Wednesday, April 19, 2017

After Dinner

Sometimes, looking back on a few of the details of his life, he realized that somewhere along the line a great deal of his life had not belonged to him. In fact, he couldn’t remember being in control of many of the choices set before him at all. He felt it was like being set down to a table filled with various dishes of food he wasn’t particularly fond of—but had no choice—but to eat them. Of course he thought he could have just refused to eat. But that wasn’t much of a choice was it?

Much of the past that seemed so relevant at the time had vanished into a thick purple haze of blurred details and grease smeared windows, impossible to see through and sticky to the touch. Parts of what he did remember seemed to confuse and depress him, so he felt that the past was better left just that, the past, and he chose not to eat that particular dish.

He thought of his father from time to time. He thought of him a lot. A man he didn’t know. Funny how you can come from a place you know nothing about. There were memories of him in there behind that sticky glass but they were beginning to fall apart, degrade into a soft and mushy version of the previous hard form of reality, so familiar until of late.

He thought of his father often enough to wonder what he must have thought of himself. A man who fought in a war. A man who left Texas with his son and never looked back. A man who appeared in a black and white version of a dreamscape in North Carolina and left as though he were written from the script of a television show. As though the writers simply couldn’t figure out what to do with him. So he stood around smoking cigarettes for a while on the set and then, he didn’t. Gone, as in gone. As in what the heck ever happened to…

His family didn’t leave much behind he knew, just old photographs and boxes filled with trinkets and old clothes. It was as if they were determined to disappear and cover their tracks. He still had his grandmother’s china and he thought it was pretty but he knew it was just cheap old plates printed with a knock off willow leaf pattern that she bought with green stamps at the Winn-Dixie back in the early seventies. What he had of his fathers, he could hold in one hand. It bothered him to the degree of bringing on a periodic depression, and a feeling of utter uselessness from time to time. What kind of a man leaves not a trace but a plastic box behind? Some old boots. A box with a hardware store giveaway screwdriver for your keychain, a broken watch and a cuff link, (yes, a cuff link, not a pair) doesn’t seem like much of a legacy does it?

Well it was pathetic. It made him angry and he wanted to punch out at the world and yell and cuss and fight the very God that created such nonsense. But you couldn’t do that could you? God didn’t fight fair. Never has. Never will. He doesn’t have to. He created the game remember? And on the eighth day God created man’s ability to be absolutely screwed by a world filled with snakes and apples. It seemed to him that God was very much like a child at times. Changing the rules of a game when it seemed to suit him. When the going got tough—so to speak. Erase the board, make smaller creatures.

So he just carried that ridiculous feeling of uselessness around with him and he took it out from time to time and he felt sorry for himself and then he put it away and he got on with his life. He knew there were people out there a whole hell of a lot worse off than he was and he felt sorry for them more than he did himself, and he knew that was a waste of time too, but he did it anyway.
Life was a strange trip indeed and he felt that he possibly never had the proper map on which to set his course. How does one take a trip without the proper course?

Maybe that was the point of it all he thought, we just wander around and look for a way to get out of the woods. Some people were just better at it than others. Some people had a better map, or a better compass, or easier woods. Some people never saw the woods at all. The trees were cut down for them before they got there. Maybe the point of life itself was just seeing how far out of the forest you could get before you started to forget the details. The details that built a life. That string of yesterdays with the choices set before you that you don’t want, but have to eat anyway. Or not. Not much of a choice.

That was it. That was how he saw it and he knew it was stupid to dwell on it but he did. The one thing he knew without a hint of a doubt, was that he would be better off if he stopped dwelling on it. He put his earplugs back in his ears and he turned on the audiobook “No Country For Old Men” and he picked up his chisel and he did. That was enough of that.

There was a legacy out there for him to build that wouldn’t fit into a plastic box. He would make damn sure of that.

Then he realized that he was his father’s legacy. He thought about that for a minute, pausing with his chisel in mid cut. Now that was something to think about. He would get back to that later. After dinner maybe. Somewhere in the next chapter, a little farther out of the woods.

The middle of the story.

Not the end.
Tony Whitford