The Question

My father, his mouth, agape, his jaw slack, is just as spry as the day I met him. Which was about a week ago. Over the phone. This is the first time I’ve laid  eyes on him. His head looks like an aged pear, weathered and bruised,and topped with occasional tufts of brown locks, mostly above his forehead and below his nose. A bit of bloody steak, hoisted upon his tongue, the vessel of flavor towards the edge, there’s bits of lettuce and bristle stuck between his teeth, augmenting the whole view, it looks like the ivy at Wrigley. He closes his lips, filled with divots and drags, and presses his gum’s upon the inside of his lip, pushing each pinch and pouch upon the surface of his tongue, he is extracting every bit of flavor from the cow, as if he went into the kill-floor himself.  He smiles in there as he approaches the cow, like it was his own cow, Bessie, cherished, and relishing when the blood met his gloved fingers. That is how my father eats steak.

His nose stands like a monolith, a mecca for all the other facial features to pray towards. His beady eyes are distanced by this protruding and unfortunate of features, he looks like a toucan mixed with a vulture, thin, bulbous and harvesting. His other features aren’t quite so large, maybe their normalcy exaggerates the nose. I think it’s because his hair looks like hair, his ears look like ears, and his chin is  non-descript, plain and ending.

His eyes aren’t  unique, but merely provide his face with a deepening quality. They exude complete patience and control. Anything unplanned or unexpected couldn’t startle them, much less make them blink. He must’ve been a terror on the courtroom.  Which would explain the size and quality of his house. His garage is about the size of my condo.  And I can’t tell if that is a compliment or an insult yet.

Personally, I haven’t seen anyone age, so I’m not quite sure where he’s at in the process, and whether or not this is good or bad, for someone nearly seventy years old. He pushes his plate and napkin aside, and waves for his  servant, a slim and immediate man who also has a protruding bulge himself, his streak emerges from the middle of his back rather than the middle of his face, and he is a hunchback by any classical or realistic definition. I’ve made a note not to stare at his severe kyphosis.

Vlash functions as a victim of his body, a concept his master could never quite understand. From this first encounter I have come to believe that he actively commands and dictates with his inner voice the actions of each his organs, that they consult with some small place in his brain, I guess you could call it a liaison, regarding whether it is acceptable to secrete this fluid, or mingle with this blood pathogen or germ or whatever it is that moves around in our organs. They are truly his, and not just a part of him. But now, he may be yielding this control, because his body seems to be catching up with the indeterminable distance set by his age. He has graying, but not thinning hair. He sometimes complains about certain joints or organs that are giving him trouble, often preceded with an empathetic expletive. He uses a cane, but this is uncommon, and private and painful, and only among those we would classify as his “Circle of Trust.” I’m not sure if I am one of these people yet. The cane is more of a rumor than a fact to me right now, I spotted it in the back of the closet, I only knew to look for it due to information from secretive and confidential telephone conversations with his butler, who is very polite and of Nordic heritage and surprising with his ease to share usually secretive information. Expectations only lead to confusion, the ancestor of disappointment.

His age is merely a number, an illusion, an impression. Just as his skin is just an appearance, an illusion, an impression. His skin is only skin.  I  base on facts on an appearance, an illusion, impressions. Not as a summation of these points and spots, but a collection dispersed,  gullible and pining for more.

“What was it that you wanted to see me about?”

“I wanted to ask you why you left my mother and I.”

“I didn’t.” His tone quickly decimates the poignancy of my question. I’ve been waiting twenty years to confront him, to exploit the melodrama, like a scene in some very meaningful film I’ve been watching in my head, and then tells me straight-away it didn’t happen. The nerve of some people.

“But you were with my mother, I know you are my biological father, I have the paperwork…”

“Your mother insinuated that our cohabitation was equivalent to a life-long commitment. If I gave your mother a quarter, she would insinuate that I would bankroll every endeavor she could imagine for the rest of her life. I left. People leave.”

“But why did you leave us?”

“Well technically….Adam,”

“Andrew.”

“Right, sorry Andrew. Right Andy, like I was going to say, technically, I didn’t leave you. I didn’t know you existed, or were going to exist, based on your definition of the start of life. Either way, I was clueless. You aren’t a bastard, so you can get over that little identity crisis straightaway. If I knew you were going to come, I would’ve stayed. Simple as that. I’m a lawyer, not a monster Adam.”

“Andy. I mean, Andrew.”

“Right, Andy.”

“Well my mother always told me that you knew about me, and that you just didn’t care.”

“That’s terrible. Why would she say a thing like that. Why didn’t she lie to you?”

“I don’t…”

“It seems like she’s taking some undue anger out on you, that was reserved for me. She made you think there was some reason for a father to hate his own child. Why wouldn’t she just have told you I didn’t exist for awhile until you were old enough to handle it, instead of training you to hate me? Your mother was a terrible parent if this was the kind of parenting she did.” He started coughing and pulled a cigarette out of the pack. He offered me one. I waved the offer away.

“So, why are you here again?”

“Well, I mostly came to confront you.”

“That was baseless. And not to mention dumb. What was your game plan after that?”

“I didn’t really have one. I was going to play it by ear.” He had me there. He justly rolled his eyes and snapped his neck beck and exhaled a cloud of smoke.

“Your mother should’ve taught you better. Always have a plan.”

“That’s the sort of thing I imagined my father would’ve taught me. Where were you by the way. You did know about me didn’t you?”

“I did know of the concept of you. But frankly, I didn’t believe it. When your mother called to tell me about you…shit, what was it… seven years after you were born, she had to remind me of who she was. And that was a bad start. How could she adequately convince me that I was the father of this imaginary child if I had to be reminded just of who the mother was. She wasn’t the only Helen you know. She had to think of something specific to remind me of which one she was. And not very many women have two birthmarks there.”

“You can stop there with that.”

“Oh, sorry. Anyway. I didn’t believe. What would take seven years to stop this phone call, you know what I mean? If she really wanted me to be a part of your life, she could’ve called when she found out, could’ve called when she gave birth, could’ve called before your first birthday, could’ve called before you become fully conscious of who you were and figured out that not everyone just had a mom. I mean, really. Seven fucking years. After I gathered it was her, I figured she was trying to gouge me for more money, a pursuit of hers from the start. I don’t think she even liked me that much, I think she just liked my cars and my clothes, but not me. That’s why we fought. Because she didn’t love me. Why do you think it took so long for her to remind me of just who she was. So I left. It was nothing personal.”

“I never thought of it that way.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.”

We caught up. He isn’t the devil my mother portrayed him to be, or at least she exaggerated the parts that were vulnerable. My mother wasted her talents, because she had a way of accentuating the bad and cutting out the good. If she had her values straight she could’ve been an accomplished artist. He walked me through his house, the hallways had various pictures of his past, him standing in front of fighter planes chomping on a cigar, him sitting on the edge of battleships, pictures of him taking pictures and smiling, young  and strong, vibrant with taut skin. Pictures of him on boats, in deserts, standing in front of important looking buildings posing with important looking people, important looking smiles impressed upon their faces. There is a picture of him with a president, but I’m not sure which one.

I was compelled to ask his age, but I figured that wasn’t a good decision, especially on a first date. The way I see it his age is merely a number, an illusion, an impression. A spot, a point woven into his definition. Just as his skin, or his occupation is just an appearance, an illusion, an impression. Another point or spot in that thickening weave. His skin is only skin, something I could destroy or mix with something else, like any other chemical property. However, I am a member of the unfortunate ones who tend to base judgment on an appearance, on illusion, on impressions. Worse yet these appearances are not summation of these points and spots, but more like a collection of the appearances, like the coins in your pockets with a total you’re entirely unsure of. They are dispersed and intangible, lined up in a single file, one after the other like pieces in a jumbled alphabet asking for their name, and gullible, pining for more.

We made plans to have some sort of father son outing and he handed me his phone number, folded on a small slip of yellow paper. “Burn it right after you memorize,” he whispered to me. Later on, I would discover that he had begun to believe, with little reason, that he was a former man of espionage, a figure of great political intrigue. A spy. That everything he was doing was of great value to some faceless communist or anarchist, that his home phone number, which was listed in the phone book, was sensitive material. He was wrong. He was a lifetime upper-middle class lawyer, who was briefly an upper-upper class lawyer,  who spent his life and career in the Midwestern United States. I guess gullible is a family thing.

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