Wednesday, April 20, 2011
It Was The Tin Man That Had No Heart
Dad was always in the kitchen when I got there and that made it home.
I remember the patterns of the place. The linoleum swirled and looped this way and that, colors revealed and subsumed again, made still more random by the scrape of a million footfalls in a way no mechanism could replicate. The radio was molded hard, but still looked like the kind of plastic mash it was made from, and fought a determined rearguard visual action against the battered red dinette tabletop. The chrome legs stabbed at the floor.
There was a strange man there and I mean it in every way. He had a pinky ring and smelled like cologne instead of work and his suit was shinier than the table leg ever was. He had a gold tooth and a galvanized smile.
"We're not getting any younger, you and I..."
My father was the you. I immediately got the impression there was no I there.
"Climbing a rickety ladder every year, and for what? To do it all over again next year. You should be at the ballgame, not scraping and priming. Our space-age aluminum siding never needs painting, and once you set it, you forget it. Our easy terms put it in the reach of even a family with a modest income..."
He kept going, but I was distracted by my father. He drifted from his usual quiet self to an Easter Island face. The man was pushing all the buttons, as he had done before countless times to numberless people, no doubt. But all men's buttons are not the same, are they? Or maybe the buttons are all the same but are mislabeled on some people. The man was trying to talk incessantly without saying anything, but that's hard to do. Can you do it? The man reminded father of things gone, but not forgotten. Of wear and tear. Of loneliness and loss. Pain and regret. Of sitting alone at a battered table under a picture of your life gone away.
"It will always look good from far away, and every day that passes you'll thank yourself for forgetting it forever," he said, and held out the pen.
My father seemed startled, and he looked at the picture of my mom, dead and gone fifteen years, that hung over the table.
"Get out of our house."