MEMORIES ARE THE COMPASSES THAT CHASE US AROUND
It is really, really late and a work night and I haven’t even been feeling unwell. Lights are dim. Colors soft. But then I feel it, again. What, I am not sure really: that kind of feeling you get that is tight and heavy but imprecise and unlovely—that feeling like the stick of a pail you’re trying to wind up. And why and what caused it, this feeling to go off? I am not sure exactly. Things are set-off in us all the time, really. So many associations that run us like batteries buried in the backs of our bodies. Alkaline and suppression, then.
And I say suppression because that’s all you can do with certain things that are seen— these things unlike recipes from which composition, digestion occurs. So what to do with such information? Such sights?
I know. Hang it like a star in the foci of your soul-place. Pray to let it wheeze out despite the fact you tucked it in the spot you trust to keep the trust up. But of course it won’t fade as it is so goddamn undying. Always shining, then, (these things you’ve seen), when you least expect it. Cued like a bitch, for instance, by such innocuous signals as tints of color and effects of light. Like now, per the red wall in the living room sliced by the lamp’s shadow, per this, I know: in me is a place I can not comfort. That I can not make nice. I mean, when a man slips silently into whatever accident has made him open—and has made his eyes taped sideways, and strict. And then you are made to see it…
Well, the case could be made just fine then that the only acknowledgment of it all was you. To make loneliness nothing. But terrible instead.
As a kid in our yard behind our house in the city I remember the Labor Day weekends. How the pre-fall summer sat so clear with its temperateness—that sky so great and blue with an expanse holding birds like hands holding peas. The city air shows were that weekend, and we lived near the lake. So each year we had a show in our own backyard. With the mechanical expressions of Blue Angels flying sharp and low, their sounds tailing behind them to give the auditory illusion of torn paper if it was bottled up and amped before being let out to scream. And while beautiful—the precision, this power—I was more than tinily afraid of the noises. And it was then that I’d look for him, for reassurance—a sign it was okay—and there he’d be on the porch looking up smiling at the force overhead. His face made because of reasons similar to the relief I got by finding him there.
But he wasn’t always there. No one is. Rather, he was off a lot. Preoccupied. Like this usually: sitting at the kitchen table, in the dark, his fingers like curled worms around the High Life he raised as rigidly as a slow oil pump pumping. And what he was chewing on I’ll never know, as he didn’t much express himself when like this. Sure, he’d be muttering, negotiating: with his lips moving, and his head either nodding or not concurring with something that’d been stuck inside to grow like a shadow over a long extended casting. But it was all on the inside—this thing. And it took him away like water grabbing tree pieces. So much so, I’d often look at him during these times knowing he wouldn’t notice; yet still, watching only from the corner of my eye so as if to protect myself from the acknowledgment if he somehow did. Growing, then, is hard on those growing up. If only because we increasingly see what we didn’t want to—all along feeling as children through the face of our fathers what it would be like as we got older…
He and I went to a baseball game earlier. It was the Indians versus the Red Sox with Roger Clemens on the mound. I remember a Sox player hitting an opposite field liner to right, and an Indian—Dion James—running toward the right field line to make the headfirst catch. The few fans in the old huge stadium stood to clap, and make echoes. Not only because of the actual play, but also, more generally, because of the history of the ball field that lay spread out before us. In fact we all came to strengthen our pastimes, securing us before leaving. Meanwhile, the sun in the air was so bright it shaved the blue off the sky.
They lost 8-2. We didn't stay for the end. He died somewhere around the eighth inning when we weren’t around to see it.
But still, it is not as hard as you’d think to become a man without your father. The path is simple really: you don’t bitch, and you don’t moan about it—and whatever shit and/or hope you have left you just let it rumble undifferentiated under the cover of no one around. And then in that emptiness the fantasies fill in quickly—like the pretending nothing really happened, and that nothing hurts. And as you lay your head out near the night window struck through with city light, you quietly tuck the freeform of stars behind that memory of them whistling out of your eyes and into your reality.
Convention, then, is the path you hope settles when you wake up each morning for the next seventeen years. Within which men become butchers and cops and workers in black boxes melting metal into tubes that thicken the sky with a paramount of importance. Yet it is not simply what we know, rather what is filled within us by what we see before turning away from. And then there’s nothing to do in the meantime but live and bring home the bacon and eat it under lights. And near the steam of our coffee that we sip black to wake us stronger, and pointier. All the while getting cloggy and edgy.
And then eventually that hum we hear is nothing but what is coming up ahead even though we busy ourselves enough to pretend it is back there. And though it is, back there—that pure stone of being crushed so good that nothing in the world could break it down soft—it is here also, creating hints as it rubs and scrapes against the flow of love and will and life.
And so per the red wall in the living room I am led to think of him. Remember him. To see his face up at a sky holding birds gliding quietly between the spaces of the jets roaring. And the memory leads me not to cry, but to hold nothing less than that unmuscled fight I must sustain to not so much recognize what’s gone as opposed to where I cannot be headed.