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pretentioustwnt in dyslexiaed

an untitled intensely personal story

1

I don’t remember much, because really, no one remembers much at that age.

I know it was snowing and I was wearing a tiny pink parka. I remember that first pinch of the needle breaking through my still baby-soft skin, and watching myself bleed black into seven three inch vials. I remember I didn’t cry.

At that age, five or six, you’ll only really remember the unnaturally green lollipop they give you afterwards.

You know, for the sugar.

This is the frist step in how you check for bone narrow compatibility.

2

Maybe it was before the seven vials, but I’m sure it was after. Here I am naked in the bathtub, playing with the faucet, listening to my parents fight over a collect call.

My father, I tell people he’s away at school; he’s the right age for it anyway, twenty-five or twenty-six. Maybe I should’ve called it him getting his Masters Degree in something. But who the fuck knows about Masters Degrees at that age. I tell everyone he’ll be back – that this new guy my mother’s with no, he’s not my daddy.

Maybe they’re fighting about the new guy, or how we’re broke and can’t accept all his collect calls anymore, or maybe they’re fighting about me. It was probably all of that.

We’d wake up at two or three in the morning, me and my mother, on a Friday or a Saturday. She’d make coffee in one of those old-fashioned percolator pots and I’d scrub my face raw over the kitchen sink, until I was clean and smelling like dish soap.

The bus, it was really just a mini-van. It’d stop just one in the Bronx somewhere for breakfast, after picking us up on Dekalb Avenue, downtown Brooklyn. Now, I can’t remember how long the drive was – but it was long. IN the winter I’d draw hearts and flowers on the cold frosted windows and sing underneath my breath.

The food in the vending machines, it was all dried hamburgers and chicken patties. The kind your dog wouldn’t eat. The tables, they were round and unfriendly and my father’s jumpsuit, it was most of the time the same boring green color you can find in army fatigues. The backgrounds for the Polaroid family photos you could take, they were always some place suppose to be beautiful: Manhattan at night, New Orleans, some Northern California vineyard.

All they ever did was remind you how you weren’t there.

The background might as well have been a giant sign: This is your broken life. Your dysfunctional family. This is another wasted weekend. Welcome to Prison.

3

The thing about the eighties: they really sucked.

Name something really great that happened that decade. Give yourself a minute.

You thought of the Berlin Wall. Maybe you thought of the first time you heard ‘Karma Chameleon’ or a song by The Cure.

If you did, then I’m sorry.

John Lennon shot dead in front of the Dakota. Reagan. Bush number one. The Big Deadly Virus of AIDS. Police brutality in Los Angeles, Compton, everywhere.

Maybe you thought of the death of disco music. If you did: Good job. But you have to remember David Bowie released ‘Lets Dance’ and The Steve Miller Band made ‘Abracadabra’. They void out the disco thing.

Half the people then, with their big line-backer shoulder pads and blue eye-shadow, their toaster oven cell phones, those people were rich. Yuppies. Another group, all of them walking around looking like they were from New Jersey, big hair reeking of Aqua Net, listening to Bon Jovi.

Everyone else, they were killing each other for televisions. For Jewelry. For anything worth anything, that they could sell. Trade. Whatever.

The rest of them, they were part of what was called ‘The Crack Epidemic’.

This is about where I fit in.

4

What I won’t find out until I’m grown is that it was a drug bust. Maybe my father was resisting arrest, strung-out and itchy for a hit of something hot and potent. It’s possible the undercover cop cocked his gun when he shouldn’t have. And maybe, in the struggle, the gun went off and shot his partner.

What I know now is my father was definitely not studying for his Masters.

The file (you can look it up on the internet if you’d like), it says Neglectful Homicide of an On-duty Police Officer. Or something like that.

The sentence, what the file doesn’t say, is it’s pre-school through forth grade with good behavior.

What it doesn’t tell you is during that time, well, you might develop leukemia. Your daughter’s mother, she might find someone else.

It doesn’t say how you’ll only be twenty-nine, but they’ll have stolen your entire life by the time they release you.

5

Then: There is one summer in Texas with a family I never knew. My father drives an old pick-up truck and all I can remember is its always hot and I’m constantly sweating.

The radio, it was saying something about the second Woodstock. This has to be 1994 or 1995.

My father takes me around in this green pick-up and collects pallets. You know, those wooden stages for hauling around crates of eggs or blue jeans with a fork-lift. He collects these and brings them around, sells them for five, ten dollars a piece.

He’s stealing them.

But I’m about to turn ten and it’s the first time I’ve seen my father without a Corrections Officer, so I hardly notice.

I keep thinking: This is the start of my new, normal life. Then I go back to New York and it’s years before I hear from him again. I visit once more, maybe I’m 14, and he brings me to San Antonio. It’s beautiful there and I want to stay forever just as much as I never want to go back to Texas again.

Maybe it’s another year that passes when my father’s wife calls to tell me I might want to call him and say goodbye. She tells me, without a hint of emotion, my father is probably most likely going to die of the leukemia in another week or so.

I don’t know it at the time, with my palms sweating, gripping the phone, but she’s lying.

6

For my sixteenth birthday, my father comes to visit. He’s put on weight and he’s bald from all the radiation, but everyone keeps saying how we look so much alike. Same features, same mannerisms.

The thing you must know is this is the first time my friends meet my father. Until this point I could’ve been making him up. He could’ve been my equivalent of the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause, or on bad days, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstien monster.

Another thing is we don’t live in New York anymore. Now we live in the pretty green country of Pennsylvania, everything full bloom and smelling sweet. My mom, she’s divorced the other guy by now, and my father, he’s ditched his wife.

What he says to me is: What would you think about me maybe moving here?

For some reason I’m not surprised. He hasn’t lived with me since I was four, but this question doesn’t surprise me. And, when I shrug and tell him I wouldn’t care, I mean just that.

7

A friend of mine, she calls it a Real Life Example of Soul Mates. My parents: Soul Mates. Together since they were sixteen, except those twelve plus years they weren’t due to the crack epidemic and prison and cocaine.

That’s another thing I know now: There were more drugs after prison.

My father’s sister she once beat him with a baseball bat in her broom closet-sized bathroom, back in Texas. Her girlfriend, she closed the door and refused to watch him bleed all over their linoleum.

You have to realize he deserved it. Every swing. Every crack of the bat against muscle and bone. She was beating the sense back into him, and he more than deserved it - he needed it.

So when he came for my Birthday, he begged for all the things he once threw away. A life with us – he wanted to worry about mortgage payments and mowing the lawn and not about cocaine and heroin needles and getting that still around Big Bad AIDS Virus.

And my mother, all of this was hers to give; to trust him like she once did – to show him how she could never stop loving him and make sure he knew it every day for the rest of his life, forever.

And she did.

8.

The good news is my father is on record somewhere as a medical mystery. Currently, he’s the longest surviving person with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in the country, maybe the world.

His Oncologist at the Penn-State Hershey Medical Center, he’s always calling him a freak. He laughs and jots things down on his clip-board and says: Seriously, you’re really a freak. I wish I could figure out why you aren’t already seven or eight years dead.

My father, he shrugs and says something like: God is on my side.

Because like most ex-junkies, ex-cons, or alcoholics he kicked the habit and found Jesus.

But hey, whatever works.

(I’ll tell you though: he still swears and lives in unwed-sin with my mother. He gambles and smokes and when he stubs his toe on the coffee table he’ll shout: Motherfucker! Your sisters fucking cunt! to no one particular)

9

I’m not really sure if there’s a moral to this story. I’d like to think there is somewhere, because we’d all like to believe that all the small pieces of our lives amount of something great and profound. But I’m just not sure.

All I know is it felt good to write it all down.

And if along the way you were moved or something, then maybe all of it was worth something. And, if not, well I still have my whole life to have an epiphany, to discover what it all means, so I’m not concerned over it.

You should know, if you’re still reading this, that things are okay now. I know that’s all anyone can hope for – that things will be okay, if only for a short while.

I’m leaving a lot out, omitting a bunch of shit. But it’s alright. The past is only a story, after all – just something time and natural preservation instincts turn hazy and distant – so who says you can’t tell it in a way that makes it hurt less. It’s my past, and I’ll create it any way I’d like to.

There’s only one more story. Just one. And I’m only sharing if for comedic value.

10.

It’s 2004 and my father is having a mini-bone marrow transplant. (for the record: it didn’t work, but it doesn’t matter).

For a couple of months I stayed with him in a small town I can’t remember the name of, located right next to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The air there, no joke, it always smelled like chocolate. Like the whole fucking town was covered in it.

The place we stayed at was called Hope Lodge; it was like a little group home for people going through transplants or chemotherapy or whatever. The whole house full with people dying of cancer and other terrible illnesses, but besides all that, it was really nice. And right across the street from the hospital, so really fucking convenient.

This place, Hope Lodge, it’s where we met Ralph.

Ralph was about seventy-six years old and, after losing his wife to the cancer years before, became a volunteer for the lodge. He fell in love with us. He even loaded us in his Chevy one day, trucked us out to Chocolate Town to meet his son, that’s how much he adored us.

So this one day, here’s Ralph talking talking talking. Inflating our egos. Saying how we’re the nicest, good, most honest, well-meaning people he’s ever met. Clearly, as you can tell, Ralph doesn’t know us very well.

So he’s talking and talking and somewhere between reciting sonnets he’s written about our pure, loving hearts and lamenting over his poor dead cancered wife, he tells us how sometimes men in the Navy, they just get really horny.

That he was out at sea for months, how it felt like years, and sometimes - sometimes a man just really needs a blow job.

Not queer though, Ralph said. There’s a difference between bein’ gay and needing your dick sucked.

Sure, I said. Hey, whatever, man.

Elderly Ralph, his dead wife already years into the decaying process, telling us about his many quick blow jobs aboard U.S.S whatever the fuck. How it doesn’t make him queer but sometimes he thinks back to those days at the sea – with those quick little trysts aboard the ol’ship – and sometimes he thinks those were the best months of his life.

Ralph, seventy-six years old, veteran, American Cancer Society Volunteer, he laughed and said: Eh, you understand how it is. A warm mouth is a warm mouth! And boy oh boy, did those boys know how to use ‘em!

The end.

(The moral, in case you missed it: the elderly are fonts of wisdom and deserve our deepest admiration and respect).

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October 2007

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