Another sixteen year old summer day,
they're waiting for me
in Levis and white high tops
down at King George Pizza.
I took a little too much time
choosing between two white tee shirts,
both are stained, I was deciding
which one's stains looked cooler.
But there's no such thing
as "fashionably late"
when it comes to drinking beer,
so I'm in a hurry.
I descend the flight of stairs
from my room to the living room
in what seems a single step.
I pass Mom in the kitchen as she attends
to her domestic obligations.
Past the AM radio's scratchy voice,
another pre-indicted evangelist who spends
eleven of his fifteen minutes raising funds
to support his vital radio ministry.
Black Sabbath still fresh in my ears
I wonder if there is any point
in struggling for moral certitudes,
anyway I've got no time for them now,
the beer isn't getting any colder.
Through the den and out the backdoor,
the screen door slamming hard behind me
as the sweet warm air jars
my still half conscious brain.
I cross the backyard grass en route
to the driveway, then freedom from even
the possibility of parental intervention.
The old garage, still under construction,
has become the latest in a series of
my father's unfinished projects.
At every turn in the house there is
another monument to my father's waning interest.
I hit the driveway and am as good as gone
when something catches me like an unnoticed clothes line.
It's not loud, could have easily been missed
or left unheard if there were any other sounds
competing for its space, but in that concentrated silence
I do hear it. A hissing, a sharp high pitched hissing,
like letting the air out of a tire or something.
I don't know what I find so offensive about it,
it just gives me the strange sense of
the inappropriate, that something is wrong.
I stop and turn to face the black and white garage door,
standing there in a moment of suspended time,
feeling every thought slowly draining from my head,
I try to convince my hand to grasp the door's handle.
Like some cheesy airport suspense novel,everything predictable,
no real surprises, but that doesn't make the lifting any easier,
then again I haven't a clue as to the source of the hissing.
As the door reaches knee height an odor as piercing
as the sound itself corrupts the pleasant pollen filled air,
another piece falls in place.
I suddenly feel detached from my life,
from myself, from the very moment in which
I stand, like a switch has been thrown
putting me in emotional "stand-by".
I continue to lift the door until it is fully opened,
exposing a scene never intended for the eyes
of sixteen year old sons.
In a green metal lawn chair is my father
slumped over in a puddle of his own dignity,
barely breathing, his eyes an unnatural shade of pink,
focused on nothing that my eyes can see.
The healthy summer air rushes in
like a highly trained EMS squad
instantly resuscitating its patient,
as I stand only an observer, feeling
I have the bizarre sensation that I might be
seeing my own reflection as in a distorted
carnival mirror in some imagined house of horrors,
but quickly shake these kinds of thoughts from my mind,
only to face a far more frightening realization.
That life can crush us, as it has my father,
that our own dreams destroy us, and that life leads us,
no matter what we do, sooner or later,
to that rusting green chair.
It has beaten my 240 lb. blue collar father,
what will I do when it comes for me.
I turn away from all of this trouble,
thinking perhaps this is the dream
from which we all will wake.
I walk quickly back down the driveway
calling into the kitchen window,
"Ma, call an ambulance Dad's killing himself again",
then continue down the driveway, thinking only
of how late I now am.
For a moment I consider my gross indifference
to this tragedy, how shockingly callous I have become,
but by opening that door I saved my father's life.
How many days do you save a person's life,
I was a hero, and every hero deserves a few beers.
Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it. -Ezra Pound