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It's not that I couldn't talk to him, you know. It's not that I just wouldn't talk to him. It's not that he was mean or not understanding. It's not that he was cruel or unforgiving. It's not that he was someone I didn't care to know. It's not that he was in any way unloving toward me. He was one of the greatest people I've ever known. It's not that I didn't enjoy time with him, or that I didn't value his presence in my life. He was my father, after all.
I just didn't have anything to say.
Who said life is all guts and no glory? Who said it has to be dog eat dog and may the best man win and it's a jungle out there? Who said that we have to compete and get ahead and make sure no one gets one over on us? Who said there's no free lunch and you have to watch over your shoulder every damned minute? Who was it who said not to get mad, but get even? What was his name? Who was he? Who said that?
Well, Mr. Whoever-You-Were, thanks a lot. You practically ruined my life.
I stood on a cliff, looking at the eagles below, swirling and swooping, diving and screeching, and I longed to be one of them. I gazed through the morning mist, shuffling loose rocks beneath my feet, watching pebbles and dust fall into infinity over the sharp edge, seeing them cruise downward into nothingness. They vanished into silence and oblivion. I wondered if they ever hit the ground. If I went with them, I knew, I'd fall no faster or slower; I would just be another small pebble, another bit of dust cascading down the mountainside.
It wasn't such a stretch.
"So this is it, then?" I said.
"Yes," came the distant voice from the other end of the line.
"I don't know what to say."
"What is there TO say?"
A million thoughts flew through my head. How about I'm sorry? How about I'll miss you? How about I didn't want this to be? How about what the heck do you think you're doing? How about I never want to let you go? How about are you sure this is the right thing? How about I'll never forget you? How about I love you? How about…?
How about good-bye?
He swirled through the air, pirouetting with grace and beauty, turning the wind as his coat sailed behind him like ribbons on a breeze; he danced and spun in slow-motion, his feet never touching the ground, his lean body cutting through space in slow motion like a finely-honed blade; his bags followed him, drinks spraying mist all around him as we stood in wonder and awe, his colors blurring into a prism of art and visual flavor before he finally came to rest, just as the man stepped from the truck.
"Jesus Christ!" he said. "I never even saw him!"
Jason was a fine kid. He had many hobbies. He did his homework. He completed his chores. His mother would say, "We're so blessed to have an angel in our home." His father quite agreed. His pictures filled the hallway and dressed the living room. There's one with him and Sparky, a brown terrier with a shock of pink tongue.
Life was perfect, and his mother whistled as she bustled about, and she never knew of Jason's brand new hobby until she opened his closet one day and looked UP to see Sparky, a shockingly brown terrier, tongue and all.
When my mother died, there were 1,672 eggs set about her home. Some marble, some wooden, some painted, some encased in glass. Some bore pictures of Japanese villages and other various animals from the Chinese calendar. The horse, the dog, the rat, the pig. One was a gift from a special friend.
When my father died, there were 3,546 books scattered about his house. Many of them were on politics, government, military, war, and airplanes. Some of them were about famous generals. One was about infidelity.
I gave it all away. Every last bit. Who wants that kind of shit?
I wish I could remember things. It seems like I forget everything these days.
One day I was walking down the street, and I couldn't remember where I was going. I couldn't remember if it mattered. Was I going to do something important? I stood and tried to recall if this was a life or death thing. Should I go home? Should I wander about until it came to me? What if I never remembered? Would someone be hurt? Would this make me a bad person?
I stood for quite a while, and I…and I…
What was I talking about?
I have a twin brother. He looks just like me. At night he goes skulking about the neighborhood, peeping in windows and spying on the cute ones. It's a sickness, you know, and he can't help it. Late at night, I wake up and dogs are barking, and people are shouting, and my brother's running down the street, heading home. Everyone knows it's one of us that goes out every night; they all know it's either me or him, but they don't know which.
Which is cool.
Sometimes my brother stays home and lets me go out in his place.
He was very tall, very imposing, when he stepped from the lean, silver space craft and walked across the grass to where I was standing. He towered over me, his long, brown teeth, sharp and edged, dripping some kind of green fluid, and his hot breath steamed my face as he clenched and unclenched his taloned hands. He smelled foul and looked at me with threatening yellowed eyes, all three of which were focused on me like I was prey.
He actually rasped, "Take me to your leader."
So I shot him.
Who can take
kind of shit seriously?
My wife is a few inches taller than I. She helps me get things down from shelves sometimes, and I let her change light bulbs. I can hardly reach them. She's the one who hangs pictures while I stand back and say, "Right" or "Left" or "Up" or "Down." Out of deference, she never wears heels. I, however, wear lifts, which bring us nearly eye to eye.
But not quite.
So it may still be difficult to understand why, when one day I saw her held close in the arms of another man – a
man – it was oddly comforting.
The President of the United States stopped me in the hall the other day. He told me the media was snooping around. He said they were making the American people curious. He whispered to me that no one had done anything wrong, but it was very important to maintain a clean image in light of what had come before his administration. He leaned toward me, put a big, warm hand on my shoulder, and asked what I would do.
"Well, Mr. President," I said, "there's certainly nothing wrong with simply telling the truth."
And that's how I lost my job.
Wait a minute. You're standing in front of me right now asking why I won't marry you?
Well, there's Angie, Carla, Sammy, Deborah, Shirley, Shelly, Tia, Tiffany, Giselle, Brenda, Kathy, Lori, Suzanne, Dina, Jennifer, Michelle, Jade, Corrine, Kathleen, Katie, Peg, Emily, Lisa, Margie, Julie, Amy, Barbara, Andie, Star, Koo, Gracie, Jean, Regan, Cat, Charla, Elisha, Michelle (again), Connie, Cheri, Elaine, Rurie, Hope, Gloria, Candy, Lili, Jessica, Missy, Marcia, June, Liza, Patty, Sheila, Connie #2, Kay, Mariel, Marcy, Francie, Doreen, Renee, Brandy, Ming, Lisanne, Carrie, Gina, Penny, Lindy, and now you.
Do you have any other stupid questions for me today?
I found a four-leaf clover the other day. It was green and alive and symmetrical and perfect. It stood tall from the rest of the clover patch, and it seemed to sway in the gentle breeze. I looked at it for quite some time, and I thought of how fortunate I was to find this good omen. Surely now my luck would change. Surely now she would stay. Surely now my life as I knew it would not be over.
I bent over to pluck my fortune from the ground, and a bee stung me right in my fucking eye.
"What's your great talent?" I asked.
"I can tell how people are going to die," he said.
I chuckled. "Really? How do you do that?"
"I look inside their heads and hearts. It's all written down in there, for those who care to read."
"Okay," I said, looking at him with a casual smirk on my face, "how am I going to die?"
He paused for a second, seeming to look right through me. I almost wondered if he was going to respond at all. In short time his eyes refocused again, and he held my gaze.
"Alone," he said.
This thing is driving me blind. Every night I pump cathode rays into my head as I sit in a poorly built chair and hammer on keys, feeling the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. My eyes water, my back hurts, and my shoulder screams when I reach for the mouse. I should get up and walk around a bit, but I don't. I should take breaks, but I don't. I should sit here less, but I don't. I should get out and live a life.
But I don't.
What the…? Try the escape key.
Damn. Now I have to reboot.
The crazed old man staggered toward Jeffrey, calling to him. "Hey!" he shouted in a raspy and diseased voice. "Hey! Don't I know you? I think I know you!"
Jeffrey walked away quickly, pulling his jacket collar up around his neck. The smell drifted to him, the odor of rags, stale liquor, dirt, and ageless sweat. The gravel voice followed him around the corner: "Hey!"
The old man didn't get it, why Jeffrey ran from him every morning as he tried to get to work. "Christ," he thought as he reached his office, "why can't I have a normal father?"
Dim Partner, Home, Priorities, Family As Variant
Set Partner = Random(select)
Set Home = If Found() <> True Then
Set Priorities = circumstantial
Set family = IsNull
If Priorities(Partner) = Priorities(*) Then
While Not Divorce.EndofProcess
Set IsStable = False
Set module(control) = ""
Set VariantLove(decrease random)
String = "SELECT Values, Esteem, Balance From TablePsyche"
Set String.Fields = 0
String.Values = 0
String.Esteem = 0
String.Balance = 0
Set Connection = Nothing
Set Life = Nothing
Okay, here's the situation:
Me, fresh out of a horrifyingly bad relationship and the best man at my friend's wedding. The vows are being made, and everyone is teary-eyed and smiling, and I'm standing listening to the good minister thinking it's all just bullshit, you know, and right behind me, sitting in the third row, is a guy who calls himself Doc Blue, and who repeatedly slept with my ex while we were in the midst of breaking up. He doesn't know who I am, but I know who he is.
You think my collar wasn't just a tad tight?
The Chinese man came up to me. "Hi," he said, "I'm Harry Eng." "Eng?" I replied, smiling toothily. "Well, I guess 300 million Chinese can't be Wong." He stopped for a moment before breaking into a hearty laugh. Later, he walked up to me again. "I just wanted to let you know that I won't be at your next meeting, because it's on December 7, and that's Pearl Harbor Day." "Pearl Harbor?" I said, puzzled. "But that's Japanese, Harry. You're Chinese." "Yeah, but you guys can't tell the difference." This is why I thought it totally sucked when he died.
"Daddy, where did I come from?"
He coughed and looked at his six-year-old. He knew what the kid meant.
Long pause. "Ecuador," he finally said.
"Do all babies come from Ecuador?"
"Nooooo…some of them come from Finland."
The boy reflected on this. "Mommy told me that Daddies put stuff inside the Mommy, and it joins an egg inside, and that grows into a baby." His son waited patiently.
"Well," he eventually said, "those are the ones who don't have their visas. Run along now."
He made a mental note to have a serious discussion with his wife about proper child-rearing.
My best friend is a therapist. Sometimes I call him up in the middle of the night.
"I can't stand it," I say to him. "I think she's messing around on me."
"How does that make you feel?" he asks.
"Pretty lousy," I tell him, some anger in my voice. "She should be in bed with me right now."
"It is late isn't it?"
"Yes," I say, ignoring the hint. "I just can't get over this feeling that she's not being true to me."
"Why wouldn't she be?"
"I don't know. Why don't you ask her? She's your fucking wife."
Sometimes I think I live in a haunted house. On occasion, I see things. There are movements, wisps of cloudy white, the travelings of the no longer living, seeking something I know not what.
Sometimes I think I live in a haunted house. The past is old, but ever present. The odor is stale. Time moves slowly, if at all. There is a mood, a futility. There is a sadness.
Sometimes I think I live in a haunted house. Cobwebs rustle. I hear voices of despair. I grieve and don't know why.
Sometimes I think I am a haunted house.
He looked at me crossly through my open window. It was his job to do so. I searched for my badge as he stood, mountainous, not moving.
I finally found it in my jacket pocket. He held it under his flashlight, even though the bright lights of the guard booth gave more than enough illumination over his shoulder. Behind him, the sky was pink with new sunrise.
"Here you go," he said, surly. I took it from him and smiled weakly. "Thank you, sir," I said, as I started to pull away.
"Humph," he muttered. "Have an asshole day."
I stood on the train, not knowing what to do. All around, people crowded shoulder to shoulder in the massive freighter as we were hauled across town to the business district. The man kept fondling me, and I looked around, but there wasn't a way to even turn my body. I coughed, embarrassed.
He looked elsewhere, as if unaware of his hand's illicit activities. I tried to brush it away, but it was sly and dodged me, only to immediately light again in the same place.
I was embarrassed it was happening, yes, but even more by my raging erection.
Here's what I learned in school:
The Quadratic Equation
The Emancipation Proclamation
The state capitals
The difference between etymology and entomology
The commutative property of addition
Checks and balances in a democratic government
Who Booker T. Washington was
How to do compound multiplication
What 32 feet per second per second means
How to get A's without ever doing any homework
That people can be cruel
How to make a sea horse with a little wood and a thumbtack for the eye
What happened in the Gold Rush
The Periodic Table of Elements
Here's what I learned in life:
I've always wondered what happens when galaxies collide. Do they simply pass through each other, planets and stars never coming within millions of light-years of each other? Do they silently, perfectly go on their way?
Or is it a grand, cosmic, and explosive event, with bodies crashing against each other right and left, throwing debris across the heavens? Do stars fly head-on, spewing flame and gas for billions of miles, killing each other with all the force the universe can muster? Do the gods quake and shiver?
I've always wondered what happens when galaxies collide…right up until I met you.
She left so easily, her toes leaving the lawn, dress swirling, and she was rising above the hedges, the fence, the trees, and there was no fear, no room for fear, no reason for fear as the wind played her hair and she cast off her apron, freeing herself, and above the poles she gently soared and swayed, neighbors below, looking, pointing, hands to mouths, and she waved, smiled, mouthed "goodbye" and continued rising, and the last thing she heard was her husband, running down the street, sweating, panting, yelling as loudly as he could, "But, honey, what about DINNER?"
My wife's grandmother is dying. She lies in bed all day and stares at the ceiling. Her family feeds her when it's time, and then they sit in the other room and speak in hushed tones. She doesn't feel like reading. She doesn't care to listen to music. She doesn't want to watch TV. Just the ceiling.
My wife and I visited her the other day. We told stories and reminisced. She laughed. For two hours, this was the woman we'd always known. When we left, she was staring at the ceiling.
Sometimes it's not the cancer that's the problem.
Sometimes I look at the stars. There are worlds far way, I think, with people on them just like me. They breathe air like me. They look at the stars like me. Some of them may even look like me. I wonder if they mow their yards and talk to neighbors over the fence. I wonder if they drive little cars to grocery stores and shopping malls. I wonder if they curb their garbage once a week. I wonder if they work in jobs they hate and dream of murdering their boss with a butcher knife.
Maybe. Somewhere up there.
My mother was never satisfied, and my father gave himself to death. She wanted him to spend more time with the family, so he gave up fishing. She wanted him to make more money, so he gave up writing. She wanted him to pay more attention to her, so he gave up playing his small wooden guitar.
My grandmother once told me, sadly, when I was a little boy, "We are all less than we could be. Your father has never reconciled himself to that."
I didn't know what she meant. I couldn't know what she meant.
Until just now.
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