And Someone in the Back Kept Yelling 'Fire!': Tiny Essays on Family
My dad died back in February.
Or the end of January, I cant’t remember exactly.
For me, life without him here on this planet is basically the same as when he was alive. His breath, the only one I can smell pouring out of his mouth, it’s from the 1970’s. I didn’t really ever smell his older man breath. He kept it to himself, more or less, I guess.
The breath I did know though? Oh man. That’s his 1977 Parliament cigarette Pabst beer breath. It smells like narrow creepy woods along slow moving rivers. It smells like early morning eel, like fish rubbing themselves on the 6am sky. Like a musty basement with a homemade bar the morning after a night of real living. I smell his breath now. It comes to me on loan/ a memory belonging to a child who has passed it on to me in silence/ with only the slightest dip of the chin/ an old western nod of acknowledgement way past his years, this hombre.
But he’s a kid.
A fucking boy with no real proprietorship over the jar of breath anyways.
Why would he even want it?
Young men are going to move around, locally or far and wide, and each time they settle into some squalid apartment with a bunch of strangers or some foreign hostel bunk/ holding back tears/ horny and lonesome and lost in the beautiful way/ drunk, perhaps/ probably drunk/ each time they move in or out of another Earthly room: they need to travel light. Excess baggage is a curse. Your products only hold you back, hoss. It’s been that way forever. Just look along the old Mormon Trail or the old Oregon Trail. Besides the rotting bones of the snake-bit and the diseased there are sometimes soft patches of hard land where the hulking chests of drawers got thrown. The china cabinets from the 1700’s. The heirloom chestnut and cherry/ handcrafted by immigrants. The once proud status symbols of Boston blood or Baltimore breeding, tossed over the side of some prairie schooner like buckets of piss, so to lighten the load, so to lessen the severity of the real unfolding moment when not getting through these mountains just ahead of you before the end of August was life or death.
Fucking idiots. People back then were no different than me and you in a lot of ways. They thought they could get away with anything. They thought that God was real and that he sincerely wanted to thank them for their endless devotion by carrying their heaving steamer trunks of bullshit over the Rocky Mountains for them.