Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Step, Two Step.

The day I meet with my Step Father will be a glorious day. I will stand on the street, in front of the restaurant, smoking a cigarette to pass the time which is my lot as I am ten minutes early. I will see a car pull up and I will smile as he appears. Ten years! Ten years in his skin which gravity has made her lover, ten years in his eyes, still sharp and cunning as a hungry bulldog, ten years in his short cropped hair, the porcupine spikes now more silver than gold and ten years in our embrace in which our lives are reflected; his hold on me strong, almost violent, as my hungry arms wrap around him tight in defeated hope.

Here is my father, of sorts. A real life person who tells me to order anything I want, his magnanimous charity warming the awkward silences which are punctuated by rapid fire chatter as we both seek an ending to this new beginning and both wonder at this bloodless bond which has brought us together again. Pizza for entree, spaghetti for main and the promise of dessert, a father's true prerogative, to come. And wine, bottles of wine to drown the years, lubricate the emotions and buffer the admission of our failures which sit beside us at the table.

And I will accidentally glance at his gold watch as he reaches for his glass, and he will catch my eye and my hunger will be as apparent as the shame I feel for noticing such ostentation. And he will awkwardly hold his hand beneath the table as it all comes out. The unemployment, the bankrupt business, the car which used to be, the broken hearts, and it will almost be as though we are drunk on the cheap liquor distilled from years of fermented grief and wasted potential.

This is family, I will think. A place to lay bare your shattered dreams, so that they may be dissected and returned from whence they came. That time you broke the window. That time you stole the money. That time you almost drowned. The beginnings of threads which have wound through your life ever since. And it will be apparent that decisions made by a ten year old boy are the consequences felt by a thirty six year old man. A prison built by childish hands, an adult doomed to dream of liberation.

During the main course the tears will flow on both sides of the table as we remember the woman who brought us together. And my Step Father will dismiss his own guilt by saying, we fought a lot, but damn I loved that woman, and I will remember the way he dragged her across broken glass, by the hair, but I will say nothing to disturb this moment of reconciliation, for this emotional junkie needs his fix of family life, no matter the quality or the danger inherent. She was the love of my life, he will say, and like a fool I will try to make my eyes as hers, so that he will see her in me, and take pity on me, and protect me, and promise me the world, but instead I will watch as he drifts backwards into semi-fictional memories, a place in which all past relationships are draped in perfection.

He will prove his worth, my Step Father. Walking with me down the never ending staircase of my plight after plight after plight. A hard luck story, he'll name me, can't catch a break, I'll reply, but willing to work, and he'll take a long look at me, before he nods, as though sizing up my intentions, and I'll be glad I had a haircut before this lunch, and wore a tie. But he will prove his worth. He'll say, well, the first thing we need to do is, and, why don't I make a couple of calls, which he does, but they don't answer, but it's good enough to have someone in my corner, I'll think. Good enough for today to warm myself by his can do attitude, and misguided belief that all the shame, the guilt and pain can be cured before dessert.

What about your father, he'll ask. I'm not sure, I'll say, same old, I don't know how to contact him, which is a lie but not. I mean, I know how I could find him, but I don't know _how_ I could _contact_ him. But I won't say this and my Step Father will shake his head and tell me of his sons who I know have now formed the true direction of his life. How smart they are. How he lives for them. How their mother took him for everything he had. And as he talks of his new family, I will shrink smaller and smaller, further and further away, and the darkness will threaten to take me right there in the restaurant, but I will fight to keep my facade, if only for another hour.

Dessert will be a happy affair. The chocolate pudding dripping with optimism and promise. I will listen to the words of my Step Father and begin to believe that a new life awaits. A secure life, a normal life, a life based on smart decisions which owe nothing to chance, an independence not only from other people, but from the Universe itself. I will begin to feel in my slender hands, the strength to build my own fortress, the power to carve my own cave from the rock and dirt of life itself. Protection will be the catch phrase, the theme of tomorrow, and as we undo our belts at the end of the meal, the simple lesson of never giving up, of working not hoping, acting not dreaming, will sit comfortably in my stomach, for now I have a family and Jesus, with that I can conquer myself and the world I create.

He will take his leave after only an hour, my Step Father. For I know he is a busy man. His brain forever calculating the risks, the challenges ahead, the numbers crunching beneath his fatherly feet. He will check his watch, and talk again of his sons, and his commitments, and he will not promise, but state his intentions to aid me. And I will feel his nervousness as my face betrays my true state, a cracked shell barely containing the yellow cowardice I feel when confronted with far too many challenges. And the only thing laid on the table will be the bill, as my pride retards my ability to scream for help, and disappointed, The Truth will slink back into subconscious ghostliness.

Well buddy, he will say, it's been good to see you. You too, I will say. And we will hug a Step Relation hug before he climbs into the car. And I will wave as he drives away. But he will not turn. And reaching for a cigarette I will realise that they too are gone.

So I will turn to face the beginning of the night, hunch myself into my flimsy jacket and walk away, to face the elements alone.

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