Saturday, December 22, 2012

Benediction


Standing on the busy street corner in the dusky twilight of evening, I am impressed with the absolute abundance and energy of life that surrounds me. People are walking across the intersection in small groups; the cops have an expensive sports car pulled over nearby; Beau is shouting into his cell phone yet again at some poor victim as he pumps gas into the rental car. There are people and cars everywhere, here at this random intersection, a bustle that makes me think of a busy movie lot filled with hundreds of extras. My son clicks off the phone and we get back into the car.

“I can't believe how...busy this place is. I just don't remember there being so many people.”

“Yeah, it's a busy place.'

“You seem to be making the best of it, though, son.” It is full dark now and we are, as always, crawling along in traffic. It is the evening hour and these drivers seem more hyper than usual, in a hurry to race home to their suppers and family and the television set. Me too, except that I am far from home and even were I there, I don't have a television. But I have a dog and a river and the warm glow of the computer screen. Seeing the old house and the accompanying rush of memories is behind me, I think. But yeah, I am weary.

“Dad, do you think I am doing good?' Here it comes. I ponder my answer. Is he? I don't know. I flash back over the events of the last few days.

'Well, Beau, I don't know what to say. It seems like you are searching for my approval, or for me to pat you on the head or something. This is just life.”

“I want your respect, Dad.” We are sitting where most of this sad little opera has run its course: in an overpriced rental car in maddening traffic in the San Fernando Valley.

“Beau, I never gave the least fuck what my parents thought about what I was doing. It isn't important what I think about you. What's important is what you think about yourself, about what you are doing and how you feel about yourself.”

I'm sitting in the audience watching myself make this speech. This is the denouement, and the actors on stage look unready. I know I am. I'm tired and when my littlest brother died a few years back, of neglect and alcohol and loneliness, it changed me. I took a hit that I never quite recovered from, completely; it changed the way I viewed my hour upon the stage and how I saw my fellow actors.

Many times I have been told that I have a cold heart. That I am not worthy of love, and unable to give love. Maybe. But this is me, here, me my ownself, and I know the truth about my heart. The truth about my heart is that it has grown weary with too much pain and hurt and loss. There are shields in place that I cannot easily remove, although I try. I'm trying right now.

“Listen, son, you got a bad deal. The way it went with your mom and me was a lousy deal for a kid. And for a long time when you were growing up and making mistakes and getting in trouble I stuck by you because I am your Dad and because I knew the kind of deal you grew up with. That's why I'm here now.”

“But Father...” a crazy-ass LA driver cuts us off at the corner and we get caught at the light. The light is red.

Go ahead, said the Voice. You know it is only theater, but he doesn't. Go ahead and make a symbolic gesture for his sake. It won't kill you.

I turn in my seat. “Son, do you want my blessing? Is that it?”

“Yes, Father.” These red lights last a long time.

"Bow your head,” I say. He does it and I put my big old gnarled fifty-seven-year old hard-labor carpenter's hand on his head.

“This is my son, in whom I am well pleased,” I intone, using my most sonorous wise man voice.
“Beauregard Comstock, my first born and favorite son, I am very proud of you. You have become a fine man, brave and strong.”

I take my hand away and the light changes and he pulls out across the intersection. In the glow from the dash and the streetlights all around us I can see that his eyes are glistening. I think that maybe I was put on this planet to do something, someday, somewhere, but I am saddened to think that play-acting might be what it is I am placed here to do. And yet, I actually am very proud of my son; armed with far less back-up and hope and ammunition than I had when I hit the streets running; he is doing alright.  My son Beau is doing alright and making mistakes and fumbling about but certainly doing alright and up and running.

We drive along in silence for a minute. I'm starting to think about that Motel 6 and that pizza joint and right now, that liquor store is on my mind. These have been strange days indeed; passing strange. Then, once again, I am stricken with a sudden dire realization.

“Did you say she didn't book me a room yet because she was at the beauty shop?”

“Yeah.”

“And there is some kind of family Christmas deal at her parent's house? Does she go to the beauty shop every day? Does she work there?”

“No, Dad, it's their family Christmas and she wants to look nice.” There is a new edge in his voice.  A cutting edge.

“The reason I don't have a room is that I'm going to a Christmas party tonight, isn't it?”

“Well Dad it's only right...” He's heating up. He knows me. He knows what he is doing.

“Pull over.”

“What?”

“Pull this fucking car over right now.” He pulls into a strip mall parking lot. Traffic has not let up. The parking lot is full but I am done. It's over. I turn in the seat to face him fully. I cut loose my seat belt and put my hand on the lever for the door. He is stiff, erect in his seat, rigid.

“When were you going to tell me this?”

“Dad...”

“Shut up. Listen. I'm your father, not some shabby apache you captured and put on display. I had no desire to come out here and you have played me like some kind of jack-ass street person that you have adopted ever since I got here.” He instinctively reaches for his phone then throws it back down, angry and thwarted and furious.

“Fine! If that is how you want to twist all this up, fine!” The misty-eyed supplicant of moments before has transformed into a raging warrior ready for battle.

“Look, I'm getting my bag out of the back. Don't even think about pulling away before I get it."

I bust the door open quick and hustle around to the back of the car. Split seconds count, right now. I pop the hatch and grab my jacket and my bag. He revs the engine and I have no reason to believe that he won't jam it into reverse and break both my legs. I step to the side of the car and slam the hatch. I'm clear now and only moments from freedom. The shabby apache is making his escape.

When the hatch slams shut, he floors the accelerator and roars out of the parking lot, scattering some pedestrians and eliciting some angry horn blowing from the river of automobiles that flows past this...place.  I find myself wondering if he can see me in that little video screen on the dashboard.

I shoulder my bag. That Motel 6 is only about five miles from here.  Suddenly, I don't feel so tired anymore. I start marching off, headed out on a long march but still strong.  I am a soldier. Five miles ain't nothin'.   I got what it takes.  I cross the busy intersection and march off.  I'm finding my stride.

And then it hits me.  Without warning and in a giant all-encompassing  guilt-laden wave of understanding and failure and loss,  for the first time I understand.  I see it now.  I finally see. It was me.  It was me all along.

I am the Wolf.


Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Wildlife Society
#94





6 comments:

  1. Hey TJ,
    This may sound like bullshit, but I couldn't help being reminded of this story.

    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
    "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

    The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

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  2. I was hoping for a happy ending. Walt Disney moved to Florida!

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