I am sitting in a bar called The Treehouse in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, drinking beers with a guy I met on OKCupid. This is where we had our first date, but now, a month later, we're on date I-lost-count, & we've taken a $13 Uber here so we can both have more than a few PBRs in a can while we watch the Cavs dominate (please, please, please) the Hawks in game three.
We talk through most of the game, distracted by the company, but in the last seven minutes of this battle for game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, we turn our attention back to LeBron & the boys. The bar filled up while we weren't paying attention, & it's now teeming with Clevelanders donning their wine & gold, all eyes turned toward the TV mounted in the corner. We were lucky to have arrived early enough to score prime seats at the bar in what has become a standing-room-only space.
Watching the TV intently, some girl has her arm draped over the back of my chair, & I accidentally knock it off when I swivel for a better view of the screen. "I'm so sorry!" we exclaim in unison, laughing & giving each other the go-ahead to claim the spot. It is a comedy of polite errors, each of us out-friendlying the other. "You & that girl are exactly the same person," my date laughs, "so you should probably be friends with her." I look around the bar & think of all the people here who are like me, like us - gritty, gregarious Midwesterners with nasally A's who say "pop" instead of "soda" & wear their love of their state on their sleeve, often literally. (Truly, I've never seen a city full of so many people wearing hometown swag on an everyday basis - not just on game days.)
The end of this game is getting tense, & there is shouting, the bad kind, after a missed basket. There is hand-wringing & mouth-covering & profanity-muttering as, for a moment or two, the game becomes close & it looks like the Cavs might not pull it off - you know, as is customary. Briefly, I wonder what it will be like to be in a bar full of hopeful Clevelanders during a big loss, to start to grumble, "Hey, maybe next year" before this year has even finished; that's what we do, after all. But then, in the very last seconds of the game, there is victory. There is yelling & cheering & clapping & toasting & high-fiving with strangers.
And it is in this moment, surrounded by strangers & drunk on possibilities & PBR, that I realize: To be at a bar in Cleveland for a major Cavs win is the best possible reminder that home is exactly where I'm supposed to be, where I'm supposed to go, where I always knew I would end up. We call this "witnessing," but I guess you probably just call it "winning." And whether the Cavs do it this time or not, I feel like I already have.