I hate this place sometimes: the people it attracts, the things they throw in the streets, the paths they choose through traffic, the places they decide to park, eyes on no ball whatsoever. But this morning, in the shadow of one of the buildings at work, the air was perfectly kissing cool on my face, that Miami humidity drowned even though everything was wet. The sky clouded just enough that the sun didn’t get to say HEY LOOK AT ME I’M THE SUN! It peeked out just a bit, like a cute girl rolling out from under the covers, mumbling, “Hey, tiger.” Miami winters are the best. #IGuessIHateThePeopleNotThePlace #FuckSnow
I’m going to try to write once a week this year, for a couple of reasons. First, I often struggle with the “who gives a fuck about this”-ness of the act, but it’s interesting to look back on these key pecks from time to time. Second, my son is getting older and part of me thinks there should be something of me in writing for him to have someday.
About a month ago, I found out my Abuela has maybe six months to live and I’ve avoided going to see her. My aunt said she hasn’t informed her about the predicted remaining time. Couple days later, she told me that she HAS told her and I can’t really get it in me to push the point and find out if she’s fucking with me or what, because it’s not MY mother this is happening to, though I’d trade my mom into my Abuela’s situation in a heartbeat. Man, I hope it’s not 52 posts of me being a complete asshole for a year…
I haven’t lost anyone close to me yet, so this sucks. Such a weird thing, being told someone has x amount of time to live. Predictor of the ax swing. The first thing I thought about was who the hell figures out how long the person has left to live? Is there an app that figures this shit out? Do you enter the weight and the height and the cancerous organs and the percentage or the kind? Is there a menu where you select the cancer by how it looks? Do they ask questions like, are you going to fight it? She doesn’t seem to want to. When my aunt asked her to take some sort of medicine, my Abuela said, “Pa que?” This makes me sad because I remember one time she threw a bag of beans at my head when I was a kid. I’m sure I deserved it. Now she’s all “for what?”
Whenever I think about it too much, I have to bite my lip or get up and pace. I figured if I don’t think about it or go see her, it’ll be easier somehow. But I went to see her the other day and she seems thinner. Maybe she isn’t. Maybe she’s been this thin for a while and it’s just the real life Photoshop filter called “she’s gonna die” that makes her look thinner. Her big gray fro has less volume in it. Even her big ass feet that she always shoves into tiny shoes look smaller. She sat in her big backed green chair and just stared straight ahead at her furniture.I wondered what she was thinking about. The tv wasn’t even on. She seemed to stare at the red laser point of the power light on her radio. I asked her if that’s what she was watching and she said oh yeah, she watches it all the time and then one of her little scoffs. She asked me to check the cable on her HD antenna and I did. I asked if she wanted to watch any movies and my aunt came in and said she’d never watch any modern movies. My aunt who said now she has to be like a rock. No bleeding. No tears. She is the strongest person I know. Puts all these broken crazy old people on her back and sticks them in her little Toyota sortaSUV and takes them where they need to go, with her one brownish tooth and her pretty eyes and her soft soft hair I cried in her neck after one bad break up and she laughed and called me pobresito. Laughed at my crying and made it better. And now she’s gonna carry my grandmother into her grave as best she can.
I feel like I’m not allowed to ask my grandmother anything. Part of it is I’ll explode into tears, but also it’s like if I go and open my mouth, I feel I’m being selfish. Like helping her or pretending to help her is more for me than for her. I want to ask her if she wants to go on a cruise. Or some restaurant. Disney! A beer! Has anyone asked her if she wants some rum? She’s Cuban for fuck’s sake! Maduros! A big comfy chair and a giant umbrella at the beach! She can go in her regular clothes! Pants and one of her flowery blouses! A floppy hat and her little annoying dog, Chispita, and a quiet spot in the sand, good sunglasses to stop the sun, it never snows and the best time to go to the beach here is in the winter when everything is dying everywhere else. She doesn’t even have to get in the water. But let’s say we went to the beach with Abuela in the winter and we didn’t just sit there in that room with the red light from the radio and no music. We could play some Juan Luis Guerra for her. 440 is the only Spanish music I know a lot of the lyrics to and she let me copy it off her cassette. Ha. Cassettes. Let’s fight it, just a little, with some sunshine and sand and sunscreen and a little Me Sube La Bilirubina.
My grandmother is going to fucking die and my piece of shit grandfather is going to outlive her all senile and not remembering the horrible shit and irresponsibilities he has delivered to people. Why not him? Why not that stupid fucking chihuahua? Why not anyone but my son and his mother, my father, my aunt, I’ve got a list, I swear, it’s not very long, I hate most people, look, take anyone but these, like, fifty people.
This week had your first day of kindergarten. Or “real school”, as we called it, all worried about how you were going to cope with actual work and not just watching youtube videos all day like you seemed to have been doing at your summer camp. We walked you to your class and sat you at a desk. We watched to see when parents would start to leave, knowing that we didn’t want to be the people who left too quickly or stayed too long. At one point, I pulled on your mother’s arm and told her, “Let’s go.” We gave you kisses and hugs and told you to be good and then felt our hearts shatter and drop down our bodies and into our feet when you gave us a look that said, “You’re leaving?” Your mother did not want to go, but I yanked on her like a bandaid and we walked out, trying not to look back at your shocked face and outstretched hand. Outside, we watched you through the jalousie windows. You pulled your glasses up on your head, cried a little, wiped your tears, and pulled the glasses back down.
And, because I’m old now and my memories of things with you get to fall into folders in my head with memories of things I had with my dad, I thought of my first day of kindergarten. I did not want to go to kindergarten. Unlike you, I didn’t have several years in day care and summer camp to prepare me for the end of my freedom and my entrance into the system. I just remember grabbing my father’s leg, those rough factory working pants with the dust on them from the metal grinder, and the teacher pulling me away, somewhere behind me. And my father, standing there arms and hands dead at his side, not knowing what to do with himself as I cried, dragged into that little two doored building.
So I think you did WAY better than I did and already I’ve made you better than me at something: the first day of kindergarten. And unlike my father, I didn’t just stand there. I grabbed your mother and I walked as fast as I could from the window, from the memory of my frozen father, from the tears that were coming for me. So everyone did better, yeah?
The great thing is you seemed to like “real school” and you were ok with going back the next day, and that’s something I didn’t feel like doing until summer school for third grade. So you’re winning, kid.
On day 3, apparently, you called a woman walking you from class “fat” and later, when we asked why, you said, “because she is fat.” That made me proud, to be honest. Not sure why. Maybe because I am evil. When we asked you where you heard someone saying that to another person, turns out you got it from Dr. Seuss and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
You also lost your first tooth. I am still actually a little worried that this didn’t occur naturally and you popped that thing off while chewing on a Lego and the real tooth is still months and months away. They told us when the tooth came out, you held on to it like it was gold and you wouldn’t give it to any of the teachers. I wish I could’ve seen that if it’s anything like the shit you pull when we take the iPad from you. You put the tooth under your pillow in a ziplock bag and your mother, I mean, the tooth fairy gave you fifty cents for your trouble. Her reasoning was that coins are cooler. I cannot disagree with that, but stopped myself from adding that they can’t buy you shit these days.
This week, you also got into the habit of saying, “Holy shit,” which I deserved to have to be the one to fix. I tried to do this by switching to “Holy crap,” but you shut it down pretty quick by telling me I couldn’t say that because it is a bad word. So we just say wow and oh my goodness, now.
A couple of days ago, you were singing the lyrics to Life is A Highway. Not the actual words, but your made up versions of those words that sound the same. It made me so happy because I used to do the same thing. Hell, I may still be doing that.
So that’s what’s up right now. Life Is A Highway is your favorite song and your bottom right front tooth fell out and the left one is wiggling like a fat girl trying to get into some yoga pants.
Where did the way go
taking with it my fine steel?
I used to
cut you a picture of a kiss
with my words
and a little dancing town
with my lines.
I knew who I wanted to be
and didn’t keep track of the bodies.
Now I just wrote that sentence
like what the fuck
blundering through this
catching on the line breaks
like they were discount clothes carousels.
Here comes an old man
he thinks I work here.
Who would let a bearded fucker
like me work here?
he says everyone in hialeah knows it
how can he help me?
como llegaste aqui
con una sonrisa
con cachetes rojo.
Templaste en el fitting room?
Ah. Name tag.
o te tiro
con el cuello sangrando
en el monte
con los otros.
Ah, there you are
blue blade wet with whisky
and the right song playing at the right time.
I should’ve done a little bit more work on plotting. I really should’ve figured my ending out, which I never did and so there’s just all these disjointed scenes I have digital index cards for. I should be writing anywhere but here. But, NOW, of course, I want to go catch up on sketches. Or write poetry.
What I need is a year long reason to not write a novel so I can be creative elsewhere. But no, today I’m gonna get four pages down, even if they suck a big typewritery dick. I have no idea what that penis or typewriter would even look like.
This is so pretty. For some reason, it reminded me of the guitary Radio Mambi guajiro music my dad used to tune to in the car on Sunday mornings, dragging me to go spread Jesus door to door. The calm before the weekly sweaty odyssey.
There’s a thing we do every time I put you to bed, (even when you’re not at my place and I have to say goodnight over Facetime) after I’ve done the Optimus Prime voice and the roaring car sound while hugging you, and I nuzzle your nose and rub my facial hair all over your cheeks to make them red, I say, “Sweet dreams of people” and you finish it with, “driving vehicles.”
But tonight you did not finish my sentence.
You rolled over inside your tent on the bed and cuddled against your Pocoyo, Shaun the Sheep, and Peelow and then the call was over.
I got home and I sat in the bathroom, my baggy pants around my ankles and when I was done, I was like, man, I really just want to put on some shorts. But you can’t just shuffle like the fucking Penguin to where the shorts are from the bathroom. You put the pants on. You do the belt a lil, maybe not all the way. Then you go and change into the shorts. But you don’t just leave the pants in the bathroom at the base of the toilet and shamble ass nekkid to the shorts drawer. There’s a WAY to do things, dammit. One foot in front of the other, motherfucker.
Thinking about that made me want to write for some reason. Probably because I’m good and crazy. And I haven’t written in forever. But I think it was mostly because of my uncle.
I was talking to him tonight and I swear it started with us talking about Camaros and Chevelles and Chevy Novas but it ended with him calling me a socialist and us arguing about the flag on top of the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee not being racist, except, you know, everyone thinks it is, so it is. Perception is reality and all that.
He’s always been on this philosophy kick about how humans have a reason for existing in the universe and that we don’t do what we want because we’re afraid. And I told him that I fear writing because I don’t want to write something stupid. But beyond that, what I didn’t say, is that I don’t know what value I could ever add to the ongoing conversation that humanity has with itself. And why would humanity even care? I mean, there’s ebola, people. EBOLA!
The answer to that, from people pushing the writing thing, is that at least you’ll always be the best writer there is that can write from your own head sapce. So if I see, oh, another sunrise, let me come up with a way to describe it that no one has used before because sunrises are pretty, you know? And sure, shitfuck tons of people have described them and that doesn’t make them any less prettier. I guess. But each way is somewhat unique. Maybe. But I don’t buy it. Not usually.
I read this article about the first space walk, the one the Russians did. Dude said he felt like a grain of sand out there, holding on to a cord of some kind, floating some feet away from his craft out in the big bad nothing while his suit was puffing up for some reason. “Grain of sand,” you’re so original dude, I thought at first. But you gotta give that guy his “grain of sand” description. That’s the truth. Give it to that 80 year old former cosmonaut who had to release oxygen from his suit through a valve because the suit was puffing up for some reason and he wasn’t going to be able to get back in his craft. Ain’t nobody Yeatsing it up when floating in space takes your breath from you. When the vast comes to kill you, you can have your “grain of sand,” bro. You earned it, like the eyepatch that comes with a lost eye.
I think, in that way, in the way that stories like that can immortalize you, it’s easy being a hero.
I’m no hero. Just a dude. Along the way, I’ve become a bunch of other things, too. A bad person. A father. It’s nice to have this gift, though. The weird ability to fill an empty page with words and it usually make some sort of fucking sense. And if I’m honest about it, there are times I will write in my head. I’ll get an idea and write a scene or a line in my head. The astronaut needed to leak some O2. I sometimes need to leak words. I’ve been doing this for an hour now and I don’t even feel it. Well, maybe in my neck, from craning down over the screen, but the whisky will make me forget.
I asked my uncle what he wanted to be growing up or what he’d do right now if money wasn’t an issue and he didn’t have to make sure he kept a roof over his head in case his kids ever need a place to go. Were the great big anvil of parental burden not placed over his coyote head by the road runner, what would he do? He said he’d try to find the truth about why we’re here. Who put us here? What is our purpose? What was HIS purpose?
I laughed because I don’t believe there is a truth. Maybe there’s an explanation to the system but it doesn’t mean we’re free of the system. We can’t all be Neo, if any of us can even do that. You gotta put your pants on and walk out of the bathroom because damn it, there is a smell and there are places in the house that smell better. And you want to put on shorts. If we could see beyond the barrier of this universe into the place beyond, we could never go there and survive. I’m certain.
I’ve found that the truth is more about what you do after you find out whatever the fuck it is than the thing itself. Like the act that crystallizes a man into the vision of a hero instead of a casualty. Grain of sand instead of dead in space.
My uncle influenced me in a way no one else in my life ever did. I don’t know if he did it on purpose. I think some of it was me. I’m just naturally a cynical “nah” sorta dude. Out of all the people in my family who were brainwashed by the religion, I was dense enough to resist the Jaysis waves. My uncle’s slight influence tweaked me just so, too. He let me watch Reservoir Dogs when I was way too young. Heavy Metal. Ghostbusters. National Lampoon’s Vacation. I’m pretty sure the first tit I ever saw was because of him. That’s no small thing. I mean, I think it was a pretty regular sized boob, but you know what I mean.
And he was right about me liking beer more than soda one day. Eventually. Though soda can kick a headache’s ass and beer just brings ’em sometimes.
And classic rock. Classic rock is awesome. All music is, really. It all turns into classic rock at some point. Ask Nirvana. They were alternative at one point.
One time, my uncle told me he had this book about a dude who knows the truth about the way things in the world are put together physically and he can walk through walls and he can take a bullet out of a person. I asked him if it was magic stuff and he said, no, not really, it’s about the way the world works. I wanted to read this book and he said, I really shouldn’t because your aunt and your dad and all these people are gonna be mad because these things kinda go against the religious stuff you learn and I don’t want to get in trouble.
I already didn’t really believe in the faith based bullshit machine I had to sit through multiple times a week with drool sliding down my neck, but he wasn’t gonna give me the book so I just let it go. Many years later, while in Portland, Oregon, I found that fucking book in a used book store. I knew it was the book just from the description.
I was happy to feel like in this cold hard universe I’d found something magical or that it found me. It chose me, that little hunnert or so page novella about the dude with the plane that never wore down. And the other dude who learned from him. I felt a little vindicated at the time. Like my choice to ignore the churchy stuff was right and here was the proof. The thing my uncle tried to keep from me ended up being mine anyway, three thousand miles away. I left it all behind and won. I ran so far away.
I only now realize that whatever I was looking for in that book, it’s the same shit people look for in a bible. The truth is it was just a fun book and it made me try to move things with my mind just like every fucking comic book I’ve ever read. Now it’s just another book on the shelf.
This is a long one. I don’t know what got into me. And I’ve come back to it over and over because it kinda doesn’t make sense. But it does to me and I guess that’s ok because sometimes it’s just about getting it down. Maybe it will make more sense later.
Went for a walk this evening. Put Jack on my shoulders. It was nice. Sorta cool out. Cool for Miami, you know? Mosquitoes were sorta out sorta not. Sliver of a banana moon out. We out. We about. We no fighting tonight. We no shout.
I like the look of my shadow with my little man riding up high. He grabs on like a monkey, hugging against my head, running his fingers along the slow returning hair on my ears. Gotta shave that tomorrow morning. But he likes it right now.
His mother walks slow, looking at Halloween decorations in people’s yards. I need to go faster. Overweight as I am, I want to go on to the next house, the next corner, the next block. I walk ahead of her into the street to avoid some sprinklers. She falls behind a bit in the dark street. She’s on the other side of the street now for some reason, popping in and out of tree shadows.
I don’t know shit about Halloween, thanks Jehovah’s Witnesses. I only know that summer is dying and running is funner. I want to take off with my boy up there in the saddle of my shoulders. I want to be a stallion for him. I want him to bounce and hold on for his life and giggle, the pealing laughs bouncing off walls and trees, up into a sky with no rain finally summer’s going away.
I think about how fast 3 years old is going and how he lies sometimes now and can say please and thank you and you’re welcome. He bargains. He likes it when I drive over train tracks fast. He tells me he loves me too when I put him to sleep. He cries a little more than I like.
I think about my sore lower back and put the Kentucky Derby on slow mo. The other footsteps catch up behind me.
We reach our front yard and look at the inflated pacman pumpkin chasing 3 blinking ghosts: blue, green, red.
“It’s three ghostes, dada.”
Today was your first day of school.
You knew off the bat we were not going to the babysitter. On the road, when we turned right instead of continuing South, you said, “This way! This way!”
We’d been telling you for a week that you were going to school. That you’d be playing with kids. That you’d be learning.
As with most things, you ignored us because you had better things to do. Lightning McQueen and Towmater and Mack truck and such. So important because now your life of nine to five has begun and this is the cage, welcome and sorry.
When we pulled up and put you on the sidewalk so you could walk on your own, you rooted your feet to the dirty concrete. I gotta be honest. I couldn’t look you in the eye.
Your mom and I each grabbed one of your hands and hopped you along the sidewalk, yanking you into the air and dropping you slowly back to the ground. I could tell you were not buying the hoppitty bullshit. You were tense, my boy. Like you were taking one of your bad shits. A seizure of suspicion. The blue wooden fence was an unfamiliar sight early in the morning. The old lady who greeted us was not the dark smiling woman who smells of curry and lets dogs lick you every day.
You did not want to cross the concrete courtyard to where the kids were having breakfast. I picked you up and carried you. I saw a rocking chair and put you in it.
Because rocking chairs comfort me.
You sat there and looked around from beneath your furrowed brow and slightly lowered head. You seemed to be checking the place out.
I told your mom we were leaving and she asked if we should say bye to you. I told her no.
I checked with one of the women who worked there, this was the right thing to do, right? Not make life difficult for everyone else by allowing our son to see our sadness and to share in it, to bring us to the point of saying fuck this, it’s pretty expensive anyway, we can wait another year or two or three or fuck preschool altogether, if we could figure out a way to win the Powerball, we would never have to educate you, you could avoid difficulty forever, you could grow up to be a super wealthy mongoloid asshole. But always happy.
She told me that yes, it was best if we just departed. So we did.
In the car, as we drove back home, I could see your mother’s head get lower and lower. Not bowed down, but a complete vertical drop, like ET is wont to do. An alien driving me around. Her shoulders twitched a little as we went and when we parked, she cried and her face was a green eyed question mark with ruddy cheeks. “We abandoned him.”
I said all the right things to comfort her.
I remember my first day of school: Kindergarten. 1982, I’m guessing. I never had any daycare or preschool or anything. Just always with my cousins. Four boys breaking things. Getting our ass beat a lot, though my aunts and uncles deny this shit the way escaped Nazis deny participating in war crimes. I remember being aware that this school thing was going to happen. And that WORK was being missed for this. For me.
I remember my father standing outside the low two door kindergarten building with his hands in his pocket. My god, he would’ve been 42.
I wrapped myself around his legs and apologized. I apologized for the universe, the big bang, for not reading the bible more, for talking back all the time, and for every horrible thing I would do after that day, just please don’t make me go to school. I did not look up at him. I buried my head in the stiff green of his pants legs and I could smell the dust of the polished metal that he fought every day and still does. My teacher pulled me away from him and into the classroom and he just stood there, his legs and the light of the sun and then the closing door.
Thirty years later, I saw my father’s face in my reflection in the bathroom mirror at work.