disappointing teams. The Mets, says the traveling man. You offer the woeful Reds. She cuts her vegan lasagna into bite-sized cubes. Studies the afternoon schedule, choosing between this year’s empowerment lecture and a PowerPoint on malingering.
You never called the women you met at a restaurant named for a lazy cartoon cat after you promised them you would. Once stood up a blind date to take her best friend to hear Juice Newton moan Angel of the Morning at the Key Palace Theater to a crowd reliving one-night stands from thirty years ago. But the striker slices through a sorrow more grief than grievance; a noxious cocktail of emailed erection snapshots and Instagram betrayals. Like the youth pastor who slaps a newswoman’s butt as he jogs past her during a benefit race for a battered women’s shelter. Like the man who awakens his stepdaughter to roll her over into yet another depthless night.
For decades, you’ve ridden the bench on a team of disappointing men, making yourself invaluable for all the positions you can play. Always eager with a chuckle or a nod to hear how another woman breaks down. Like the striker at our table cutting her lasagna. She never looks up. Says Men. Men. A man from your team left the dark silences that shadow the striker’s eyes. A man very much like you.
Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Panophyzine, New Verse News, and Flying Island.