Tuesday, April 14, 2020

DIPTYCH BEFORE DYING (a second part though the original manuscript is not so divided

                                    A MAN'S DESIRE NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IS A                                                                                                   DESIRE TO SEEK EXTINCTION

         On Sunday in Sydney they convert the bars into churches. We drank in the room, took showers and slept for the next day when we could take the ferry to Newfoundland.  The day was long with him saying: I want to send a postcard to Deirdre.
         Downstairs they must have them.
         Could you get me a couple?
         You got two legs. I’m not a servant the way Mom was.
         She wasn’t a servant. She knew how to do so many things.  I was good to your mother.
         I remember
         No, you don’t.  Before you were born.  She understood me.
         That’s what you’ve always said. She understood you right into her own grave.
         That’s not true.
         Shut up, you’re drunk.
         You drink as much as I do.
         Shut up.  I wanted to punch him in the face, break his glasses into his brown eyes, let the brown float like shit in his blood.                                              *
         Then the whatifs…why did I stop at the kiosk in Sofia, why did I put my hand through a door window in Mattituck, why did I go back to Sofia from Istanbul, why did I drive away from Hollins?
         Did we go to sleep or pass out?
         There was a good feeling waiting to drive on to the ferry.  People seemed different.  Raw hands, I saw, something I never notice, usually, some tourists but most people just seemed to be that, people going home or going to visit the home place. 
         Dad seems happy, buys a paper from the kid and tells him to keep the change from the dollar… I knew he had delivered newspapers when he was a kid in Brooklyn…              

                             what I knew of his                                              actual life in Brooklyn                                         wouldn’t make up a                                            paragraph.

         The car was down in the hold of the great ferry sailing from Sydney to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland: I like saying the word Newfoundland… the o gets dropped out it seems or at least off my tongue.
         Found the bar.  A red and white plastic semi-cricle.  On the arc small round tables with four chairs about each with an ashtray in the center of the table and four Moosehead beermats. The waiters have been drinking all afternoon before we board.  They’ve loosened their ties and their silvered serving trays are stained from the previous sailing. A red napkin covers the little pile of coins on each of their trays.
         Dad and I sit next to this couple. Can you see who they are or is this description more of me, then? He and she of this couple have the look of people who hated the smell of babies and milkshakes, well, they’ve probably had the children but now free of them they were lonely and happy and a scotch was in front of each of them and I knew they would talk to us because they could talk without a child pissing into her ear and he saying, they are children after all.
         And this other couple comes in.  She has long red hair and is slightly heavy. Her eyes are green as are the trousers he is wearing.  He seems just out of the Marines, heavy hairy arms, a long full beard and hair like a patriarch in a Jewish village in Poland though his voice is American mid-western…  no, he’s probably a nice guy and I am a louse for making all of this up
         We sat, Dad and I sat, comfortable in a place where the drink was a necessity and not a vice, where the hand held with comfort a pint glass of Guinness even though there was no Guinness to be had and I thought of McDaid’s in Dublin where I was drinking late Sunday afternoon and a lad next to me puked across the floor, went to the toilet, not too steadily, coming back asked for his glass to be freshened and it was for he was not in such a bad way and was a quiet one, to be sure.
                                And  the essentialquote
                                           Everyone enjoys a good story.  At six we                                                                                              clamor for stories at bedtime; at sixteen                                                                                                 we call for them around the campfire; at                                                                                                  sixty we count on them to pass our                                                                                                          armchair evenings.
                                                                                       ---ADVENTURS IN READING                                                                                                *
         I want to be in love.
         I turn to ask Jill if she would like a drink.  She had been called Jill by the man.
         I’ll have an orange juice. [what follow is the sort of stuff that got cut] If I had one more drink I’d give you my Mom’s bra size.                                                          
         She’s not kidding, the man said.
         Of course I’m not.  I know you’d just love to know my mom’s bra size so you could put me down. 
         So, you’ll have an orange juice?
         Yes, with some vodka in it.
                  [a conversation had been here but was removed for too obvious reasons]
         During the serving of the drinks Dad took a Scotch from the couple to his left and said his wife at died in December.
         And this is my son, Thomas.
         I shook hands with Mr. and Mrs. Casey from Toronto.
         We’re not originally from Toronto.  We’re Newfies.
         What’s that?
         From Newfoundland.  Left there 20 years ago with my childhood sweetheart (he pats Mrs. Casey on the back of her hand).  Got tired of the snow and the potatoes and the smell of paper making.  Now that the children are grown up I go home to visit.  We go home to visit my sister and her mother, while we can.
         My father was from Ireland, my father said.
         And so was mine, said Mr. Casey.  County Cork.
         Mine was County Donegal.  Tom went to Donegal once.  Almost married a girl from there, I think. (Dad, don’t)  Didn’t like the place though. I wish he had liked it. Instead he married a foreign girl from Bulgaria of all places. I wish he had married an Irish girl. I’d like to be able to go to Ireland.
         Dad, shall we go to Ireland for Christmas?
         Will you make the arrangements?
         Yes, if it works out in Mexico.
         Yes, Mexico. We’re going to Mexico, Dad says, to meet my daughter after this place. It would be nice to go to Ireland.  My father never said much about Ireland.
         Wasn’t he very young when he left Ireland?
         Not young.  He was 12. He never said anything about Ireland.  Ireland was a place to die in, he said once, I remember.  He hated Ireland.  Everybody called him the happy Mick but he hated the place and enrolled me in the Ancient Order of Hibernians.  This was as close to Ireland he wanted anyone to go
         Why did you let me go to Ireland for university?
         You wanted to go.
         God, Tom, you’ve a great old man.  My old man threw me out of his house the first time I came home drunk.  I was thirteen, I think.  We were still living in Newfoundland at the time.
         Ron raised his glass to Dad.  That’s why I ended up in the Marines, the American marines of all things.  I’m like all the Newfies on this boat, these poor bastards, hating the fucking place.
         You should say cheers a hundred times.  [more conversation removed]
         I’m sorry, Jill.
         You must not be sorry      
         Nicest girl I know, Ron says kissing her on the forehead and when the glasses came we raised them.
         Tom you and your dad ought to go up to and see the sunset. It’s real pretty.  The one thing that’s pretty in this place.
         Dad, you coming up on deck?
         No, I’ll sit here.  It’ll be cold up there.
         No, it isn’t.  You’ll like it.
         I like it here. Go on will you and leave me alone.
                         [what comes next strikes me as something it would be                                    impossible to believe though upon reflection there is a                                    truth in it and while I am pretty sure Tom did not have such                            words in his head as he stood on the deck]


         The sun is flattened out on the horizon.  A gold tongue In profile.  Hair of Lois in the summer, but I never saw her in the summer, only in the winter cold.  Lois was in New York and Dad’s words, leave me alone.  He was always saying that.  I wanted to capture: leave me alone.                                    *
         Bring on the darkness.      
         As I started down the stairs Jill was walking up and asked, walk me around the deck.
                           [a conversation removed]
         Jill has left the deck.  I didn’t want her to leave.  We have not commented on the wooden floor of the deck, the tiny pockets or rust waiting to be scraped and repainted.  The toll of weather.                                              
         Dad was drunk by now and the usual… being embarrassed as he… but it was too chilly on the deck, too alone, so back down to the bar and Dad was sitting where I had left him.  He seemed happy.  Why was he happy? Ron and Jill were off at a table by themselves.  Mrs. Casey was talking in a voice much louder than before, these kids, I don’t understand them.
         Nothing to understand, Dad says.  Just close your ears and eventually they get tired of hearing themselves talk.  I learned that living with my mother back in Brooklyn and all my sisters and the nieces.  They just get tired.
         My son is studying in Toronto, Mr. Casey said.  To him everything I do is wrong. Either it’s not traditionally right or I’m supposed to be against the revolution.
         I don’t read the newspapers anymore, Dad says.  I used to buy the old Journal American when I commuted out to Patchogue. But that was for the comics and the Money Word game.  Tom, here used to think he was going to win a million dollars and fly off to some castle and have his own army and wear the Kaiser’s own golden helmet.  You know I used to see the men off at the Brooklyn docks during World War One.  I played the flute.
         You don’t seem that old, Mr. Casey said.
         I’ll be 67 the day after my son’s birthday in October.  I forget how old he’s gonna be.
         29, Dad.
         Yes.  29.  1944.  The war was terrible.
         You were in service?
         I was in the desert, Mr. Casey says.  Left Newfoundland and ended up in the damn desert, but Mrs. Casey waited for me to come home.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t much of a catch. We had a hard time of it. That’s what I don’t understand about the kids today, says Mrs. Casey.  They’ve been given everything and still they’re not happy.
         We are happy.
         I don’t really believe you, excuse me, Mr. Casey says.  Maybe you are but most of them young people… Our son is not very happy and that’s why he studies the past and the future.  Doesn’t see much in the here and now.  Just likes to talk to people he says.
         I am waiting for Dad to talk about the American Can Company.  About making c-ration cans.  Having to go from one end of the country to the other, from Florida to Maine.  That’s what I had to do. There was something wrong with my heart so they didn’t call me up. 
         It was not talked about: what he did during the war and even now when thought about it the other Dads never talked about the war, it was just something they all went to, came back and didn’t talk about.
         I have listened to myself.  Almost believed it.  My home in the middle of a ash heap and yes, Marion I am still waiting, is the television loud enough, can you hear Julie Andrews singing, she liked Julie Andrews and she was on television the night before.. I could hear her teeth cracking pieces of ice, that’s all she could eat…
         I resented her being sick, being in the hospital, I wanted to be with Lois in the city, not there with the white coated nuns, crucifixes…… or when she was home again for the final weeks which I did not know as the final weeks… even found fake poetry: sad voice of tears
                                             She did not ask for me
                                             Long ago
                                             I was a disappointment.
                                             So many times
                                             You are just so unhappy,
                                             she said to me.

                   [a memory that got inserted in a random                                 fashion]         
       Not knowing Mom was going to die, Deirdre had bought a Christmas tree and the day after the funeral she put it in front of the church adding to the decorations around the outdoor Nativity scene.  We didn’t feel like decorating the tree… Christmas was over forever for my sister.
         Dad’s lips are thin, clenched, pulled inward. There is some sort of electricity between him and the Caseys.  They will not have to see each other on the morrow.
         Tom, it’s a coincidence.  Mr. Casey’s name is William and Mrs. Casey’s name is Alice.   A small world, if you ask me.  I’ve always said it, a small world.  Alice was a good sister though she married a Protestant.  She raised her children to be good Catholics, you remember? Ernest. That was her husband’s name. He always bought a new Cadillac every year.  William was my brother.  He went around the world before he was 17.  I don’t know how many times after that.  He was a radio operator on this yacht you see for Burne-Lowe.  He was a rich man until he lost his money in the Great Depression.  He jumped out a window, my brother said… smashed up on the street he was.
         We were living in Wisconsin when my sister Alice died and we couldn’t go to the funeral.  Deirdre had just comeback from the Peace Corps in Tunisia, you know?  Tom was there too we sent them a telegram.  He had just left his wife
         No, Dad I went to Columbia.  Lilia had her course to finish at Hollins.
         Yes, I guess, well, he had a place and Deirdre stayed with him
         She didn’t like the cockroaches and the shower in the place.
         She told your mother and me she thought it was luxury after Tunisia.        
         I guess it must have been.
         They went to the funeral together.  I liked Alice.
         Somewhere else I was alive, maybe. This is fiction amid, my mother’s blood, the warm jelly placenta her blood flowing into me through me… the blood that would kill her 29 years later in my life.
         Dad telephoned.  Your mother died.  I went to see Steve Miller down at the place where he was making Xerox copies on Warren street and keeping a bed in the storage room as he was saving his money to buy a Ford 1968 Mustang.
         We went to the Blarney Stone---  (it’s still there under a different name and has been there for all these years).  They still had the prices in big red numbers up behind where the bartenders stood.  A beer mug was being filled with dollars and quarters by the customers for the holidays.  We had a couple of beers: Miller’s beer like his last name. I was a creature of habit.
         I just sat there jealous of every single person.  Ron being to war, Jill being with him, the Caseys, Dad and    here       the son who watches porn movies and wanted to rescue the girls from the bad guys so he can be bad to them.
         Is that secret enough?  In a toilet in Sofia, by mistake in the woman’s part the toilet filled with bloody strips of cotton, pee mixed with the blood, that’s what it’s all about, I guess.
         The ferry has docked.  The bar looked exhausted. 

Something it cannot be, I knew, but the words got thought and I would have said them.
         I woke Dad. No one thought it strange people just lay down on the banquette along the wall…
         His mouth was open a little. The false teeth yellow, a spot of drool on his two day old beard.
         We’ve arrived in Newfoundland.
         We’ve got to go down to the car.
         I don’t want.
         We have to.
         Your mother’s not with us.
         She is in a way.  Let’s go
         He cocks his baseball cap to the side.  I walk behind him to make sure he doesn’t go over backwards.  While in the car waiting to drive off we have a bottle of Moosehead between us.  They let you buy it as you are leaving the bar.
         In the car next to us I hear French.  We give them an extra bottle of beer.
         You off to St. Pierre, I ask.
         Have you been there before?
         We’ll see you there.
         Waves to Ron, to Jill, the Caseys, the French people.

         Out of the ship, down into blackness beyond the floodlit lot and then more just blackness… really cheap with the lighting…  No stars, no moon, chilly, no signs after the terminal.  Rear red lights disappear… just drive a bit and then a hotel.