The past consumes lives with the sympathy of a hurricane. Jaime Silla was one of those casualties. The cliché story of what would have been, what could have been, manifests itself in his pathetic life. It is truly a tragedy, the same one told over and over in small town bars and civic clubs, the town hero who almost made it. But almost counts for nothing. Not one fucking thing. At the point that I met the beaten down old man, there was nothing left to tell. At least nothing that hadn't been told five hundred times before; the glory which never was.
If one were to encounter Mr. Silla at the town diner where he had breakfast religiously for twenty-five plus years, they were to hear the stories of the minors, the women, the hotel rooms, and the time he took Hall of Famer Tom Seaver deep. He would sip his coffee black and stuff his face with bacon, pancakes, and eggs all doused with syrup for the duration of his tales. The syrup would drip down onto his already stained white t-shirt, but the joy that he experienced from story time allowed the trivial matter of appearance to slip his mind. It was either that or the fifth of Jack Daniels he had for dinner the night before. Maybe a combination of both. Regardless, the stories were almost enjoyable the first thirty five times one heard them, sans the particles of egg flying out his mouth when he got to the really good parts. I would eat breakfast at that diner every Saturday and listen to Jaime's stories, and I learned a great deal in the process. But there was a certain haunting quality to his stories, one that scared the living shit out of me, because I knew the slobbish looking old man before me had once had the world wrapped around his finger, and he was now the butt of every joke in town.
I assume people that had known Jaime his whole life felt a certain poetic justice in the fact that his life after age twenty four had gone to shambles. After being cut from the White Sox organization following four years of service, Jaime returned to his home town of Chesterfield ashamed. He felt like he had disappointed everyone who had every believed in him and simultaneously validated the opinion of every critic or enemy. From that point on, his dreams of greatness had been reduced to stocking Campbell's soup and unloading shipments of Coca Cola at the town grocery. He sat across from me at age 67, and I felt like the young man who he spoke of had been dead for forty years.
The only point of the day that Jaime looked alive was when he would talk about who he was or when he would consume enough alcohol to kill a small pirate ship. During these points, he would pull out a plastic pouch of Levi Garrett and stuff handfuls of shredded leaf tobacco into his decaying mouth, pushed behind the stained teeth. A forceful spat would follow this action and one could tell that Jaime felt as though he was about to step into the batter's box. But he wasn't. And as I listened to the old man, I couldn't help but feel joy and pain that one man had actually lived a tragedy his entire life. Broken dreams and hopelessness epitomized his existence. And every Saturday morning, I never could quite finish my breakfast.