A Good Hurt

David Bersell


The night I met Katie, at a college party, she lifted up her shirt to her ribs and showed me the Boston Red Sox tattoo on her side. The red B pulsed, outlined by navy and the super white of fresh paper. American flag snapping. The elements of our bodies.

She said her father took her to games at Fenway Park when she was a child.

She had a cardboard cutout of her favorite player, David Ortiz, in her living room and wore t-shirts with names and numbers on the back, and we drank beers in front of the TV, we were so shy, and sometimes we drank too much and sometimes we lied, but in the morning we walked her dog to the river, the wet sand, and took turns throwing the tennis ball as far as we could until our shoulders ached, like that time my brother and I cleaned up all the fallen crabapples that had rotted behind our house by heaving them at the tree line, and we heard the fruit pop against the bark and saw the pulp explode and cut like light.

It was fall, my first time, and I held myself over Katie, my forearms shaking, the sheets damp in their coolness. In the dark, her tattoo glowed slick, red, white, and blue, and I told myself she loved baseball and even though I no longer cared about sports, I could remember. I could learn to love her because we knew how to follow the flash off the crack of the bat and how games could go on forever and balls and strikes led to outs and who won and who lost. I knew it was a young ecstatic thought, but I wanted it more than anything.

My father brought me to Fenway, too.

My shoulders throbbed as I brought my face to hers and said okay. We were a boat untethered. We were cotton candy, a toothache, a good hurt. The light spread from her side to the edge of the bed and the carpet and rose up the walls like morning. I reached out my hand to catch it, to make it real.


David Bersell’s essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Carolina Review, The Rumpus and more.