I handed you the book, like, hey, here is something I care about – something that’s important to me. You took the olive branch and stuck it in my eye. You belly laughed about it. What a fucking nerd.
I tried to think what you cared about. What sung inside you with such beauty and delicacy that it HAD to be shared. And I thought, if there isn’t something … Jesus. If’s there’s not a book you love or a show you worship or a song that touched you, well, hell, that’s so sad.
And then I felt like you wanted me to cry, but I was too sad to cry. I was empathizing with your meek, passionless life. Too cool to care. You should listen to Ian McKay. He was a blowhard, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.
So, I tucked my nerdy trump card and skated. Back home where my big Sis waited. And he’d called her. Told her what I’d done. Super freaking nerd shit. Your brother is such a dork. How could anyone care so much about something so retarded?
We were sad for him together. As sad as you can be for an insecure pile of clichés and self aggrandizement. He’s a lawyer now.
Still don’t care about shit.
She was a little older than me, and she smelled like cinnamon gum. She smoked cigarettes while she waited for the bus. My friends and I broke stuff. She stood to the side and smoked cigarettes.
One day she sat beside me on the bus, and I swear I died. My heart exploded. Our knees touched and I felt a shock. Literally. That’s not just lazy writing.
Long, blonde hair. The only blonde I’ve ever loved except family.
She was nice in a detached way. I thought she must have been 27 really and there to observe the middle school boys in their natural environment. Laughing hyenas. She was worldly, which is a cliché, but screw you. I’m trying to be honest. I’m trying to be open. What are you trying?
I was 115 pounds of straight nervous heart attack. I was writing stories in my head, and they were all about her.
The day I decided I loved her completely was one of the last times I saw her. School ended. She never came back. I’m 42 and I don’t regret much, but if I could go back I would have kissed her. Asked her out. Asked her to marry me in a sketchy cult ceremony.
She would have said no. And it would have been amazing.
Daddy’s hands were black, but his chest shone like a beacon. Like a man whose job it was to guide ships in during a storm. His face was grey. White on Sundays. Black at the end of the day. He smoked unfiltered cigarettes and coughed. He sang songs in the choir. He made homemade ice cream, and he liked to fish.
His anger was righteousness, like God was pissed. When he was happy, he was a pal. When he was down in the mine, he never watched the canary. He didn’t think like that.
When Ma died, he shattered. He lived in the mine and at the rail, drinking rye whiskey and telling bullshit stories and bragging how he had the best job on earth. He pulled his paycheck from the earth. He tapped it out with hammers and a chisel. He fucking breathed it inside of him. It killed him. He’s dead.
Coal raised me. Every bite I ate was black. Every pair of shoes left black grit on my soul. I did not brag about Daddy’s job. Everyone had a daddy worked in the mine. He was nothing special.
Nowadays, I sit on the big rock at the Y in the trout stream, and I think about him. Cigars, rough hands. Skin always cracking. He could never get clean. And I think. That’s it, man. That’s it right there. The poor bastard could never get clean. Not even when he tried.