Friday, March 11, 2016

something just happened~

I was out walking the dog like I always do at eight in the morning when I saw them. Just a moment, really. A moment I was present for and should not have been. Maybe if I knew them better it would've been different. Maybe.
The police car, with its lights on and the engine running. Why do they always leave the fucking engine running? The ambulance, one of those really big kind, from the fire department. No sound. That was the strangest thing. There weren't any sounds.
He was standing there on the sidewalk, in front of his house. I'd seen him before, a neighbor I knew, a boring looking man in his forties. We'd only ever exchanged smiles, no words. He was looking over the hill, away from me, waiting. He heard my shoes crunching on the gravel and turned toward me, making eye contact momentarily, when a van suddenly came up the hill just as I was crossing the street. I tried to get out of the way when it suddenly pulled over and parked. And that's when it happened.
She got out and ran towards him and they slammed into each other so hard I thought they'd collapse. Their faces buried in each other's shoulders, gasping and sobbing, a tangle of legs and arms, swaying back and forth, back and forth, their muffled words meant for no one else to hear but them.
I tried to move my legs faster but my own eyes began to well up and I couldn't see. I'm thinking, What the fuck, I don't even know these people. But it was the rawness of it. I was the guy walking his dog down the street after something just happened. I couldn't simply erase myself out of the moment, even if I wanted to. I was there for that terrible moment, and there was nothing I could say or do for them. But I felt it. I felt the death of whomever it was they lost, pouring out of that house and into those people, straight toward me like a knife slicing through all the bullshit each of us has built around ourselves.


-Matthew







Friday, September 18, 2015

dad and father, father and dad~

I saw my dad today. My adoptive dad, that is. The man who raised me, technically as close to one I can call "dad" as ever will be.
My son and I had just finished visiting his own dad at the PPG building where he works. We sat down to share a bagel in the café in the plaza. I looked up and saw him then. He said good bye to what appeared to be some coworkers and turned away from us, walking the opposite direction. I watched him as he walked, he looked old to me now, a slight limp in his gait, hair almost white. I stood up as he rounded the corner far away so I could watch him until I couldn't see him anymore. He still had the paunch and the big hands, something of a comfort to me growing up. When I sat down again, my son said to me, "what were you looking at, mama? You look sad." I had no response and just hid my face in my coffee cup as tears welled up in my eyes.

This incident all came shortly after my birthfather sent me his usual "tree" of flowers on my birthday. Always picking out the largest and most expensive arrangement available at the local florist, even the delivery man each year is a little embarrassed for me as he tries to find a place to put them in my house. I only glance at the cards now, already knowing what they say because they're written by his personal assistant, conveniently and perfectly impersonal. My favorite part is how he signs the cards "Doctor"---as if we're on professionally detached terms.

I've never known a dad, to be honest. I once knew a man who raised me as his own and last year I met the man who gave me the other half of my genes. But I do know someone else's dad. I watch him everyday with his son, who looks like a miniature version of himself. I see him gently kiss him as he sleeps, pick him up and throw him around, I see him say sorry when he messes up, modeling an evolved man in a world that teaches men they are not responsible for their actions. I see him work on being patient with him knowing neither of them is or ever will be perfect.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

the walnut tree~

The other day, my son showed me a walnut fruit he'd found on the ground at a park we go to. At first, I didn't recognize what it was. When I did, I simply brushed it off, handing it back to him,  "It's a walnut hull." We looked for the tree but I couldn't remember what the leaves looked like. He held it tightly to himself on the ride home, a newly discovered treasure. Suddenly, from the backseat he says to me, "Mama, smell this."
And just like that, it all came back.

I was in that backyard, swinging on the tire swing of the walnut tree. I remembered picking up the walnut fruits and trying to peel them open. I remembered their smell: tart and tangy, nearly too raw for my nose. I remembered the squirrel family, always getting to the shells before we could. I remembered the tire swing hung too low when you got on it, nearly touching the ground so that you had to jump onto it from a running start. You would then swing far out, over the hill, the wind kissing your face. You were in flight, and could only stop safely once the tire's weight pulled you beneath the massive branch it hung from.
It was the house I was adopted into. It was the house where my adoptive mother slowly started to become a fanatic, hauling us to this religious teacher and that for hours and hours, after school and on weekends, we couldn't learn enough, attend enough anti-abortion protests, be mentored enough by mentally unstable people about her version of religion and church and god. It was where I saw the rainbow after she was arrested, my grandmother telling me it was a sign from Jesus that my mother would come home. I hoped so, because my other mother never came back.

But the tree. That walnut tree. I had to see it again. I knew the house was not too far from the park and so I took a different route in order to pass it on the way home. I pulled the car over when I saw the house. Ah, yes, the long pinnate leaved branches; I never really cared for them.  It was not as massive as I remembered it, my 6 year old body now 34, my belly swollen with my second child. The tree looked old and weathered, neglected. I wanted to get out and touch it, the haven it was to me those many years ago. The hill it was on looked flat to me now, not steep and risky. Perhaps I'd climbed too many mountains of my own; where the walnut tree sat, my first.
What I mostly saw was how the branch was gone. The branch from which the tire swing hung, cut off, an ugly stub remaining. That key to my freedom, it held the first of all the risks I took, running and swinging out and away and through and under and over and beyond that backyard.