BY AMY KENYON
This essay is part of the Great Lakes Review’s Narrative Map project.
In an unknown world at the edge of Detroit, there is a green diamond ablaze beneath the sky. We, the young ones in this place of little pattern houses, call it the Lighted Field. Year after year, grasping at childhood, we ride our bikes with streamers on our handlebars, whooshing down Maplewood. Meet me at the Lighted Field, we say. Game or no game. Night or blinding summer day when the sun extinguishes the fierce electric lights. Meet me at the Lighted Field.
But this night, this 1969 night, burns brighter than sunlight. Sears my memory. Mosquitoes fry high above the infield on white-hot bulbs. Dust flies after base runners. Crowded feet in sandals and sneakers dangle between rows of bleacher seats. Bats pop. Popsicles melt. Top of the ninth. You and I make out behind the clubhouse at the Lighted Field. We run before the inning ends. To Canada.
Soon, your draft notice will land in the family mailbox, but find no soldier boy there to enlist, because of small acts across our childhood years. Chase games, hiding games. A red crayon Valentine slipped through your locker door. Secrets. Blushes. Whispering, camping in the backyard, our homemade tent cloaked in suburban sprawl. Beach towels and transistor radios at the lake. Warm sand coating our skin. Until tonight’s game. Wet, frightened adolescent kisses send us flying for your life. All the way to downtown Detroit in your old Ford, along Michigan Avenue, past the big stadium aglow, right turn to the River, through the Windsor Tunnel and out the other side.
Top of the ninth. Years too late. A summer afternoon, I park my car on Hartel and find a place on the bleachers at the Lighted Field, baking my bare, outstretched legs in the sun. Unknown, unknowable world at the edge of Detroit. There is the clubhouse where you and I used to hide and scheme and make out. Then you went to Vietnam.
No one recognizes me anymore. I watch the game. Until the day of my own death far from this place, if my old mind flickers to the green diamond beneath hot sun or beneath tall electric lights and black sky; or if the words, Lighted Field, flash and then go dark, then one last time, my heart will race and my throat tighten with grief.
A historian, writer and photographer, Amy Kenyon was born in Dearborn, Michigan and spent her childhood in suburban Detroit. She is the author of Dreaming Suburbia (Wayne State University Press) and Ford Road (University o Michigan Press).