At the far end of the Mexican restaurant just off the highway in a Dallas suburb, he slides into a booth.

“I could still do it,” Rafael Palmeiro says. “If I had to play a full season, I could probably hit .270, with 25 home runs. It’s between the ears, man.”

The restaurant is half-full for lunch, and the pop music on the speakers drowns out any noise. A lanky, 30-something waiter comes by every five minutes, pauses and asks if he wants water, or if he’s OK. Each time the waiter leaves, he glances back at Palmeiro.

It’s awkward, but it's not quite celebrity gawking -- he doesn’t want a photo. His curiosity is more academic. He studies him. He knows this man, of course. We all do. He was once a sure-fire baseball Hall of Famer. Now the waiter is attempting to fold together the two defining points in this man’s life and make sense of it -- the 500th home run followed by his name stamped onto the wall in what was then called the Ballpark in Arlington a few miles down the road, and the announcement he was a cheater two years later.

Palmeiro smiles politely. For nearly 11 years, besides the occasional phone interview and a documentary produced about his college baseball team, he’s disappeared from public life. But now he wants to empty his soul. When the waiter leaves he turns his shoulders to face me.

“This isn’t how I envisioned my life to be.”