A Twinkle in Dead Eyes
I didn’t learn to be a man by splitting firewood with an axe with a rusted steel head and rotting cedar handle. I learned to be a man when I took that axe and split my father’s skull with it. He used to say, “Think before you act.” I did the second, to stop him from doing the first, that’s why I am here with the seas of my cerebrum as calm as water could never be, while his skull is a cracked egg and his psyche sears into an omelet on the sand. Brain matter matters less than rain matters because rain is God’s way of erasing mistakes. The rain falls where I stand firmly. It baptizes me in holy water and I feel blessed that in peace is a place where my father will never rest.
My father’s life was nothing more than a tear in lubricated latex. My spontaneous outburst was nothing more than a heavenly back alley coat hanger. The insects of the lake weave through the bloodied hair of my deceased father as if playing dandruff to the water nymphs was an altogether unfulfilling career. There are some who live and die in a part of the rainforest, a place that has only known their touch, where they breathe heirloomed air. My father’s skull would be their fine china and the stuff of his thoughts would be something to be picked apart and later picked out of teeth. This isn’t some psychosexual, Jefferey Dahmer, unbalanced brain chemistry, paraphilia, this is the wet dream Plato had after missing supper. We don’t learn things, we only remember what we already know.
Well these primitive people didn’t need a pedophilic Greek to teach them that, maybe because they remember it because maybe he was right. They eat the brain tissue because that is where thought and knowledge lives; philosophy disagrees science agrees but they are never on the same page, most likely because they are reading different books. My digressions’ digressions aside, this is what is on my mind—synonymous with brain to most—and thankfully, mine is insect-free.
So I had to wonder: did one of those maggots fly away believing in God? Did one fly away as a closeted homosexual? An alcoholic? A philanderer? But what do the Greeks know anyway? They are more bankrupt than I am morally. And those precocious primitive people? I also read that they eat their own shit.
The water is starting to wet the bottom hem of my father’s light-wash denim and make it ride up to his mid calve. I can see his tattoo. The tattoo that was the reason he was wearing long pants on a 103 degree day. The tattoo that was the reason he wouldn’t fuck my mother with the lights on: a small heart with the name Phillip written inside. He claimed he got it as a teenager when his dog died, his dog named Phillip. He told me this the one other time I had seen it. A towel too short hung around his waist, his legs dense with hair as thick as his skin left the outline looking like a connect-the-dot constellation of stars that burned out long ago. Now that I really look at it, it is dotted and raised, it had obviously been done by hand. His skin perforated with braille disclosing words his lips couldn’t form.
The sun, baking his skin into a gimp suit of himself, raises the ink messianic-ly. The white powder sand rips through his flesh like coke through a nostril. The waves, thick with salt, shells, and sand, steep his body in a stream of liquid sand paper. It takes 252 licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop. The flicks of the river’s saline tongue over my father’s corpse taste him with buds of polished beer bottle fragments and dead jellyfish eroding his flesh far faster. A man turned into a nesting doll, shedding layers of epidermis like cheap, wooden, novelty souvenirs. Mother nature’s saliva dissolves him just enough so that she can swallow him whole. As he sinks, the tide still rises up, its appetite not satisfied, and apostolically washes my feet.
I run my hand upwards through the salt water and diffusing ribbons of wandering blood which watercolor my hand with the brush strokes of Van Gogh's shrapnel. The rain subsides and the clouds take a trip to somewhere where sorrow is without a proper backdrop. I used to be scared of the rain but my mother would tell me it was just God crying. Crying because kids in Africa don’t have food stamps. Crying because our hometowns football team lost again. Crying because another dried up prune of a washed up celebrity died of autoerotic asphyxiation. She said that the oceans themselves were just puddles of our Lord’s tears over all the things in the world that had went wrong. Today, as my father finds rest under the blanket of the warm summer water on the bed of the river, God has no reason to cry. He had wanted to go swimming that day but did not know it would be done with a map to his meat drawn in the blood that is piranha perfume. Once you know death, life means much less. Hard to laugh at a joke when you know the punchline.
I get up, collect my things, then look down at the axe lying in the sand. I kick it into the lake and let it float away. The long knotted wooden handle reddened—all that was left of a man on a journey he was never meant to finish. The river carries it downstream to serve as a reminder that some stories will have morals you would rather ignore. I get in my dad’s rusted Chevy pickup, with the confederate flag flying like the dragon we all chase. I guess he thought if he hated himself enough somehow he wouldn’t be himself. I start up the truck and the smell of diesel fuel and chewing tobacco make my stomach turn like a key in the lock of a Pandora ’s Box that only has nausea left at the bottom.
A man strapped a bomb to his chest, C4 and some duct tape, and walked into the coma ward of a local hospital. The windows blew out and the bodies of the soulless rained down with the glass. They call him a monster because news outlets don’t like to call white men terrorists, it sets a bad precedent. I just sit there in the car with the radio on thinking that at least for the fraction of a second between that seventh floor window and the concrete they could pretend to be angels. My father was no angel and could no longer pretend to be anything but what he is. Death makes us all honest in the end. And there would be my mother, waiting at the window for our arrival, hair curlers in and night gown draping over her bony, bruised stature, wondering when the head lights would spray through the window into the kitchen where she was drinking chamomile tea. To me, my father was a drunken phantom having phone sex in the kitchen perving out into the receiver with a whisky woven series of incoherent words. To my mother, he was an amorphous, toxoplasmotic tumor on her heart. Malignant. Inoperable. He was a stray shot of acidic bile Easter-egg-dipping her heart until it was a sticky, sickly, tar black. As he walked all over her, her only concern was that she might give him a splinter. When my father made her cry she used her tears to shine his boots. To him, I was just the result of poor planning and she was just a medley of wax teeth smiles and canned laughter.
I turn onto my street where cars are up on blocks and mailboxes are shaped like cows chewing on the cud of eviction notices and court summons. I turn off my headlights as I cruise down the street, sending all the shadows under the microscope of my tungsten rays back to the home of fear and mystery that night envelops us in. My house is on the right and on the outside it could be described as something close to beautiful. Edged flower beds, perfectly trimmed grass, and calla lilies as white as the sky isn’t. It is nice but nice becomes inadequate in a world where things can never be nice enough, nicer but never nice enough. As I turn into the driveway, my tires kick back gravel with metallic pings off the neon colored body kits of the lowrider cars parked on the street in front of my house. My mother would think this to be harmful; even such a small thing to her was too much. But life isn’t about not hurting anyone. Life is about hurting the right people, the right amount, at the right time. She is scared that I know this. She fears my belief that wrongs can create rights will lead me away from the path to name brand complacency. Apathy dopes up the herd where I whitewash my black wool.
When I pull my diesel burning carriage into the gravel drive in front of the house I know my mother already has her hand on the doorknob and has unchained the chain locks and unbolted the dead bolts. By the time I paralyze my transmission and my dipping bird pistons find no more fossil fuel to quench them I can hear her creaking the door open. This door being behind our other door with another lock and bars loomed with steel spool to create a tapestry of safety. Not safety for me or her but safety for everyone else. Safety from imprisonment in the concentration camp with floral wallpaper that we call home. I sit in park, knowing that my mother is a moment from stepping out into a silhouette existence beneath the bright patio light that is the sun in the gnat population’s universe. When we had left two doors had shut, when I arrive back only one opens. She had always said I had my father’s eyes but now she sees me standing before her with eyes sagging from exhaustion looking like stomped, scraped firefly guts. Doing no more than illuminating something that is more beautiful forgotten than remembered. I see her neck drop from a distance, her jawbone beating with her heart from the mere proximity, and I can hear her sob with tears dripping from her wrists due to her hands curtaining her reddened eyes. Then her neck swings back until she is practically looking backwards and the light shines onto and reveals something I never knew she had. The light reflects and curves around her dry lips where she is spreading a smile that could only be understood by those who occupy a world that is never on their side.
Published at The Bitchin’ Kitsch