Test 3, Day 2

South Africa 126 for 8 (Bavuma 34*, Morkel 2*, Roland-Jones 4-39) trail England 353 (Stokes 112, Cook 88) by 227 runs

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After graduating from high school I moved to Tucson, Ariz. where I slept on a couch in a one bedroom apartment for 10 months. I smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey and I was broke and I never did laundry and the apartment was a pit. I was also lonely and homesick a lot. And on the hot days the air was thin and trying to breath was like slipping on ice. But despite all that I loved my time in the desert, there at the bottom of the world. The smell of baking pavement, the cool evenings, the rainstorms that would flood the streets, the purple sunsets over the mountains, drinking coffee in the shade on warm desert mornings.

One night in January my mother called me at our apartment. My mother never called me. I figured it was bad news. But it wasn’t. She was calling to tell me that my sister was getting married the following Christmas. To a Scottish guy. Whom she had met on the internet at a time when such a thing was not socially acceptable. I was flabbergasted and a little excited and I asked for her phone number so I could call her and give her a hard time. I never did so.

In the spring I came home to Minnesota and worked at a grocery store and started college in the fall, moving to tiny studio apartment in downtown Minneapolis. It was a lonely, dark time. And I was looking forward to the wedding in December, to being part of such a celebratory event.

Two days before Christmas my future brother-in-law and his entire family (mom, dad, brother and sister) flew in from Scotland and stayed at my mother’s house. I ducked in and out of the action as best I could, as I didn’t have a car and it was a long bus ride out to Bloomington where they were staying. I was there for the groom’s dinner though. The house was full and happy and there was lots of laughter. I felt outside of all of it, but I also took comfort in my sister’s happiness.

The wedding night came and I shaved and got my hair cut and put on a poor fitting suit and rode to the church with my grandparents. The Scottish guys wore kilts and drank little bottles of booze and they were way cooler than I could ever hope to be.

I took my seat and stood as my sister and my grandfather walked down the aisle together. In America it is tradition for the groom to stand at the altar while the bride is walked down by her father, but in this case since our father had passed my grandfather walked her down the aisle instead. As this was happening I thought about the day my father died. My mother told us kids in a little brown room in the bowels of Regions Hospital in St. Paul. As we were absorbing the shocking news my sister lamented that our father wouldn’t be around to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. I thought at the time that that was an odd thing to be concerned about it. But it popped it my head as she walked down the aisle, all smiles and joy and white. And I started to think about growing up with my sister. Living across the hall from her for 16 summers and 16 falls. Countless dinners, breakfasts. All those Christmas mornings, all those moves across the country, all those nights in front of the television, laughing. The milkshakes on Friday nights. The trips to the upper peninsula of Michigan, feeding the ducks on the lake. All those happy little moments when we were just another midwestern family before our dad died and we were happy and sheltered and young and safe. And I started to cry a little. Right there in the church. My sister was grown up. Which meant I was too. Childhood was over. Forever. The door was closed.

After the family everyone walked through the receiving line and I was still crying and the woman next to me said out loud “oh, you made him cry!” and she probably thought I was crying out of happiness like people do at weddings but really I was crying out of a deep sadness. Sadness over the realization that you can’t go home again. That something really important had ended. That the world had lurched sideways, and would stay there, for good, and never go back to how it was.

The reception was held in the Church too, and I was given champagne to toast with even though I was not old enough to drink. I drank my quickly and asked the server for more but she said one was all she could give me. I went and complained to my sister and she got up from the head table, walked over to my table, and gave me an entire bottle of champagne.

There were speeches and dinner and then dancing. I asked my sister to dance with me after I’d had enough champagne to get over the embarrassment of dancing with my sister. I led her up the dance floor and the song started up. It was Nat King Cole’s version of “Unforgettable.”

Unforgettable, that’s what you are …

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