My time lines are obfuscated now, and people no longer trust me. I have muddied everything into an uneven ball of clay, which I continually try to smooth over, but nothing will work; I have rough palms. People don't believe me. I, myself, can no longer tell the difference between what really happened and what should have happened. Or what didn't happen at all. How I lost change, how I found it, how I cashed it in for banknotes or weird favors. How I swallowed coins when there was nothing else left to eat. I see history as jagged lines, time as circular with weird radii connecting strange, spatial matter outside a sphere. I've let people down. I've brought them up. I've lost them. And in their place I found large, empty, cardboard boxes in which to climb and hide. Only, cardboard gets soft and soggy in a rainstorm. It collapses eventually. And you're left with pulp.
The most divine coaction of the sea is the wave that perpetually comes in and erases the indentation that you've carved with your weight into the wet sand, thinking you've built something. Or you've left something for someone to follow or see or measure. Or judge. You are nothing.
Funerals and Wakes.
Nothing like that is important. Funerals and wakes are for the living. Step back and watch people scurrying and busying themselves like attentive ants, carrying out a plastic tradition of grief and forgiveness. Because it's how it's always been done. Because you don't question at a time like this. Because you're honouring the dead. Even when the dead is dead.
So now I'm washing my hands at the small, pink sink downstairs. I pull the knob to the faucet, which he installed three years ago, just before he died; eviscerated by that ghastly animal that ate him from within his lymph nodes. And I think, that's what we should all leave behind. Faucets that work. That don't drip. Forget children, they'll eventually forsake their parents. Forget your melancholic traditions. They'll eventually consume you properly from the inside out.
He drives. A green, 1981 Chevy Caprice station wagon. We go around and around the freeway, missing our exit and smiling incredulously at the futility of our situation. And we curse some unknown civil engineer with a degree from Purdue University, who has managed to hide the ramp which will take us away from this concrete madhouse, to a small apartment filled with roach eggs stuck to the underside of shelving paper in the cabinets, on the second floor of a garden style walk-up. I sit on the back bench, next to his tools: a plumber's wrench, electrical tape, pliers…and a bow with most of its strings snapped and hanging from one end like a singed horse tail.
--What I miss the most is swimming in the sea.
--Remember that summer we both did the breast stroke among the jellyfish?
--The boat had a slow leak in the underside...
--...and we towed it ourselves swimming the two kilometers back to shore.
He says, one late August a Turkish freighter came by and signaled to pick him up from the water. The sailors offered him a ride and political asylum in Trabzon.
--Why didn't you go?
--I don't remember, he says. My time lines are wrong. Now I'm thinking it was in Mexico and the lifeguards were yelling "peligro, peligro" because I was so far out. Sharks, you see.
--And Turkish freighters.
I think I may have told you my father's story; I can't keep anything straight anymore. I'm a somnambulist; a copy of a copy. I build and erase constantly. I've lost myself in the fibers of truth and lies.
--There's our building again, he says.
--The reference point.
And still no sign of the undulated exit. It must be hiding in someone's pocket.
Upgraded amenities and fixtures.
--Laminar flow increases wetting like an aerated stream but is less noisy and produces less splash, he says.
--I'll show you if we ever find this bloody exit.
I make him promise to bring out the instrument and play a few bars. Later, when he does, he struggles with the massive wooden body of the contra-bass. When he concentrates like that a large, thick vein protrudes from his forehead and pulsates alive with the blood of music. And I am suddenly watching a man play out his dreams; a man whose future in this new country has been defined by water flowing through PVC and CPVC pipes.
All rights reserved.
This story first appeared in Lost in Thought Magazine (print) in October, 2012. Many thanks to Robert Vaughan for inclusion among some fantastic writing and artwork.