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Psychiatric sessions
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: Thursday, October 31, 2002 :

I found and lost religion at eight
in the span of a year
jerking uncertainly
from one extreme
to another

from
hymns
church
daily prayers

to
complete
and
utter
rejection

in retrospect
the picture
started it--

Jesus on the cross
blue and yellow crayons
colored in
carefully
and
with
so much
precision

at eight
I understood
my father's distaste
for it:
the fervor of the saved

and
placed
the picture
on a side wall
discretely
hidden

in view
only
if you
stepped into the room

and looked

surprising
how my father saw it

how
he invaded my space
to uncover dirt
and
stopped
at a sight
that turned his insides:

an effeminate man
nailed
to a cross

he came to me

words:
drops of lead
grating through space

"Get that picture off your wall."

it was the tone
that scared me
that got me flyin' up the stairs
tearin' Jesus off
and trashin' him

I didn't hesitate

losin' my taste
soon after
for prayer
hymns
church

Six months later
I trashed the rest:
the songs
the hand-written prayers
the Bible

At eight
so young

my fling with religion
was over
...



11:56 PM [+]
: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 :
the unpublished article
finished his career

penned some time
during
nightly alcohol
and drug hits

barely complete sentences
a grammatical mess
posturin’
as a scientist’s
research paper

I couldn’t bare to finish it

unnamed colleagues
highly regarded scientists
critiqued it

"No scientist would ever put their name on this”

science journals
dismissed it

my mother said nothing

I cried

at the mess he'd become
his sharp mind
so blunted
he'd lost scientific objectivity
lost
sound judgment

sending
the paper out
to an unforgiving
science community
that didn’t understand
his condition

didn’t understand
his binges

couldn't make sense
of words
written in
drug-induced
mania

who could?

it ended there
with the
unpublished article

even if
days before
the World Health Organization
emailed him life-altering news:
his vaccine worked

thirty years of research
had been worth it

but it was over

time
to hand over the reins
to competent scientists
not under the influence of
pure Ethanol
(stolen from the labs)
whiskey
coke
heroine

the esteemed public appearances
self-flattering published research papers
lab work

gone

and he didn’t get it

couldn't see
how drugs
had damaged his mind

he was almost...
delusional

certain
he'd get that call
to speak in Brussels
certain
he'd get the lab
to start clinical trials
certain
the money
would come

who was I
to say
his wait wouldn't end?

who was I
to say
it was over?

understand
I said nothing

listening
respectfully

nodding
“of course, of course”
as he related
goals:
clinical trials, money, grants, research papers, lab work, lectures...

“of course”

who was I
to disclose my fears
to sour his dreams
with hard-hittin'
reality--

it was the end


drugs and alcohol
had
finished him
...


11:03 PM [+]
: Sunday, October 27, 2002 :
GETTING TO KNOW THE MAN

I start backwards
with the stooped
man
limpin'
back and forth
between the kitchen and bedroom
refillin' his muddy-brown alcohol
every few hours
and watchin'
the 5th avenue parade
on Veteran's day

he's a former marine
my father
a Korean war veteran
so it means something

that parade

he's never talked about the war
and I've never asked
preferin' to leave him with the demons
that he cannot
and will not
share

he's mentioned
war
twice

told us what a machine gun
does to a man against a wall:
lifts him up
like some invisible force

told us
who survives in war:
"the cowards"
not the brave
'cuz it's survival instinct
pure fear
that keeps a man alive

it's not said proudly
there's guilt
for survivin' the war
shame
for his own cowardice

the celebration
goes on
without him
war veterans
paradin' badges and bodies
down 5th avenue

but he celebrates
at home
in his room
alone

watchin'
first
(the early years)
with a sort of indifference
like he was
shuttin' somethin' off

and then
(in the later years)
watchin'
with
tortured emotion
as wounded
disabled
veterans walked down
city streets

New York city
late 90's
my father cried openly

not loudly
but openly

dabbin' his eyes
with tissue paper
findin' therapy
in the marches

old age
got him sentimental
expressive
sadder

and the pain
he'd always managed
to choke down

years and years of it

finally
caught up with him
__________

The letter--

"...Enough about that painful subject. How are you doing? I worry about you! I am trying to really get to know you! You are my number 1 son--my first born--when I didn't really know what I was doing--or what being a parent meant! Shit! I think you came out lucky! When I see, like on television et. al. what some extreme children and their parents went through and are still going through--I feel that you and your brother and sisters weren't raised too bad! I'd like to know your feelings on that, if you don't mind..."

my brother--
beaten
temporarily driven
into a mental institution
eventually
saved by God

never did share his feelings on that

though I'd have liked
to have listened
in on their
conversation
to hear
their words

accusations
justifications
apologies

they tried
once

but
my brother
was too angry
to be
articulate
blubberin' injustices
in fits and starts
cryin'
slammin' the phone down
callin' back

exhaustin' really

spittin' out my father's first name
like they were involved in some
business transaction

"I call you by your first name
'cuz I don't have a father."

"Then don't call me 'til you do."

the response
a gargled voice edged
with viciousness

they never talked
about the past
no why's
no reasons

it just got dealt with
in that silent way
that people deal with things
they can't quite deal with

and
in the end
my brother forgave
I forgave
and the family forgave
the sins
my father
had so
callously
committed

still

my father had a point

'cuz goin' over certain details
we had to admit
that even if it got
brutal
sometimes

we managed

and
in his own way
my father's efforts

eventually sidetracked
by drugs
and
psychological
handicaps

had been sincere
and
one could argue
partially
successful

like the rules
he enforced
before his descent:

the books we had to read
the vocabulary we had to learn
the limited TV
the swimming/piano/languages

he tried

the letter...
is his last
his apology
explanation

for a past
I don't think
even he could
explain

but
in gettin' to know the man
I've begun to understand

...some

the sincere efforts
the formidable internal battles
the demons

and
though
I fail at sympathy
for his errors

at least

I understand
...

1:05 AM [+]
: Friday, October 25, 2002 :
always surprised me
that I was the spittin' image
of my father--
his emotions
obsessions
temper

like I had to bear the torch
even
if it was
reluctantly

and it's scared me
realizin'
how well I know the
dark shadow
the stranger
who's been
a fixture in my life

seein' that
I've never sat
across from him
and
shot the breeze

never shared
a smoke
a beer
a joint
kicked back
and let go

our history's made up
of individual
awkward
moments

like
contrived silences
in static plays

two people
thrown in a cell
nothin' to say
no bond
no connection

except the biological cord
gettin' in the way
of complete
separation

still

I know my father
understand him
get every choice he's made
get every reason

'cuz he's me

only older
angrier
more tortured

and as much as he
wished
another kid
got his genes
my sister, maybe

he had to admit
standin' over me that day
while I read a book
that it was me
who got the defects
the ambition
the intensity

that it was in me
he saw
himself

me
who was "exactly"
like him

me

said with a certain
distaste
confusion
intrigue

like he wasn't sure
whether
to despise
or embrace
the thing/child
that was him

only smaller
and not so jaded

in the end
I understood
his battle
with
self-hatred
eyes
simultaneously
loving and hating
the child that mirrored him

but it was hard
not to be affected

hard
to disconnect
and become
a person he could
love

someone
separate
from him

maybe
just
his
better
half

hard.

just hard.
__________

happy birthday

10/25/1935 - 6/7/2002
...





12:37 AM [+]
: Tuesday, October 22, 2002 :
doesn't make sense
that a city killed my father

but it did

'cuz it reminded him of who he was
and what he'd worked all his life
to get away from

it drove him to old haunts
where he saw friends die
shoot up
drink themselves into stupors
and let him know
he never really got out

it stabbed him with
a sense of
failure

real or imagined

then let him
slowly
self-destruct

so easy to blame the city
and not the man
so easy to say
the memories
did it

but I prefer it that way

it gives self-destruction a reason
makes it more palatable

I've got a love-hate relationship
with New York

much like
the relationship
with my father

certain things
in relationships
need to be forgotten
in order to love

and with New York
it's stalled subway cars
bitter cold
the stench of Main Street
Flushing, Queens

it's the memories
that get vomited up
from dark recesses
like bile

poverty
self-destruction
the pain
in my father's eyes
that got so bad
I could barely stand
to look at him

people have asked me
how I could
know
just lookin' in a man's eyes
that a particular bartender
in ABC city
had been through the Vietnam war
and was self-destructing?

how did I guess?

simple
he had my father's eyes

in the end
it's always the eyes
that lets you know
who's dying

and with my father
it was so particular
his pain
pullin' him down
takin' him into stygian depths
he didn't thnk he'd reach

he'd always been a proud man
strong even
never admittin' defeat
loss
depression

but later
when I saw New York
killin' him
when I saw him
crippled by a fall
weakened by a stroke
destroyed by drugs and alcohol
I dared to ask
if he was happy

he stopped
letting his lethal combination
of whiskey/Ethanol/orange juice
spill over the edges of his glass
gave it a split-second of thought
looked back at me

"Nah."

a pause

"But whach ya gonna do?"

I met his stare
saw tortured, sad eyes
said,

"Yeah. whach ya gonna do."

and we left it at that
...





10:10 PM [+]
: Thursday, October 17, 2002 :
I hate the psychiatric sessions

hate the stranger
sittin' across from me

hate the weekly hours
of cryin'

'cuz I can't stop

hate the fact
that before goin' in
to moan about my life
to someone
I don't know

I gotta sit
in a waiting room
with a bunch
of other people
who are also gonna moan
about their life
to someone
they don't know
about things
no-one cares about
but them

I hate
paying money
to sit on some leather couch
in some high-rise
and cry
when I can
do that at home
any day of the week
alone
without
watchful eyes
wonderin'
when the hour's
gonna be over
so we can all
just call it a day

therapy's useless

and after a depleted
bank account
paid to
a "caring" institution
I don't feel any better
I just feel
poorer
and uncomfortable
that some
therapist/psychiatrist
whatever degree she had
sat across from me
and watched me cry
every
goddamn
week

it's not that I
spilled my guts
about my past
my father
my anger
that bothers me
it's that
I spilled it
to someone
paid to listen

humiliating

the humiliation
bothers me
most of all

it's an old tradition
everyone does it
Woody Allen's
made that pretty clear
but it's not me
and there's something
inherently wrong
with paying someone
to hear your problems
and ask
"What do you think?"

I think it's humiliating
and makes no sense

so I've gotten to a point
where I'm content
with my issues

if I need to talk
I'll sit in front of a mirror
pull out a tape-recorder
and do as much talkin'
as I want
without ever
flickin’ eager
eyes at a clock
to say the hour's up

and I'll do it
on my own time
not on
someone
else's
watch

It's a good idea

and yeah
I feel better already
...


10:22 PM [+]
: Wednesday, October 16, 2002 :
It happened overnight
loving my father
like some kind of accident
that
determines
a new direction
for the rest of your life

it was the pain
on his face
the weak attempt
to hide the tears
as he came through
the front door
heaving
dragging a broken knee
crawling into the living room

literally

it got me out of bed
his heaving
so loud

my bed was in the living-room
some mere feet away
so I couldn’t have missed it
had I tried

cheap metal scratched
against formica floors--
the dining room chairs
and he managed to collapse
on one of the seats
groaning
hands gripping his knee
when I saw him

it was a silent moment
neither speaking
‘cuz I’d never said hello
voluntarily
and had forgotten
how
so I stood there
stiff, uncomfortable
concerned
watching my father
struggle against
incredible pain
wanting to ask
if he was okay
but not knowing
where to begin

what would I say?

my mother came out
(either he called
or she heard his moans)
and she sat by him
asking
questions I couldn’t ask
listening
to events that impacted
and forever
changed my life

somewhere around eleven p.m
the number 7 train
stalled
the subway stop: Shea Stadium
it wouldn’t go further
had broken down
leaving people to walk
along a dark alley
towards the main boulevard
where buses lined up
ready to finish the journey
home

but in the alley
a dark street
no lights
my father fell
broke his knee
and being New York
not one person
stopped to help him
offered a hand
or
even
pulled him to safety

not one

on the ground
in below zero weather
he waited
for hours
before realizing
no help was coming
and it would be up to him
to crawl
make his way
towards something
or
someone

so he started
the long crawl
that took him out
towards light
towards Main Street
where he stayed
propped up against a lamp-post
until a cab driver
pulled over
carried him inside
and got him home

“Were you drunk?”
my mother’s question.

“No.”

the rumor started
at work
amongst scientists
that he’d been drunk
when he fell
so the fall
they said
was his fault
not the city’s
and suing would only
cost him
money he didn’t have

someone
must have seen him
before he got on the subway
someone
must have
slugged some whiskey
with him
someone
must
have
talked

usually
I would’ve asked
demanded
wanted to know
if he had been drunk

it would’ve mattered

but it didn’t
‘cuz it would be the first time
that I would cry over my father
his pain
helplessness
vulnerability
in New York City
on a deserted street
in brutal, cold weather

it would be the first time
seventeen-years old
that I would discover
deep loyalty and love

it wasn’t so easy
‘cuz I fought the feeling
feelin’ shocked
confused
holdin’ on to the conviction
that I’d suffered as a child
been hurt
neglected

and now a teenager
stronger
rebellious
able to fight back
I needed to embrace
anger
hatred
bitterness

years of fear?
fuck--
I was entitled to those feelings

but the fall
left scars--
a permanent limp
and created an epiphany
that left deep sympathy
profound
love

I knew it was fate
I knew
it was that weird sort of accident
that’s supposed
to happen
that’s supposed to
forever
change
everything

I knew
something
was gonna come along
and make me
love
the man
I'd spent years
wantin'
to
hate

and
finally--

here it was.
...


12:23 PM [+]
: Monday, October 14, 2002 :
I think the defiance did it
changed him
got him noticing me
thinkin' about his role
as a father

'cuz at first--
he was just this figure
moving in and out of the house
puttin' in long hours
at the research lab
voice holdin' little authority
moody silences seemin' juvenile
vomiting silently
just a splash goin' into the toilet

at first--
he was a king dethroned
a tyrant toppled
insecure
depressed
finally humble
learning to relate
normally
no longer inclined
to bark orders
or
irrationally
explode
the drugs movin'
to the privacy of his bedroom
the anger contained
the beatings over
the dictatorial rules
forgotten

at first--
there was no dialogue
both
too seeped in our own
depressions
to care
much
about
the
other

at first

and then
the defiance
changed everything
like some stone
turned over
uncoverin'
the dirt and mold
unattended to
for years

just sheer defiance
at his juvenile silence
for givin' me the
silent treatment
over nothing

or something nearly nothing

sheer defiance
at his cowardice
for sending my mother
with the message

not this time

'cuz in childhood
I knew one emotion:
fear

as a teenager
I acknowledged the rest:
bitterness
anger
disgust
hate
and this time
I would say a thing or two
I would send my mother back
with the message:

that my father
had nerve
demandin' affection
he had never shown
expectin' somethin'
he had never given
for sixteen years
(and yes, I was counting)

my mother listened
uneasily
face frozen
in a disturbed silence
then left
never to mention it
again

yes
happily
I think defiance did it
got a self-centered father
to give himself
a second look
got him
finally
thinkin'
about
us

'cuz after a few days
my father approached me
hesitant
awkward
almost nervous
confessing
deep disappointment
at something or other
an
argument
truly
trivial

who cared?

but something changed
in him
in the both of us
the beginnings
finally
of something new
something worth
caring about

'cuz he took an interest
suddenly
in report cards
school plays
college applications
his way of saying
that after sixteen years
he was ready
to be a part of my life
he was ready
to put in some kind of
effort
even if it was
half-hearted
and
shaky
at best

yes
I was cautious
begrudging
still angry

but I had earned it
...


9:00 AM [+]
: Sunday, October 13, 2002 :
it had been a while
since the vomiting
and I surmised
naively
that poverty
a New York struggle
had ended it
closed that chapter

but the night it came back
(forcin' me out of bed and into the kitchen)
made me realize
in fact
it had never really gone
it had just sort of
changed
the way time
warps things
renders them
unrecognizable

and I realized
clock hittin' two in the morning
puffy eyes starin' through the window
that the only reason I'd missed it
missed the sounds
was simply
'cuz the noise
was different

it had gotten softer
quieter
my father
too old
too tired
to fight vomit
explodin' from his mouth

now
he just hung over the toilet
and let it spew
into the bowl
like water
pourin' from a bucket

just a splash

but even the splash
got me shakin'
cryin'
ready to slam on the play button
of my walkman

even the splash
did that

so you see
nothing much had changed
in New York

things were just

harder
colder
more glaring

no surprise really

after all
it was New York
...





11:13 PM [+]
: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 :
THE BEGINNING OF THE END

There are never really clues
that something
a place, a time
is the beginning of the end
it's just one of those things
realized
in retrospect
analyzed
after years
traced back to see
how and when
the unraveling started

the location is important
because if anything
New York killed my father
and so a description
of our neighborhood
and of our struggle
becomes
necessary
to fully understand
the toll it took
on him
on us

Flushing Queens
an immigrant neighborhood
where people come
for new structures
better opportunities
a slice of the American pie

it's an in-between place
of success and struggle
sometimes ruin
but there's plenty sleaze
to make the struggle
desperate

a brief history:
early '90's
mayor: democrat David Dinkins
crime at its height
tourism down
heat: insufferable
the city--
just another hole in the wall
where people struggled
fought and died

the apartment reeked
of roaches
of poverty
of pot-bellied, unshaven men
pools of sweat lining
cavernous armpits
of a Chinese woman
plucking weeds from
the front of the building
of the five Middle Eastern men
in a one-bedroom apartment
of the 83-year old above us
alone
dying
or the lonely woman
and her musician son
banging tuneless rhythms
on his drum

of struggle
loneliness
big-city emptiness
the kind that gets you so depressed
just thinkin' about it

the conditions did it

poverty, you see

'cuz before
despite heavy drinking
a heavy hand
he'd built something
a career--science
four kids
two successfully sent to college
a house
two dogs
things seemed decent

but now
it was this--
rotting
a family of four
in a one-bedroom apartment
in New York City
Queens
Flushing
Northern Boulevard
apartment 2G
roaches in between bed covers
cheap furniture picked off of streets
clothes handed down from friends

poverty did it

brought nights
steeped in regret
longing

now
instead of jazz music
tinklin' notes on a piano
there was the garbage truck
random traffic noise
the occasional gun-shot

now
instead of late-night conversations
there was the neighbor's TV
or
just
a
heavy
silence

so you can see how
this new world
land of opportunity?
played a part in the damage
gave the final blow
to a man
already on his knees

how much longer
could he have lasted
if we'd never come back
years?
months?
days?

No.
it was time

New York did to him
like it does to everyone else

it threw life
in fast forward

and made death
just that much faster

__________

So New York brought change
something better
sadder
a sort of end to the bad
maybe a kind of good
depending on whose side
you chose

it brought a strange
melancholy
resigned
silence
took my father's anger
and left it seepin'
behind closed doors
as though
he were suddenly
ashamed
of his emotions

New York
hailed goodbye
to the brutal
drunk
quick with the mouth
and the hands
and left in it's wake
someone weaker
frailer
just a shell of a man

this time
his anger seeped elsewhere
to my mother
who seeped it to us
with messages
that he was furious
that he would not speak to us
until such-and-such apology
took place
at such-and-such a time

curious business
to see a king dethroned
to see his subjects
so fearful once
scoff at such cowardice
smirk at demands of apology
laugh at a father's inability
to confront his children directly
me: his fifteen-year old child

New York
a brutal city
gave birth to a reversal of roles

stripped a king of his title
delegated him second
in the household
and handed

maybe gracefully

the reins
to someone new
the new bread-winner
the new power

my mother

Strange twist of fate
...


9:57 PM [+]
: Tuesday, October 08, 2002 :
I was always torn
between wanting
a closer relationship
with my father
and wanting
none at all

on the one hand
I was ashamed
(sometimes still am)
that my father
ignored me
as if I weren’t good enough
pretty enough, cool enough
to have deserved his attention

I wasn't my sister

on the other hand
my intense dislike
fear
sometimes hatred
made me thankful
that I played
so small a part in his life

did he know
I was strong in math and science?
did he know
I had won trophies for piano?
did he know
I read an hour a day?
was first in my class
through grade-school?
did he know?

Did he care?

at some point
in early adult years
I decided to join him
in not caring
'cuz it cost me
so much energy
and anguish
in just hoping
for something
that could never be

besides
too many years
I’d spent
tryin’ to please him
get his attention
figure out what it took

and moving on
getting older
building a life
away from him
I decided
it just wasn’t worth it

so I moved towards the top
(or maybe the bottom)
of the journey
where love intermingles with apathy
sharing my life
only when he asked
responding to him
only when he called
offering nothing voluntarily
having no energy
anymore
to fight for my father’s love
even if
deep down
in places I couldn't admit
my love for him
was profound
and scarring

but I remember
Father’s Day
my last year home
when I felt obligated
seein’ that it was a sort of goodbye
to hand over a card
that had
scrawled inside
such untruths

You’ve been a wonderful father.

I remember his face
reading it
slowly
too slowly
as he absorbed the lies
those words held

his face, expressionless
disturbed
closing the card finally
looking at me
saying,

“I wasn’t a wonder father. But I tried.”

how much it took
for my father to say that
I can't say
but it must have been something
realized
over years
when old age brings
a certain wisdom

I said nothing
‘cuz he was right
he hadn't been wonderful
he hadn't even been good
and what was the point
of tryin’ to live the lie
of tryin’ to make him believe
he'd done a decent job
when we both knew
and had both lived
through every detail
of those years

it was his first admission
his only apology
and a tacit understanding
of his failure

I’ve never celebrated Father’s day again--
there's no use pretending

I think
and I speak for both of us
that we're mature enough
to acknowledge that
...



5:12 PM [+]
: Saturday, October 05, 2002 :
you'd think I'd be callous
about the attention
I never got
from my father

but in the way
that every child needs
a parent
I needed him

so it hurt
that my father
didn’t particular like us
like me

and I always tried to figure out
just what I had to do
how I had to look
to change that
though
I’ve never been
sure
just how I'd react
or what would happen
if my father suddenly
…cared

what defined a father
for me
was a fearful presence
a figure
that simply
existed
like some kind of
shadow
or
silhouette

which is why
in college
away from home
I froze
literally
when I caught sight
of a father holding
cuddling, kissing
his child

a laugh
a father’s proud eruption
at his son
his toddler
making awkward steps
on the patch of green
in front of the library

aside from movies
TV
books
this was something
foreign

and the situation
confused me
baffled me
jerked me out of some kind
of reality
where men never touched
their kids
never showed
much affection

and it was that moment
absorbing a father and child
that I understood
my reason
for stopping

I did not stop
because I was shocked

I stopped
because
I was envious
...




11:29 PM [+]
: Thursday, October 03, 2002 :
the call in the morning
feels no different
'cuz his voice is the same
shaky, gargled
trapped phlegm
collecting at the back of his throat
sniffling
from bad sinuses: years of coke

my question's perfunctory
"how are you doing?"
and his answer's the same
"I'm waiting. I'm fighting. I'm tired."

he's waiting to start clinical trials
on his vaccine
he's waiting for the World Health Organization
to get back to him
he's fighting
for all rights and monies on his drug

we've never talked as adults
my father and I
and it seems strange
our conversation
like two different people talkin'
about the lives we lead

also strange
that he calls
that he cares
about my life

he never did
and I think
if I'm not wrong
that this is the second
phone-call from my father
since leavin' home

two phone-calls
in three years

the third phone-call
comes a month later
and I'm just as nervous
rehearsing my lines
again
'cuz what do I say to him?
what do we talk about?

I don't know

I almost feel the need
to scribble certain things
specific topics
I can touch on
so we don't fall into
that uncomfortable silence
a silence
that shouldn't exist
between a father and child
but it does
and there's no gettin' past that

so
on the phone
the question comin' back to me
why does he call?
and why now?

it bothers me
'cuz I feel he needs something
from me
something I can't give to him
maybe I can
but I gotta figure out
what that something is

'cuz he's callin'
too much and too often

and it's unnerving
flattering

and for someone who's
never felt close to him
for someone who's
always felt rejected by him
I'm beginning to think
maybe
just maybe
he really does love me

it's been a long time coming
...




9:16 PM [+]
: Tuesday, October 01, 2002 :
Weather--brisk
unusual for Los Angeles
a message from my father
when I come home

the message plays
while I pull the windows closed
and my father's voice
fills the room
a deep, gargled mumbling
that leaves me still
surprised
attentive

my partner
understands nothing
and eyes find mine
as he shakes his head in confusion

but it's a beat before he gets it
eyes finally lighting up
smiling

“It’s your father,”

he strains to catch a phrase
straightens up, face blank.

“Saying something or the other.”

A look in my direction
“What did he say?”

“He wants me to call him back.”

In the kitchen
pots clatter on the stove
and I'm nervous suddenly
rehearsing lines I’ll say to him
while
angel-hair pasta
gets stirred
in boiling water

in between silences
my husband looks up
deep brown eyes, expressive

“I like your father.”

another silence
nothing to say, to do
except to drop my stare
down to yellow threads of
angel-hair
slowly thickening

“I think we should spend some time with him.”

a silent exhale
yes and no
a complicated statement
where to begin?

first
the phone-call gets post-poned
till tomorrow
in the morning, New York time
when I'm ready
when he's ready
when he’s sober

and second
the message gets replayed
to decipher his state of mind
inebriated
or
sober

the message is brief
simply:
“Call me when you get home.”
then silence
TV noise in the background
and the phone goes dead.

it's near midnight
too late to call
‘cuz it means he’s gone
too drugged to talk
communicatin’ through slurred speech
vomiting
close to vomiting
or swaying off his seat
from an unsound mixture of drugs and alcohol

it’s methodical
his routine
old age has given him habits
timed his drinkin’ and drugs
by the clock

eight a.m, he's clean
his routine--
breakfast
New York Newsday
shower
computer work

ten a.m
TV goes on
maybe a vomit
depending on
the excesses of the day before

ten-thirty
drinking starts
a special muddy brown brew:
pure Ethanol
orange juice
whiskey

eleven a.m
more TV
more alcohol
maybe a few chapters of a book
(he's an avid reader)

one p.m
lunch
TV
coke
alcohol

six p.m
computer work
phone-calls
alcohol
more coke
heroine

ten p.m
a late dinner
heavy coke
heavy heroine

eleven p.m
a nightly vomit

all timed
ready for the next day
in time to start the routine over

nights are his
to do with what he will
to pound his body

mornings
are for the rest of us
to call
to listen
to simply communicate

but his calls
come at night
when his demons are at their height
and he needs us
along with the drugs and alcohol
to reassure him and
to quell the voices

not understanding
that our reassurance
mine anyway
will come only in the mornings
when he's sober enough
clear enough
to understand
and to remember

not understanding
that my intent
is to give him enough
of what he's looking for
to get him through that night
to get him a little stronger
so he can ward off
some of the voices

it's not always successful
rarely is
in fact

but it's my intent

to be there
to reassure my father
to remind him
that
despite everything

I care.

but he has to understand
that I need
to show that
on my terms
not his

so it comes down to
a phone-call
that will be made

that can only be made
in the morning
...





4:24 PM [+]

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