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: Monday, September 30, 2002 :

Boarding school--a year later
my mother in my dorm room
helping me pack
breaking the news
(so suddenly)
that this was the end
of
school here
life in this country
certain friendships

she would explain later

the goodbyes felt
permanent
random snapshots of
childhood friends
I would never see again

faces
that would fade with years
remembered
only as dorm-mates
study partners
a temporary family

leaving
my eyes stumbled
into the rear-view mirror
caught my classmates waves
as their figures
stood small
against the backdrop
of the concrete
boarding houses

then--
in the car
my mother: thinner, paler
spoke bluntly

to go on living here
was impossible
no money
no future
nothing

it was better
safer
to get out
start over
return to family

her family.

Next stop: Denver
a temporary base
while
something
was set up in New York
a lab, an apartment

my father
had left a month prior.

so strange then
this sudden change
this hasty decision
to end a chapter
and begin another
with fear and trepidation and uncertainty

strange
to find ourselves
on a flight to Denver
landing
briefly in Gatwick
feeling
disconnected
alone
lost

understanding
that life would broaden
become more complex
hopefully better
possibly different

at Gatwick
I wrote in a journal
recorded
nervous excitement
apprehension
a teenager's warped
expectations

never realizing
for one second
never comprehending
that this change
deemed so positive
so smart
would kill a part of me
would drive me into
a five-year
depression

and
for my father
mark
with sad abruptness
something
we never
would've imagined

the beginning
of
the
end
...



3:16 AM [+]
: Friday, September 20, 2002 :
Like I said
the drugs never bothered me a whole lot
though it’s something worth mentioning
‘cuz drugs brought strange characters over
to share in the cocaine and weed and…
heroine

even the reactions were strange
like the time I walked in on my father and friends
doing coke

I stopped
not so much from shock
but from extreme discomfort
seein’ something forbidden
knowin’ instinctively it was forbidden
and not knowin’ what the hell to do but stand there

my father looked up
eyes simultaneously freezing and darkening
while the party around the table
his friends
crashed into a heavy silence
a really heavy silence
(what do you do when a nine-year old is watching
a coke fest?)

my father kept it cool
real cool
and I kinda credit him with that in a way
‘cuz he didn’t make a scene
he just let it slide

all he said was,
“Don’t ever do this shit. It’s bad for you.”

someone at the table laughed
loud enough to break the trance
the shock
or whatever the hell that moment was

and in the split second between my father’s words
and the laughter
I came to
realized I didn’t belong
turned around
and left the room.

the incident was strange
I confess
but after that, it became
well… casual

It had to
he snorted in front of us
between card-games, conversations,
dinner
even leavin’ remnants--white streaks
at the dinner table.

I’ve tasted cocaine as early as nine
‘cuz I was curious
to see if the powder on the table was flour
baking soda, or something else.

It was always something else.

maybe a good thing
said after years of reflection
‘cuz frankly
exposure eliminated fascination
curiosity
desire

drugs, quite simply, bored me

still—
it’s an exaggeration to say I wasn’t affected
I was

'cuz when my father did drugs
the world stopped.
I watched this mundane action with
maybe a sort of fear and fascination and curiosity
one of those things
where no matter how hard you tried
you couldn’t pull your eyes away
couldn’t take your eyes off the white
going up the nose
couldn’t keep your distance from
the people filterin’ through the doorway

Vampires comin’ in for blood

all sorts
like the handsome Italian man
young, moody, violent
always looking for that fix to calm his nerves
always looking at women to indulge his desires
always soothed by children and babies

the doctor
who had problems “handling his coke”
seems he always fainted every time
(what was the point?)

the strange man
you instintively kept your distance from
even before you heard
that he'd recently come out of an insane asylum
where he’d spent the last fifteen years
for shooting his brother to death
(the CIA made me do it! they’re all in it! It’s a fuckin’ conspiracy man!)
he was still insane
but it felt like a safer kind
all drugs
and disjointed talk of startin' a new religion

out of the dungeons came the struggling musicians
daring intellectuals
beautiful women on the arms of rich entrepreneurs

the crazies, the straight, the twisted, the fucks…

a strange phenomenon, no doubt
'cuz drugs threw everyone into one big melting pot
and made a mess of everything.

__________


But with age came discretion
or maybe shame
and when poverty and depression hit real bad
my father spared us the sight of his drug habit
movin’ it to the seclusion of his bedroom
snortin’ in isolation
in front of the TV
only news reporters gettin’ to watch and share his demons

then
in those final years at home
my only exposure to it
would be accidentally stepping into his bedroom
lookin’ for something my mother had sent me to get
and findin’ him in the middle of tearin’ open
a packet of heroine or cocaine
or maybe in the middle of snorting it.

I got softer as I got older
‘cuz it bothered me more
and I’d find myself getting whatever I needed
and rushing out
moving past him
with lightning speed
eyes avoiding the images
of snorted drugs.

maybe it’s to say that as I got older
I understood what it did to him
why he took it.
why he needed it

I understood.
finally.
‘cuz I’ve gone through pain of my own
struggles of my own
and while I cry alone
or refuse to get out of bed
my father did neither.

his weakness was never tears.
it was alcohol.
cocaine.

and that thing that became the darkest ever--

heroine.
...


12:32 AM [+]
: Thursday, September 19, 2002 :
what happens a year later
when you still hear the vomiting?
and your reaction's no different
it's just minus the shock?

well from experience
I can tell you that the first thing you do
is just try and block it out

literally.

pluggin' your fingers into your ears
every time that bedroom door slams open
and pressin' real hard in the hopes
you'll erase some of it.
(you don't)
you still hear it
through every goddamn finger.

so you learn
and you progress
and you think about your resources
sayin' you can get through this
and you think about
a small piece of audio equipment
recently purchased

a walkman

and when the time comes
when you hear that door slam open
and you jerk awake
terrified
you slam down on the play button
and blast the music
thinkin' it's okay if you go deaf
so long as you don't have to hear the other sounds
in the bathroom

and you learn real fast
to keep that walkman under your pillow
for emergencies

'cuz you never know.

and then
one day
just when you think you got a handle on things
it gets worse
'cuz the alcoholic gets worse
and the alcoholism progresses
and a lousy walkman
doesn't cut it anymore
like a band-aid
on a heroine addict's vein

'cuz now it's not just the vomiting and the smell
it's the times he doesn't make it to the bathroom
and you wake up to your mother
on her knees wiping vomit off the hallway floors
off the walls
off the stairs

and now in the mornings
you're hoverin' outside the bathroom doors
not 'cuz of the smell
but because he's passed out in there
naked
drunk
hung-over
and he's spread-eagled on the floor
so there's no gettin' in

but who would wanna see that image anyway?

and it goes on
vomiting earlier and more often
like the times when friends are over
my friends
and you gotta rush them out of the house
so they don't figure out how sick
I mean how sick your father is.

and it goes on
the drinkin' gettin' so bad
he doesn't manage to get out of the car
just sleeps there
vomitin' in it
next to it
somewhere

we always find out how and where
the next morning

and it goes on
until one day
the nightmares start
literal nightmares
that leave you screamin' yourself awake
that gets your mother runnin' to your room
tryin' to figure what the hell is wrong with her kid

and it goes on
till you can't take it anymore
till you're screamin' and cryin' inside
till you're lyin' in bed tense and tired and scared
and you think you're gonna die if the vomitin' goes on
and you look at every last resource you've got

and one day
like a vision
like a fucking vision
it comes to you


Boarding school.
...

__________


see but it wasn't just the drinkin'
it was the drugs
it was the violence
it was the moods

and
to be honest
I can't say the drugs bothered me a whole lot
(until heroine years later)
it was just the alcohol
even though I gotta admit
seein' your father snort cocaine the first time
is kinda
disconcertin'
for a nine-year old.

but it's one of those things you get used to
like a cup of coffee every morning/afternoon/night
snortin' that cocaine for an added lift
to get you through the day
so natural
coke and cigarettes and joints

seems kinda strange how some things bother you
and others just don't.

or maybe it's 'cuz the weed and the coke
never shut down my father's system
his moods I mean
in fact coke and joints seemed social
good-time drugs
the kind that made him laugh that big belly laugh
and forget he had any internal bleeding.

it was different with the bottle
it turned his insides out
made him mean
angry
violent
quick with the mouth and the fuck-you's

and I guess when it comes down to it
that's what scared me

his moods
the fuse that went off
when liqueur went down his throat
and erupted some suppurating sore inside

that's what scared me

heroine scared me too
but as a kid
I only saw his friends do it
not him
(I was proud of this actually--my father abstaining)
I guess even he had some kind of moral limits
as to what he'd let his kids watch and not watch
or what he'd do or not do

morality is a crooked line

but his friends noddin' off in the living room
just left me with some sort of gnawin' feelin'
I couldn't put my finger on
like this demon/enigma/cyclone
I didn't wanna touch or get to know

and it made me happy when I heard somehow
(through my sister I think)
that he'd tried heroine once
threw up
and vowed off it

"That stuff'll kill me"

said when he was
stronger
younger
optimistic

optimism is crucial

'cuz when the shit hit the fan
depression... a tortured life at it's end
then he wanted to die

and then it didn't matter about
that stuff that would kill him
that stuff he vowed off of

he wanted it to kill him

so years later
when everything just got to be too much
and even pure Ethanol
stolen from the labs
couldn't drown the regrets

heroine hit

and heroine hit hard.

__________

my mother was uncertain of the decision
made too fast
too urgently
she didn't understand why

seein’ only that I was too young--twelve years old
I had never been away from home
the school rules were rigid, militarisitic
we were in a third-world country
who knew what to expect?

I didn’t care
I only knew I needed to get out
gain some objectivity
gain something back--maybe my childhood
maybe my sanity.

the ride to school was quiet
an evening ride with little traffic
little conversation
about practical matters, things I would need
--another blanket, some snacks, toilet paper, towels--

Inside the dormitory
we unpacked--silently
my mother and I
in a dorm room of forty beds
metal frames--one sheet, one blanket

from the dorm window, three or four flights high
I watched my mother leave
feeling relief
fear
uncertainty

and I cried
watchin' her Renault crawl past the school gates
a white car movin’ slowly down the tarmac road
abandoning me to the cold, damp halls
my home for another year

it was Sunday
evening prayer
the other students praying in chapel seats
so I was alone for the moment
on the outskirts of the city
in a boarding school that had no hot water
no laundromats
gray, drab uniforms

but that evening, my first there
there was this silent hush
solemn almost
like somewhere in that time-frame
was the gravity of my decision

the dinner bell rang
some thirty minutes later
forcin' me to the cafeteria
with the other boarders

but I remember that evening
it's coolness, it's serenity
'cuz it was the first time
just twelve years old
that I felt independent
free
mature

a deep-seated loneliness

maybe I knew, sensed
that this would be the beginning of change
of things worse, better, of growth...


I did not see my father
for another year and a half.

__________

my typing comes to a shaky pause
and I move away from the computer
towards the balcony
feelin' the draft
listening to random city sounds

outside--
there's construction on the next building
an overhead helicopter
steady, streaming traffic noise
the neighbor's TV:
garbled dialogue over a sweeping soundtrack
laughter at the TV
at the dialogue
or maybe at something else

I listen in silence
wonderin'
just wonderin'
why the hell my mother stayed
wonderin'
as I try and go over those years
and figure out the details of her life
why?
how?

I still don't get it

years later
across a psychiatrist--awkward and uncomfortable
I pose this question to myself, to her
Is it strength that makes you stay in a bad marriage
or weakness?

that question never gets answered
'cuz I can easily say therapy never did a damn thing for me
except cost me money I didn't have

still--
the question comes up
and it's easy to argue both sides
easy to say that love makes someone stay
love hardens into some kind of steely resolve
makes you fight every battle, every demon
makes that marriage vow real

through the good times and the bad times,
through sickness and through health


but there's the reality
always is
that mars the idealism
the realization that sometimes it's more practical
the decisions, the choices
sometimes love has nothing to do with it
and it comes down to the facts:
how bad do you let things get
before you've had enough
before you pick apart the marriage vows
and consider the practicalities?

which were--
she had nowhere to go
no money to start over
four kids to support
(two weren't hers)
plus if she took two
could she really leave the other two behind?

a choice then--
between two different kinds of strength
strength to go on, endure, bear it
or strength to get out

it's hard to blame
it's not fair
but as little as I wanna face it
as much as I wanna flip the arguments
I can't
'cuz the truth is--
weakness forced her to hear the vomiting.
forced us to hear the vomiting
forced her into some kind of denial
This isn't my life. It can't be.

weakness did that.

and listen--
there's no anger
no bitterness
'cuz the realities are always harder
tougher
more complicated

and I understand

still--
years later
starin' out of my balcony
listening to the city
I wonder
'cuz I need to wonder
and the contradictions always get to me

she could've left.
she could've made it work somehow, anyhow.
she could've.

but she didn't.


Why?
...
__________

9/24/2002 8: 07 p.m

I’ve started wrong

My father’s not a bad man
just tortured
sad
intensely bitter

from a distance I admired him
being what he was
a brilliant immunologist
a political radical
a war veteran
a man with a sense of humor

simply put.
cool.

his reaction, for example
when I got caught
stealin’
a department store theft--petty really
but the owner: unreasonably irate
threatened juvenile jail

at home
my father laughed at me
amused by the incident
the idea--so silly
of his kid
tryin’ to walk out with pockets full of candy

I stayed in my room, the whole evening
my choice
thinkin’ I’d get it
If I came out
so I waited for the call
“dinner!”
to creep down the stairs
and meet the punishment

in the living room
a neighbor was over
“Fatman”
and as I came down
nearly
pissin’ in my pants
sweaty hands streakin' the banister
my father looked up at me
a Pall-Mall stuck between his teeth
and said
so casually
‘I got a jailbird.”

His friend's lazy eyes swept over me
“Where?”

My father pointed
eyes squintin' from cigarette smoke
“There."
Laughter.
"There’s my jailbird.”
Both men seriously amused.

“What happened?”
“Got caught stealing from a department store.”

More laughter.

“Chocolate. Candy. Shit like that.”

Then Fatman’s thick face on mine.
eyes disappearing behind a smile.

“Your jailbird’s been stealin’, huh?”
my father, expression unreadable
“Yup. They caught my jailbird stealin’.”

his reaction:
cool.

and it wasn't just his reactions
it was the music he played
the things he read, liked, identified with
he had style
class
culture
education

certain days
left me restless in bed
listenin' to the parties downstairs
the laughter
my father's rich, belly laugh that rose above the chatter
and clinkin' of glasses
conversations touching on philosophy
politics
entertainment
science
music floating up:
Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Oscar Peterson, Bossa Nova

or sometimes
it was the electric piano
and my father's hands glidin' over it
makin' out jazz tunes
figurin' out his version of Misty
while Sarah Vaughn's
What a difference a day made
played soulfully
in the background
and smoke
hung in the air
like we were in some
jazz club
on the lower east side
of Manhattan

days like this
got me runnin' to school
boastin'
(seriously)
about my father's charms
and social gifts
knowin'
at the end of those stories
friends regarded me
differently
admiration clear
in their eyes
curious about this father
they saw only fleetingly
behind the wheels of his Toyota
the scientist who had fought a war
done his Ph.D in Sweden
his post-doc in France
mingled with the likes of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones

during the supply--limited
of science and war stories
I bought into the magic
the enigma
briefly shutting out the rest
the other half
the consequential nightmares
and intense fear

wanting to believe in
experiences
without consequences
war veterans
without side-effects

convincing myself
needing to, however briefly
that it was possible
that this combination
existed
this perfection
untainted by life

__________

there were more good memories

the Toyota
that never started
that had to be pushed
before it coughed up some life
and resigned itself
to be used for transport

which meant
neighborhood kids
school friends
banding together
behind the car
pushing it
working
to get that damn carburator
to burst into action

same procedure
every day
a warm memory now
of repeated frustration
final exhilaration
at the noise of an almost done-in car

and the particular memory
of my father
cigarette between his lips
eyes ever-squinting from cigarette smoke
mumbling,
“Ready?”

then my nod
a signal to my friends
from the back seat
to start pushing
bodies moving a car forward
waiting for the engine sound
for the car
to sputter to life again

and the memory
of me laughing
embarassed, amused
at the sight
of kids
pushing my father's car
hiding my face
in my hands
listening for the welcome sound
a car's engine
before I looked up
caught my father's nod
towards the rear-view mirror: a brief thanks
as friends
in dirty school uniforms
applauded
laughed
and stared after our car
rattling down the street

__________

in boarding school
you start to think about certain things
like maybe your life's not that bad
maybe it's better than some of the other stories
you've heard
or witnessed

like the one about Eva

Eva's story got me so scared
I began appreciating what I had
seein' finally some good in it
thinkin' maybe I was even lucky

'cuz after what I saw in grade-school
after what I witnessed
I changed my perception about abuse
about suffering
and everything suddenly fell into perspective

it started off strange
her beatings
a black-eye here
a hospitalization there
a missed school day somewhere

everyone knew something was wrong
but no-one
teachers, parents, school-kids
no-one
did a thing about it

like one of those cases that gets overlooked
the TV cases
that get so bad
cops are forced in
to find kids tied up
starved
beaten
without anyone
a neighbor, teacher, or friend
ever havin' come forward

but it didn't end like that
it didn't end with the cops
it ended with a death
and that's what was so damn bizarre

it got to be normal
Eva's bruises
'cuz she always had something
her eye, her nose, her arm, her leg
bent out of shape
bandaged
knocked out of proportion

like I said
it got to be so normal, we stopped paying attention
knowing only
through some kid or other
that it was her father
this intimidating, hulk of a man
who did the damage

the teachers, to their credit, tried to help
they favored Eva
brought her gifts
brought her food
gave her special treatment

and while it was nice
it wasn't enough

this went on for maybe a year
seventh grade
everyone just dealing with it
ignoring it
accepting it

and then--
something strange happened

Eva stopped talking
literally
she lost her voice
the vocal chords just traipsed away
into never-never land

looking back
I guess it was the abuse that did it
it was her way of cryin' out for help
a psychological plea
a manifestation of a physical symptom
so bizarre that someone would notice
someone had to notice

so Eva stopped talking
stopped socializing
and then slowly
went insane
the kind of crazy that's tortured and painful
and profoundly sad
'cuz it's a protection of sorts
her mind tellin' her body that it's had enough
or is it the other way around?

she carried a roll of toilet paper around
and layered it on everything she touched
on her school chair, on her desk
on her bag

she went into hysterics at the sight of dirt
violent hysterics:
flailing body, scratching, screaming
like something possessed
and she stood in the classroom corners for hours
staring at the wall
picking the paint off it
taking the dirt away
her eyes always vacant, always crazed

a teacher got it out of her
forced her to communicate
somehow
and the story was
the physical abuse was gettin' so bad
Eva was scared to go home
scared to come to school
scared to get dirty
'cuz when she did
her father beat her senseless

but even after the story
even after we were aware
how horribly unfair things were for her
no-one did a thing about it

a year and a half later
and we graduated
Eva became this face
this memory of the girl who'd lost her voice
who'd been abused
who'd gone insane

then
during some vacation
a year into high school
walking down the street
I hear my name
turn
and see--
something I can't believe
Eva running up to me
talking
talking so fast, I can't keep up
she's talking about grade-school
the teachers
where she sat
where I sat
the funny things the teachers said
she's talking so fast
she can't stop
and her eyes--they're glistening

I nod to everything she says
'cuz I can't really listen
seein' as I can't get over
that words
actual words
are comin' out of her mouth

and in all of the memories
being exchanged
we both know that I don't have to ask
'cuz I know
she's okay
things have finally worked themselves out

we part
twenty minutes later
and I'm left
confused
staring after her
wondering what happened
in the span of a year and a half--tops
that made her so... normal

days later
another strange meeting
a friend of a friend
who happens to know Eva, know her situation
tells me this story
that'll stay with me
stun me
baffle me
for years

the story of Eva's father
who collapsed
had a heart-attack
and died
in the span of one day
one sun-rise
one afternoon

Eva's nightmare was over

I think about the story often
how tomorrow is a new day
with new beginnings
new deaths

Santa Monica Boulevard
rush hour traffic
cars clogged for miles
radio streaming something from my childhood
I think about the turn of events that created a miracle
a father's death
necessary to save his daughter' s life

I never saw Eva again
there's no telling what became of her
but that final meeting gets me
the shock and pleasure of it
knowing this girl regained her voice
her vibrancy
her life

she was thirteen years old.
...
__________

Boarding school. Going to class. Voices behind me.
mumbled conversation
that gets distinctly louder

two men passing through school grounds
newspapers in their arms
cigarettes between their fingers

I let them pass
watch as their heads jerk downwards
to smoke
watch the deep drags

they pass
diminish in size

but their smoke
blows
towards me
this smell
so familiar
only associated
with home

and suddenly
as the men move on
sentences
coming back to me in bits
and
spurts
I'm left with a smell
a memory
an intense desire
to be home

where that smell is normal
where drink, parties, music
is
normal
where my family fights
loves, suffers

Where I belong.

the men are gone
but cigarette smoke
hangs
behind
and I stand there
in the cloud
reflecting on the irony
of loving a smell
that should make me sick
of leaving
a home
I miss
of needing
but not wanting
to be with
my own blood

of missing many things
the parties, the card-games, the visitors
the tinklin' key notes on the piano

of
(I don't understand how)
missing my father
...
__________


9:47 PM [+]
: Wednesday, September 18, 2002 :
his sour moods
spanned days
and it always seemed to me
that we suffered for his demons
and for every bit of hardship
life dealt him

and what comes to mind
is the first time he told me go fuck myself
for no other reason than he was drunk
and had no-one else to mouth off at

so who better than the weakest thing at his disposal
his youngest
ten-year old kid
that he could curse
and feel satisfied with the fact
that someone else went to bed
feelin' as worthless and shitty as he did.

there was no reason
as far as I can remember
for the fuck-you
'cuz I was in the kitchen with my mother
helpin' her with the dishes
when he barked my name out
viciously
with this underlying bitterness
laced into it
like some dog snarling out
right before it snaps its teeth into you

the viciousness caught me off-guard
my mother too
so much so
that she came out of the kitchen
to find out exactly what the story was

and both of us
my mother and I
joined my father in the living-room
and waited
as he said my name again
eyes opening to slits
just enough to make sure it was me
standin' in front of him

and seein' it was me
and not some poor other schmuck
used as an emotional punching bag
he shut his eyes again
and said
simply

"fuck you"

and that was it.

just a short little fuck-you to his kid
before he got some shut-eye.

my mother
disgusted
shook her head
and went back to the kitchen
not defendin' me
but silently takin' my side
givin' me her support
in her renowned passive way.

while I decided
I'd had enough
the day was ruined
and the only thing left to do
was sleep
and wonder just what the hell I'd done
to warrant such treatment

or the second fuck-you directed at me
this one more intentional
and more painful
comin' at the end of a long day
where something specific had happened
something had soured his mood way before me
and had left him broodin' away from the family
alone in the dining-room
while everyone else
watched Milos Forman's Amadeus
in the living-room.

a mistake then
to have gone anywhere near him
seein' his moody silence
but I did
passin' him on the way to the kitchen
for some chocolate milk
my fate being sealed
the minute I walked in there

so I should have known better
when he stopped me on the way out
should have known to make for the bathroom
or mumbled some sort of excuse
'cuz by the looks of him
the intensity of his brooding
his anger
I knew my night was done.

but I didn't know better
so I sat across from him
waitin' for and acceptin' the abuse
which I hoped would be...
well small

but how could I have guessed at the trap
bein' laid before me
the questions seemin' so
innocuous

did I trust him as a father
yes.
did I trust him as a scientist
yes.
did I believe he had discovered a vaccine
(he was working on the disease trypanasomiasis
commonly known as sleeping sickness)
yes.

then the question
masked in a statement
so shocking
so cruel
so insensitive

"If you think it works,
then you should let me test it on you."

I froze
and forgot about my drink
forgot about the rest of the family
forgot about my entire life
a blank slate
in a suspended moment
tryin' not to understand
or answer the question

the question again
the statement really

and my voice
scared
shit scared
but clear
and honest

"No."
"Why not?"

Silence.

"You don't trust your father?"

Silence.

it lasted forever
that silence
an open-ended silence
that could've gone anywhere.

then his answer
so quiet
so intentional
so hateful

"Fuck you"

he stood
joined the others in the living-room
and left me to contemplate my decision
left me wonderin' what I was doin'
to deserve
his hatred
his bitterness
his hostility

to wonder
what
at ten years old
I was doin' wrong?

what?
...

__________

but the worst case was always the violence
inflicted upon my oldest brother K.
and if anyone was singled out
it was him
beaten
punched
whipped
how did he stand it?

see I remember the beatings
was witness to it
(we all were)
'cuz we were literally dragged out of bed
to watch the abuse
forced to see my brother
punched
slammed down
and the ultimate
thrown against walls

lookin' back
all I hoped
and it was purely selfish
was that the rage didn't turn on me
but I wondered
as much as a kid could really wonder
where the hell all that anger came from

it was like my father stored so much of it
and it just never seem to run out
like some well that stretched
deep down inside of him
and offered unlimited resources of
hell-bent fury.

it's no surprise then
that my brother got the deepest scars
never managin' to get his act together
till years after the rest of us
'cuz even though we suffered through psychiatric visits
and anger
and pain
beyond that
we still managed to pull together
a fairly normal life

my brother had a different story
a longer story with more pain
more anguish
more violence
that took him on a downward spiral of
drugs
alcohol
fights
the army
(they kicked him out)
and that fateful day
in front of the public library
naked
bloody
and beaten to a pulp

then came the mental institution
the recovery
the intense psychiatric sessions
the blinding rage and anger and hate
directed at my father
(years of this)
until he was so ravaged
so tired
so spent
that he just walked into a church
got up front and said

"I've fuckin' had it. I'm ready to be saved."

and he was
(thank God)

in every sense of the word.
...

__________

violence gets you scared and paranoid
‘cuz you associate it not just with the beatings
but with violence beyond that

murder

a violent death

and it becomes a paranoia compounded
by the violence on TV
which you use to warp into your own fears
a TV movie, so specific, so like your own life
--the story about the marine who took a knife
and stabbed his wife and two daughters to death--

a gruesome event
made worse by the fact that he had taken his daughter’s blood
and scrawled “pig” on the wall
in an attempt to make it look like robbers had come in
and ravaged his dream-like existence

neighbors heard no screams
except for one neighbor
who heard the wife:

“why are you doing this to me?’

fateful words
enough to link the husband
enough to suspect him
enough to convict a man who was “trained to kill”

so you take this story and apply it to your own life
‘cuz what you see are only the similarities
both men--marines
both men--violent
both men--trained to kill
and you lie asleep with the lights on for months
thinkin’
one day it’s gonna happen to you
one day there’ll be blood scrawled above the walls
one day he’ll snap
(he seems so close as it is)

this fear
leaves you starin’ at your bedroom door
haunted, obsessed
fearin’ for your own life
fearin’ death at the hands of your father

and you think
it would be so easy for him
it could be so quick

and you wonder
if it ever crosses his mind
on the days he’s full of alcohol
does he ever really think about it?

two years later
when you’re still thinkin’ about death
and you’re sleepin’ in closets
thinkin’
if he does it, he’ll miss me
I’ll be in here
safe

you start searchin' out hiding places
in school
near your house
just about anywhere that could be a hide-out
in case he ever came for you

and it’s during this time
that the hysteria is at it’s height
'cuz anything could happen
seein' that the two oldest kids have moved out
and it's just two more left at home.

then one night
when you’re in bed
but not asleep
you hear your father’s footsteps
on the stairs
and the shaking starts
the panic hits
and you hope he just goes up the stairs
past your room
and into his

but all of a sudden he stops
right outside your open door
and you freeze
thinkin’
this is it
this is when it’s over
this is how it happens

a minute later
he's still there
and you're wonderin'
what the hell he's doin'
just standin' there

what the hell is he doing?

so you peek out
just enough to see him
but not enough for him to notice
and you see him leanin’ against your bedroom door
with a drink in his hand
just watchin’
a dark figure silhouetted against the hallway light

another minute
and all you can think of is death
as you hold your breath
frozen
for what seems like an eternity

suddenly
the flick of a switch
the hallway goes dark
(you feel the absence of light against your eyelids)
and he's gone

a slow gentle exhale
from relief
from fear
before you turn over and pray
thinking you got through another night
alive
you've got another day to keep plannin'
keep searchin'
keep lookin' for that perfect hiding place.

and you think about all this
with a certain amount of serenity

even if it's hours before you stop shaking.
...





5:47 PM [+]
: Monday, September 16, 2002 :
worse then thinkin’ your father’s gonna kill you
is wishin’ he would die
I’m ashamed--really ashamed
for ever havin’ wanted this
for having prayed--literally
for his death
for a divorce
anything that would take him away from us

and I wonder, even now
what kind of person I’d be without a father
if--for example
I had lost him at ten
and just had scattered memories
to contend with

would I come to regret his death
feelin’ like I had missed out on something?
or would it have been different
would I have been happier
minus a father?

I’ll never know

I can’t know the influence
my father’s life had on me
I can’t take it apart
and chart advantages against disadvantages

it doesn't matter now
it’s a waste of time

but of course I still wonder.

in all this wondering
I wondered about the reverse--
wondered what would happen if my mother died
wondered what I'd come to

it was a simple answer really
something my mother already knew
since we had discussed this once
in one of those philosophical conversations turned somber

I would commit suicide
--You shouldn’t. I’d want you to live
I wouldn’t want to live
--I’d need you to live
I wouldn’t want to live.


--Would you live for me?
No. I’d commit suicide.


see I've never been the kind of person
that wanted to relive my past

the past doesn't interest me
too many memories
too many haunting sounds
the pain outweighs everything.

the past just isn't for me

now I usually cringe at the mention of reliving years
thinkin' why go through it again

But--
given another option of doin' everything over
I would
I would relive a whole lot
just take everything apart
and put it together again

except I'd do it with a different father.
...


1:33 AM [+]
: Sunday, September 15, 2002 :
A memory.
dinner on the table.
my mother calling me
worried
outwardly calm
sending me out to the garage
to check if the car is there
if my father is inside
her question--deliberately flat, unemotional

a few minutes and I return
he’s there
asleep
drunk
passed-out.

my mother nods
a simple nod
it could be matter-of-fact
a response to a question
though her face is tight, haunted

she returns to the rice on the stove
stirring the sauce
setting cutlery on the table
leaving my father’s plate for later

at dinner
the silence relates more than words
we know what will follow
as it usually and always does

later--right on cue
my father staggers in
(mood sour, mouth flinging verbal abuse)
pouts his way through dinner
face twisted in drunken anger
picks at the rice
eats the chunks of meat
stumbles upstairs.

and then—

somewhere between dinner and the next morning
he vomits
loud, violent vomiting
that wakes everyone up
and splatters out of the toilet
on the floor
on the towels

somewhere in the mid a.m’s
my mother pours soapy water in a bucket
then cleans
wipes, scrubs
I hear her movements--so soft, so dainty
as she treats this night like another chore

the next morning seems normal
my mother’s voice--tired
gets us out of bed
returns to the kitchen
cooks fried eggs for my father
puts out orange juice for the kids

we move through the routine
effortlessly
another day
so normal, so rehearsed

as the night before slips
seamlessly
into just another memory.

...
4:37 PM [+]
: Thursday, September 12, 2002 :
too many memories and I'm suddenly shaking.
so the past is on hold till further notice
my thoughts too distracted
to meld into anything useful

sleep doesn't come lately
and I find myself starin' at the cottage-cheese ceilings
till five in the morning
thoughts runnin' rampant
sweepin' over bits of my life
goin' over certain details
and pickin' out or tearin' apart certain memories.

but in all that
...something hits...
and suddenly I'm in my shelves
goin' through a stash of pictures
my sister
my brothers
my aunt
my mother

none of my father.

it's intentional
the lack of pictures
years of needin' to forget the memories
and the pyschological after-shocks
anyway
I could never look at a picture of my father
square
it always needed a certain preparation
a certain courage
his gaze always leaving me a little... uneasy.

but things feel different now
I'm stronger
and there's this sudden need to have his pictures
to see his features
(so dark and foreboding)
to connect with him again
somehow

maybe it's the writing
maybe it's just the time and distance
getting me over the colossal amounts of pain
and anger
and fear

either way
I've changed
(I hope)
and I've grown
(I think)

and I'm ready

to see his face again.
...



10:25 PM [+]
: Wednesday, September 11, 2002 :
chest pains dissipated.
instead
tense. tired. depressed.
battlin’ another bout of mind-numbing
depression.

a break from the past
and from hours at the computer
to take a phone-call

my mother.

it’s a worryin’ phone-call
that wrenches me out of a stupor
and leaves me worried and sick

her words.
so casual.
a voice comin’ through the phone-lines
to say my brother T. has disappeared.
to say she’s breaking out in hives.
to say she’s tired of takin' care of my father.
to say she’s at work so the phone-call should be short.

afternoon.
lunch at a cheap, Chinese joint.
egg-plant in garlic sauce served by a stone-faced waitress
whose day is probably faring worse than mine

the worry does me in
and I spend the day
lunch churnin' on a sick stomach
fixin’ a failing turbo and transmission on an '86 Chrysler

another rackin' phone-call
when I get home
keys barely in the lock
my body barely pushin' through the door
to hear
my mother.

again.

laughing
laughter coated thick with embarrassment
at near-hysterical displays of emotions earlier
so unlike her
she believes

this time callin' to say T. turned up
all's well in the world
and it was just a marital dispute
that ricocheted into AWOL for three days.

night.
me at the window.
fingers cloaked in aloe-vera
soothin' the eczema
coolin' down

and thinkin’ about my father
who’s sunk into a seething tangle of regrets
doused in drugs and alcohol
a depression so intense
it's come to never leavin' the house for days
hours spent readin'
watchin' TV
drinkin'
pukin'
sleepin'

so my mother's hives
explodin' on her skin
are symptoms of mounting frustration
from bein' his caretaker
from cleanin' up his messes
from livin' with death itself

"he needs to be in a home"

I listen to my mother
in silence
bein' in no position to judge
bein' that I live across the state
burden-free of this dyin’ alcoholic

and I get her
I get her pain and her frustration
and I get her regret
for never walkin’ out earlier

I get it.

but I wait my turn
wait for the pause
to say

this is the end for him
she needs to be there
We need to be there.
and as harsh as that sounds
and as hard as that sounds

there's just no other way of lookin’ at it.
...


6:17 PM [+]
: Tuesday, September 10, 2002 :
anyway
it wasn't just the drinkin'

it was the drugs
the violence
the moods

and
to be honest
I can't say the drugs bothered me a whole lot
(until heroine years later)
it was just the alcohol
though I admit
seein' your father
snort cocaine the first time
is kind of
disconcertin'
for a nine-year old

but it's one of those things you get used to
like a cup of coffee every morning/afternoon/night
snortin' that cocaine for an added lift
to get you through the day
so natural
coke and cigarettes and joints

seems kind of strange how some things bother you
and others just don't

or maybe it's 'cuz the weed and the coke
never shut down my father's system
his moods I mean

coke and marijuana seemed social
good-time drugs
the kind that made him laugh that big belly laugh
and forget he had any internal bleeding.

it was different with the bottle
it turned his insides out
made him mean
angry
violent
quick with the mouth and the fuck-you's

and I guess when it comes down to it
that's what scared me

his moods

the fuse that went off
when liqueur went down his throat
and erupted some suppurating sore inside

heroine scared me too
but childhood left me with memories
of strangers indulging
not him
(a proud moment--my father abstaining)
I guess even he had some kind of moral limits
on what he'd let his kids watch and not watch
on what he'd do or not do

morality is a crooked line

but his friends noddin' off in the living room
just left me with some sort of gnawin' feelin'
I couldn't put my finger on
like some kinda demon/enigma/cyclone
I didn't wanna touch or get to know

and it made me happy when I heard somehow
(through my sister)
that he'd tried heroine once
threw up
and vowed off it

"That stuff'll kill me"

said when he was
stronger
younger
optimistic

optimism is crucial

'cuz when the shit hit the fan
depression... a tortured life at it's end
then he wanted to die

and then it didn't matter about
that stuff that would kill him
that stuff he vowed off of

he wanted it to kill him

so years later
when everything just got to be too much
and even pure Ethanol
stolen from the labs
couldn't drown the regrets

heroine hit

and heroine hit hard

but the drugs
are worth mentioning
‘cuz they brought strange characters over
to share in the coke
weed
heroine

it’s a vivid stamp
on my brain
that strange reaction
when I walked in
on my father and friends
doing coke

I stopped
not so much from shock
but from extreme discomfort
walkin’ in on something
instinctively forbidden
and not knowin’
what the hell to do but stand there

my father looked up
eyes simultaneously freezing and darkening
while the party around the table
his friends
crashed into a heavy silence

(what to do when a nine-year old is watching a coke fest?)

my father kept it cool
real cool
and I kinda credit him with that in a way
‘cuz he didn’t make a scene
he just let it slide

his words were,
“Don’t ever do this shit. It’s bad for you.”

someone at the table laughed
loud enough to break the trance
the shock
or whatever the hell that moment was

and in the split second between my father’s words
and the laughter
I came to
realized I didn’t belong
turned around
and left the room.

the incident was strange
I confess
but after that, it became
well… casual

It had to
he snorted in front of us
between card-games
conversations,
dinner
even leavin’ remnants--white streaks
at the dinner table

I’ve tasted cocaine as early as nine
‘cuz I was curious
to see if the powder on the table was flour
baking soda, or something else

It was always something else

maybe a good thing
said after years of reflection
‘cuz frankly
exposure eliminated fascination
curiosity
desire

drugs, quite frankly, bored me

still—
a deep exaggeration to say I wasn’t affected
I was

'cuz when my father did drugs
the world stopped
and I absorbed the procedure
with a sort of fear and fascination and curiosity
one of those things
where no matter how hard you tried
you couldn’t pull your eyes away
couldn’t take your eyes off the white
going up the nose
couldn’t keep your distance from
the people filterin’ through the doorway

vampires comin’ in for blood

all sorts
the handsome Italian man
young, moody, violent
looking for that fix to calm his nerves
looking at women to indulge his desires
soothed by children and babies

the doctor
who had problems “handling his coke”

the strange man
you instinctively kept your distance from
even before you heard
he'd recently emerged from an insane asylum
where he’d spent the last fifteen years
for shooting his brother to death
(the CIA made me do it! they’re all in it! It’s a fuckin’ conspiracy man!)
he was still insane
but it was a tamer kind
all drugs
and disjointed talk of startin' a new religion

out of the dungeons
came struggling musicians
daring intellectuals
beautiful women strutting with rich entrepreneurs

the crazies, the straight, the twisted, the fucks…

a strange phenomenon, no doubt
'cuz drugs threw everyone into one big melting pot
and made a mess of everything.

but with age came discretion
or maybe shame
and when poverty and depression hit real bad
my father spared us the sight of his drug habit
movin’ it to the seclusion of his bedroom
snortin’ in isolation
in front of the TV
only news reporters
gettin’ to watch and share his demons

then
in those final years at home
my only exposure to it
would be accidentally stepping into his bedroom
lookin’ for something my mother had sent me to get
and findin’ him in the middle of tearin’ something open
a packet of heroine or cocaine
maybe in the middle of snorting it

I got softer as I got older
‘cuz it bothered me more
and I’d grab whatever I needed
then rush out
moving past him
with lightning speed
eyes avoiding the images
of snorted drugs

maybe it’s an admission
that as I got older
I understood what it did to him
why he took it
why he needed it

I understood.

Finally.

‘cuz I’ve gone through pain of my own
and while I cry
or stay in bed
pullin’ covers over me
womb-like
my father did neither

his weakness was never tears

it was alcohol
cocaine

and that thing that became the darkest ever--

Heroine.
__________


6:29 PM [+]
: Sunday, September 08, 2002 :
dinner
my mother’s voice
worried
shrill
superficially calm
sending me to the garage
to check if the Toyota is there
to see if my father is inside

a few minutes

back inside
he’s there
asleep
drunk
passed-out.

my mother’s response:
a simple nod
matter-of-fact
a response to a question

strange
how her face seems tight
movements
mechanical

tasting rice
stirring sauce
setting the table
placing my father’s plate for later

dinner
the heavy renowned silence

we are aware
of what follows
as it usually
and always does

later
the man’s right on cue
staggerin’ in
face twisted
from booze and bad memories
picking at rice
downing chunks of meat
stumbling upstairs

and then--

the long hours
between dinner
and the next morning
he vomits
loud, violent vomiting
that stains floors, towels, walls

leavin’
the mid a.m’s
for my mother
to finish
what has become
a mechanical routine

cleaning
wiping
scrubbing
…remnants

the next morning

normal

a tired voice from
too much scrubbing
pulling us from bed
cooking
fried eggs for my father
toast and orange juice for the kids

together
we shuffle through the routine

the night before
turning into just another day:
normal
rehearsed

a random memory

__________

could be I was just a sensitive kid
given to random fits of cryin'
and sleepless nights of terror
when I heard the vomit

or diving in fear under my bed
when I heard my father's footsteps
on the stairs

wishing to trade in the nightmares of others
with my own
wishing to be on the other side
where the grass isn't necessarily greener

But still--

I think I'd do the trade
and skip the mornings after
as I hovered at the bathroom door
terrified of taking a shower
brushing my teeth
washing my face

activities deemed so normal

I think I'd trade the part
where my eyes stumbled into his
and saw deep abysses of tortured pain
anger
fear
intense bitterness

'cuz even then
I understood my father was a bleeding man
wounded
tired
fightin' defeat and self-destruction.

even then
I saw that

or the tortured school days
where I dreaded their end
my stomach tightening
when the Toyota lurched through the school gates
to take me away from safety
pullin' me back into the nightmare
to continue from where it had left off
like it was on some kind of extended pause

I would trade that
for something else
something better
which maybe
would've been something worse

maybe I'd never trade it
now that I'm stronger
more sensitive
more empathetic
more human.

But still--

I'd certainly think about it.

__________


6:29 PM [+]
: Saturday, September 07, 2002 :
the past has a way of getting to you
holding on to you
like some kind of song in your head
you can't erase

and sometimes that past is a girl

linked to you in unsavory ways
a metallic taste
a bad nose-bleed

I don't hate the girl
I hate the circumstances
the fathers that bound us

Nancy was John's daughter
four years my junior
being initiated into her own nightmare
so similar to mine
and in retrospect
maybe worse

strange
the way the friendship came about
the story that started it

the incident

heard through the grape-vine
talked about with a certain concern
that Nancy at her mother's pillow
asked
wondered
maybe pleaded with her mother
to file for divorce
and be done with it

the shocking maturity of a six-year old

never heard the answer
though I wanted to
seein’ I often asked the same question
of Nancy's mother
… of my mother
though not at six

My question came five years later.

and so the beginnings of a friendship
that had it's roots in respect
'cuz she asked the question I never could
and shared the pain

as though I could protect her
from the haunting sounds
she heard at night
as though I could soften the blow
that life dealt

Two years.

and the friendship ended
I moved on
another country
another life
a continued nightmare
somewhere else

then
suddenly
San Francisco
a meeting
with a childhood friend
the names came up
the memories
and then Nancy

the name that snapped me to attention
kept my stare on old pictures

I heard the words
“beautiful”
“high school”
“smart”
“still lives at home”

distant words except the home part

there were hungry questions
needing answers
I was sure
we’d never meet again
I’d never hear her story

but over years
something
happened
to end the questions
and
deaden
the
curiosity

it was--

realization

that
our experiences
were parallel
her life
was
so
clearly
mine

realization
that the questions were futile

realization

achieved
with a certain
degree of horror
that
I already
knew
the
answers
__________


10:11 PM [+]
it was a short-lived moment
a brief flicker of hope

Me--
sucked into the idea
that someone
a dumb, alcoholic neighbor
could change my father
infuse him, maybe
with some sort of
fresh outlook

as though
John--
a self-destructive, vacuous drunk
with two sons and a daughter
could ever rise above
violence
or
drink

could ever climb above
the battered white Volkswagen
or the disappointed wife--
a reporter for the local newspaper
who sucked down cigarettes like cotton candy
and stank of sweet, fruity perfume

no doubt
she realized the obvious--
her best years were gone

no doubt
she cried for her children

no doubt
she whipped herself for the
choices she’d made

Who wouldn't?

but John was part of a plan
to enlighten my father
about his alcoholic
self-destructive ways
point the man in a new direction
if you will
on what I believed
could be the drunk
leadin' the drunk
into sobriety

A school night.
Ten-thirty or so.
John, at our door.

hand jabbin' the doorbell
like it was a button
on some game show

inventing a sound
so distinctly John

the shrieking doorbell
loud
grating
continuous

rakin’ on the nerves

on the other side
my father
raw nerves--frustrated
pulling the door open
stepping aside
letting John stagger in
to drain the beer
the Johnnie Walker
or whatever else
could do the job

then me
at the dinner table
book in my hands
nervous
unable to move
as two men
eased themselves into seats
further down the same dinner table

whiskey splashed in glasses
disconnected
meaningless sentences
passed for conversation

that is
John spoke
and my father
(I can't take much more of this shit)
listened with irritation and mindless boredom

a break
(my father rubbed blood-shot eyes)
and John stood up
mumblin'
staggerin' to the bathroom

The bathroom door closed.

A silence.

my father gulped whiskey
looked my way
eyes flashed the unspoken
Goddamn

Another silence.

And then the sounds
the sounds

a sound so different from my father
less violent
weaker

but still--

it happened so fast
the reaction
jerkin' my head up
meeting my father’s eyes
seeing his face register
my fear, panic, anxiety
(I know he saw it)


seeing him understand
what his vomiting did to me
what it made me go through
--the panic
--the weakness
--the fear

his expression shifted
undisguised disgust
and I was comforted
briefly
understanding that night
to mean
the sounds
affected him
enlightened him
maybe even changed him

a passing second
to say
that what I saw
in my father's eyes
made me believe
we could turn the page

made me believe...
in a new beginning
in a different man
a new chapter

made me believe...
we’d made a promise
of sorts

I was wrong.

Three days later.
It was my father's turn to vomit.

He broke his promise to me.


In just three days.

__________
3:09 PM [+]
: Thursday, September 05, 2002 :
THE EARLY YEARS

it’s the noises that always got me:
the loud retching in the bathroom
jerking me awake
getting my heart in my throat
leaving me stricken

the damaging sounds--
vomit splatterin’ in the toilet
more retching
more splatterin’

maybe a dry heave

At eleven
you get the routine:
a silence after the vomiting
the toilet flushing
the bare feet goin’ back to the bedroom
the final shutting of the bedroom door

the barking dog--rhythmic in the background
the lingering smell of the alcoholic’s signature
sprayed so indiscretely
across bathroom walls
the floor
the toilet seat

In the dark
fists tight around bed covers
(too terrified to find shut-eye)
eyes locked into a lamp-post outside the street
you wait…

for the lamp-post to dim
for the barking to ebb
for the day to dawn

you wait…
to search his eyes for illness
the morning after

at eleven
you get the routine:
of meeting his stare
(nervous eyes stumbling into hard, uncaring ones)
of seeing oblivious expressions
of unmentioned trespasses
of a forced normality

of finding remnants--stained toilet seats
like bloody fingerprints at a crime scene

of vomit
that morbid fingerprint
nurtured and groomed
thriving on depression and anger and fear
warping innocence
strangling childhood
destroying its creator

at eleven
you get the routine.

you just never get used to it.

__________




5:49 PM [+]
: Tuesday, September 03, 2002 :
San Francisco.
Summer.
Back a few years.

Last memories of my father:
Horrible.

My oldest brother’s wedding--
Reason to unite the family
for the first time in
twelve years

A plane north from smog-town
Into the bay area
Greeted by my sister
Who will take me to meet the man

Two hours later
Stomach churning
Waiting in my sister’s living-room
for the doorbell to ring
for my father
to be on the other side

Nervous conversation
Intermittent glances at the door
Sudden itching on my right hand
Stress levels: acutely high

The door-bell.

The silence.

Then the meeting.

What should I have said to a dying man?
What should I have done?
Other than stare.
Other than swallow the shock
of his physical deterioration.
Other than cry later that night
Alone.

Cuz to see the defeat
the self-destruction
the deterioration of a parent
is mind-numbing.

The little things first.

Dentures.
No shock there.
Just neglected teeth over a span of forty years
turned brown from alcohol and stomach acid
The rot beyond repair

Next.
The not so little things.
The slightly paralyzed right arm
(a minor stroke)
The slight limp
(a fall he took when he was drunk or maybe the street was badly lit)
A problem with his right eye
(the stroke)

But then the symptoms.
Jesus, the symptoms.

Yellow eyes (alcoholism)
Trembling hands (alcoholism)
Swollen ankles (alcoholism)
Diapers (alcoholism)

He was 63.

Aside, the exponential deterioration is explained
My mother gives us the low-down
Said the vomiting was worse
Said the loss of bladder control was over a one-year period
Said the diapers were necessary

To save face.

My sister, a registered nurse, nods at the sound of diapers.
Good call.
My brothers and I are mute.

What do you say?

Really?

To a disappointed and dying alcoholic
who knew his time had come
who had taken a psychological dive when he penned the words
“I know they’ve been good times but I can’t remember any.”

What do you say?

Back in smog-town
City of angels
Drenched in summer heat
I think about what’s next.

Maybe--
the call will come in the middle of the night
to say he’s vomiting blood
to say he’s choked on his own vomit
to say…

He’s dead
He had a stroke

When?
Eleven p.m.
At the dinner table.
At home.
Alone.

To say…
The paramedics found his body still warm, found something in his throat
A stroke.
Or choking.
Autopsy’s not out on that one.

To say...
(my brother's shocked voice over the phone..."I don't know how to say this...I just got home and found him at the table... with his head back... ")

To say...
He died.

My God, he died.

Alone.

__________


5:33 PM [+]
: Monday, September 02, 2002 :
There’s no recollection
of our last conversation
Just isn’t.
That’s the way the dice roll.

But I’m sure of one thing
I won’t pick up the phone to call
Can’t do it.
Won’t.

This all to say, we rarely speak.
but I think about him
every time there’s a drink in my hand.
every time my vision blurs
every time my stomach heaves.
which is often.

Now, I’m not easily frightened.
But I’ll say this much.
the association frightens me.

Alcohol and my father.

They’re synonymous.
one and the same thing
joined at birth.

So you understand my fear then?
the fear of lookin’ in the mirror
and seein’ him.
seein' him in the lines, in the eyes,
in the stare
sallow skin under unforgiving light.

Lately
I've seen my father in the mirror.

It's paralyzes me.
tortures me.

Makes me wanna vomit.


5:53 AM [+]
: Sunday, September 01, 2002 :
the chest pains wake me up
along with the heat
and the eczema

stabbin' chest pains
that don't let you breathe
stiflin' heat
makin’ your breath
wheezy
eczema so bad
it bleeds sometimes

today
it's the chest pains
that bother me most

sharp pain
in the early morning
while its still dark

pain
too reminiscent
of my father


This is how the writing starts.


to ease the chest pains
to stop the itching
to understand my father
or at least
the complexities
behind the titles
of
war veteran
alcoholic
drug addict
scientist

it's neither his biography
nor mine
just a way
of figurin’ out
how
a
father's
slow
suicide
could've
happened


Why it happened.

When it started.

__________




10:09 PM [+]

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