[I walked out to the living room area, the phone cord pulled along through the wooden, narrow hallway separating the bathroom from the rest of the rooms. I stood there for a while]
At this point I’m lighting a candle, my hands start to shake slightly as the cold of the open balcony door seeps in hard. I get up and slowly make my way around the red-oak table, trying not to jab my shin against the edges. It vibrates as the next thunder bolt strikes right at the football field across the alley. I let my slippers slide off. The wind whistles and a group of branches fly against my window, rattling.
[“It’s not really something I wanted to be part of…” I could hear her teeth grinding into the phone.
“Look. I think your family knows about the whiskey, and there’s a chance they’re speculating that there’s more to your dad’s death.”]
I honestly don’t know how he did it. All I remember is him walking into a fancy room with a horse painting above the desk, shaking the man’s hand and then just coming back out with a smile on his face that could win a horse race without a horse. “It’s all taken care of, Son.” He said, as he fixed the tie he lent me and offered me a beer for lunch.
The candle seems to be fading; it’s one of those cheap 25 cent candles you can buy at a gas station.
[“What..?Whiskey? What are you talking about?”
“Don’t be stupid! The lawyers checked back today with your brothers, apparently Thomas has been doing some digging and the court record said your dad couldn’t have been in the car by himself.”]
“I tell ya, son. One of these days you’ll be running your own cases and I might even hire you myself!”-“Might, Dad?” I chuckled, trying to ease the tension of my question. But I knew he’d always seen me as a bit of a weakling. “You’ll have your own office, with green drapes and a nice big fat briefcase for all that paperwork, I’m telling ya, Son”. I smiled at him. My father reached over and grabbed me by the back of the neck, the way superiors do sometimes, one hand on the steering wheel; “Listen, kid, I guarantee I’ll be there every step of the way. I guarantee it!”
[“Christ, it was five goddamn years ago. I don’t understand what he’s trying to do. Does he think I did something to Dad?”
“I…wasn’t thinking that…”]
Around 4 years after I got my BA in Law I was once again in the same situation with my father. This time I had already taken my sweet time to figure out what I loved doing. It had already been about 2 years after I tried persuading my father to reconsider paying for my English Literature tuition. He had refused to speak to me since, in an attempt to boycott my love and shame me out of visiting at family reunions. I guess I had really hit a nerve right there for wanting to read Hemmingway. I’d make a weekly house call to my mother to check if she was doing alright and all I’d hear was either “She’s not here” or, if in the case that she was there “Oh, I’m sorry hunny, your father wants to watch his baseball in peace, it’s this darned phone, it keeps making these strange clicking sounds”. When truthfully it was the pole stuck up dad’s ass that kept making the clicking sounds as he adjusted himself on his rocking chair. Naturally if I’d ever try offering to come over and fix it, the phone would just cut off.
The candle has gone out. Once again I’m facing the dreadfully peaceful and inevitable silence that only reminds me of those 7 years I’ve faced in this god forsaken “stranded island” of an apartment.
My hand plays around with the light switch, no response. I walk over to what I believe to be the balcony door, I can feel the cool wind rushing through my eyelashes. My sockets get watery and my fingers become numb to the memories I type. A loud crash and a glimpse of the apartment for that one millisecond: just a white room, no red-oak, no splattered paint. I take a step out, my bare foot against the cool tiles of the balcony – which once were crimson – now display a poorly saturated orange mucky color from the plant debris Torence once kept plus the rainfall. The light of the clouds blinds me and for seconds I am vulnerable, then it all turns black again. Somehow I feel warmth from this darkness my eyes have now gotten used to.
I grab on to the railing, it’s stern and wet. The wind is so strong I can feel my cheeks blushing. Here I stand, blind.
“So how’s that girlfriend of yours?” He asked reluctantly, he knew he didn’t want the answer nor did he care about Torence.”She’s good. Busy Bee”-“Ah, oh yeah, is she that uh…the one that paints right?” He chuckled as the words smudged out of his mouth. I just smiled. “So…how’s it going with that-uh…college degree? Made any money yet?” “No. I haven’t used it yet”. Saying yet gave him some sort of glimmer of hope, it was a stupid move, but hey; can you blame me for wanting my father’s approval back? It was just a little show I was putting on for him. “Well, you know it’s best to start putting it to good use while you still can, I mean it’s no good to nobody just hanging on your wall like that. Just hurry up will you?” We jolted forward as we hit a highway. I sighed. “It’s not a coupon, dad, it doesn’t have an expiration date”. He turned to me eyeing me for a couple of seconds. I looked straight down at my feet, like a 4 year old being told off. All we heard for the next few minutes was the clinking of the whiskey bottle near my feet. “Be careful with that will you? D’you know how old that stuff is? How much it’s worth? I’ve been saving it up for your brother’s wedding day, 35 years, 35 years and not a bit of it did I drink! How’s ‘at for being loyal, eh?” He’s lying. Looking down at the bottle it’s evident the lid has been glued back on to the metal case that makes the bottle so unique. I looked up at the driveway. “I gotta make a pit-stop, alright, kid? Wait in the car”. He said. I nodded and watched as he disappeared into the bushes, leaving behind a nice car and a bottle of whiskey. I could just drive, I said to myself. I could just drive right off into the horizon and move to Portugal, or Croatia. But no, something about leaving an old man in the woods didn’t seem right. Right?
I opened the door with some effort, standing there, leaning against the car like a young James Dean, I stared into the bushes, waiting for my father to return. And I waited. And I waited.
30 minutes passed until I decided to see what was taking him. Normally a son would run into the bushes after 10 minutes. But for some reason I waited it out. Maybe it was some weak seed in the back of my head that had started growing. That maybe if I waited long enough he would fall, or get bitten by a spider. My palms started to sweat and I could feel mucus accumulating in the back of my throat. Was I going to see him next to a pile of his own vomit or just having a seizure? Would I have to do something, just to be sure?
[“The last time you spoke with him…was it in the car on your way home from Yale?”
“I don’t remember”
“What’s going to happen?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not saying you killed your father…but what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know.”
“They’ll come to you in a few days, once they’ve got the whereabouts of the whiskey”]
A sensation. An overwhelming sensation of warmth and absolute ice rushing through your body. I feel millions of small needles poking my entire body, just clambering away at me. I’m paralyzed but I can’t stay still at the same time, it’s this equilibrium of pain and pleasure. It’s the keys of my typewriter stabbing and jabbing at me in this orchestra of clicking, but you can’t hear the clicking because it’s not real, it doesn’t exist. It’s as if time and space stand still for a moment.