Damn Yankees

20070221yankees.jpg
Rodriguez and Jeter in better times, spring training last year. Photo: AP


This week's revelation that Derek Jeter and A-Rod are no longer BFF has thrown New Yorkers into a collective inner turmoil unseen since the darkest days of the transit strike. Although the relationship's psychological subtleties have been parsed exhaustively across the nation's sports pages, much of the city remains confused and distracted. In an effort to facilitate some kind of public catharsis — and, frankly, to explore our own emotions on the subject — we'd like to offer a one-act play, Joe Torre's Come and Gone. It's after the jump.

Yankee Stadium locker room, midday. DEREK sits on a watercooler, picking grass out of his cleats. His eyes seem plunged into the dark waters of the past. ALEX enters stage left, wearing only a bath towel and whistling the theme from Madame Butterfly. He stops abruptly when he sees DEREK.

ALEX
[Trying to sound casual.] The wind was tough out there today.

DEREK
Yeah.

ALEX
I mean, I thought that pop-up was coming right at me, so I was like "Mine!" But then it started drifting over your way and you were all "I got it," and then … [His voice trails off; he raises the towel to his eyes.] And then, well, you caught it.

[A long silence passes. Derek cleans his shoes, Alex towels his bangs.]

ALEX
It was a nice play, Derek. That's all I'm trying to say.

DEREK
Thank you.

[Another long silence.]

ALEX
Why do you feel so far away from me? It's like, ever since —

DEREK
Alex, I can't do this now.

ALEX
You never sing to me the way you used to.

DEREK
We have a job to do, Alex. I'm trying to focus. It isn't 1996 anymore.

ALEX
Oh, why can't I be a championship, so you could focus on me!

[A wounded silence.]

DEREK
It's never been that simple, and you know it.

ALEX
Then just tell me one thing. Do you remember, Derek — [he breaks off, overwhelmed] do you remember the way we ran into each other during that pop-up last season?

DEREK
Yes. [In truth, Derek has thought of little else since. He closes his eyes briefly and continues to clean his cleats until, in a sudden rush, Alex kneels in front of him and seizes his hands. Derek averts his eyes, but soon returns Alex's gaze with feeling.]

ALEX
After the ball skipped off of my glove and into the dirt, you gave me this look, right there in front of everybody. It was devastating. But at the same time it was so fierce, so real. Even through your anger — [a pained chuckle escapes his lips] hell, probably because of your anger — it felt like you were really seeing me. For the first time in years, it was like you actually saw me. Not the contract, not the endorsements, not the postseason strikeouts. Me. And I could tell we were both, for that moment, both just present together, you know? Really just existing in the same space, in the purity of our anger, our hearts, our fear. The way we used to, during the sleepovers, when you'd comfort me after a nightmare. And it just made me feel so — it just made me …

DEREK
[With new warmth.] Feel my trust, Alex. Feel my trust, and speak your need.

ALEX
So full.

DEREK
Alex, there is a kind of bird, a species in Africa that —

ALEX
[Puts his finger to Derek's mouth.] No! Don't!

DEREK
[Turning away.] Please, I must. I need you to understand. This bird, it drinks the nectar of the sacred Andubu flower. And every year when the elders of Kenya make their holy pilgrimage to harvest the flower after the great rains, the birds rise from those fields in large colorful waves — until the sky is bursting and trembling with indigo and scarlet, turquoise and gold, and the chorus of birdsong is deafening. The Kenyans call this moment "the twilight of the soul," and it is said that soul mates around the world, alive or dead, sing to each other in the language of that birdsong.

ALEX
[Weeping openly now.] Sing it to me, Derek.

DEREK
I'm already singing it, Alex. I've been singing it since the moment we met. You just haven't allowed yourself to hear it.

[They reach for each other's hands. Just then, footsteps approach from the direction of Joe Torre's office. Alex hurries back to his locker and dabs the towel at his eyes. Derek continues to clean his cleats — though they've been spotless now for twenty minutes. In the distance, a bird sings on the infield.]

The curtain falls.
Sam Anderson