My eyes stung, cheeks sticky and wet. Throat raw, fingers shaking, breathing shallow: I looked like the picture of perfection. A breakdown in the middle of campus was pretty amusing, I guess, if the people passing by the girl under the oak tree and giggling said anything.

I don't understand why someone would laugh at a crying girl under the big oak tree on campus, as opposed to actually stopping and helping, but humans will be humans. They all probably thought I was crying about a breakup with my boyfriend.

Which, while not entirely true, wasn't as far from the truth as it seemed. When your team gets knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, twenty-five separate men, plus coaches and owners, break your heart. And, after a six month long season, not even including spring training or the post-season, you do sort of form a relationship with each of the men. So, in a way, my heart was broken by a male, and more than one male. My heart was broken by more than twenty-five individuals on a team that was expected to go all the way to the World Series and win it.

But, unfortunately, you can't predict baseball and you can't predict life. If I had any dignity left, I probably wouldn't be sitting under the oak tree and bawling on campus. Guess I'm pathetic.

According to my friends and family I am, at least. "Oh, please, it's baseball," my brother told me, before yelling at his football team for fumbling the ball on the television. "Sports aren't real life. You moron! What the hell did you just do? Get the fuck out of the game!"

"They're just going through hard times," my mom said, laughing. "It'll get better."

"It hasn't gotten better, not since 2000."

"Six years?" She sounded shocked.

"They've gone to the post-season every year for six years straight and they haven't done a thing."

Even my youth leader, someone who should have been the soul of compassion, had to laugh at my plight. "I feel really bad about having to laugh at you, Dara, I really do."

"They're turning into the Braves, Matt! The Braves!"

"I know, and I'm glad! You know why? Because Yankees fans laughed at the Braves!"

"I laughed at them, Matt," I said pathetically. "I laughed."

"And now it's coming back to bite you in the butt!"

An Atlanta Braves fan would enjoy my plight, I suppose.

Everyone that I told had some smart aleck comment, sometimes about taking me to see a psychiatrist, which I suppose wouldn't be too bad of an idea. I'd like to have someone to vent my feelings to and, hopefully, someone that cares about baseball as much as I do. Someone who's heart breaks when their team loses. Someone who cries when their team has an early exit from the playoffs. Someone that fails to exist without their team.

Someone that would be willing to sit under an oak tree on their college campus and cry, while everyone watched and laughed.

Some of the people laughing at me I knew, but most I didn't. That wasn't surprising. Maybe I'd make more friends if I didn't spend my life crying about my sports teams, but that was only what other people told me. I doubted the truth to that statement. I didn't go to frat parties and I didn't go to the bars. I'd rather stay in my room, reading or watching a game. It was that simple.

All of my friends had left for the three day weekend, anyway. I'm not sure why, but apparently three days is great when you're homesick. I didn't have anyone left on campus, which is why it shocked me when someone began walking in my general direction.

The oak tree is on a little hill, almost like a pedestal. By sitting under it, I was condemning myself to the wrath of all the people that were paying any attention, because there was no way to miss me. Therefore, I also knew if someone was heading straight toward me, and this man certainly was.

I'd seen him around campus, but I never had any solid contact with him. Apparently, he was a pre-med major that doubled as a musician on the weekends. I wasn't sure how he would ever get into med school without studying his entire life, but if what he was doing worked for him, who was I to judge? His sandy blonde hair moved with the wind and seemed to glow as the sun glared down on it. He was bundled up in a school hoodie, a show of school spirit, I guess, and a smile graced his face. I was still staring at him as he plopped down beside me.


I didn't respond right away. How could someone I didn't even know plop down next to me and say something as simple as "hey"? I didn't even know his name for God's sake!

"Hey." It was said quietly, without much conviction.

We were both silent for a few minutes, sitting and watching the crowds move below the oak tree. We probably looked like a sight-- me with my puffy red face and he with his hood up around his tanned face, just sitting there, not saying a word. Simply sitting.

I wasn't sure how much time passed between us, not saying anything. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. The wind whipped around us, biting into me, but I wouldn't say a word. I could have sat there all day.

Suddenly, the boy got up, surprising me as he did so. He crawled over to me on his knees before reaching his arms around me and holding me in a tight embrace, not letting go, even after five seconds. He held on long enough that I finally put my mittened hands around his body, returning the hug, savoring his comfort. He felt warm, comforting, secure-- everything I needed. My throat began to close up again, and I felt tears returning to my eyes.

Eventually, he pulled back and wiped the tears from my cheeks, smiling gently. I struggled to get my breathing under control, wondering why he did that; he didn't know my story. He didn't even know who I was.

We were quiet again, but only for a few minutes, as I felt need to break the silence that engulfed us.

"You hugged me."

He nodded. "I hugged you."

I stared at him. "Why?"

He shrugged. "You looked like you needed a hug."

At that very moment, I fell in love.