Sunday, November 8, 2009
I am roughly 13 years old, stomach-down on the floor in the dark with the rest of my family in the same position in the living room of my family's home in Livonia, Michigan. Robbie and Tommy are violently "shhhhhh!!!!"-ing each other. My mom is saying "Robbie! Tommy! Cut it out!" with the hissed seriousness she saves for particular situations that we do not understand the seriousness of.
My father is sprawled out in his underwear, daring to lift his head to the ledge of the picture window that rests barely a foot above the floor. We see headlights hit the window and move across the wall. "KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN!!" he yells, although his own head is as proud as a peacock, turning from side to side at its station in the lower, righthand corner of the window ledge: He is obviously the man of the house. Had this story taken place centuries ago, he would be killing all our food for us and chopping wood to no end, and we feel all the safer because of it.
An entire family of five on the floor of their living room afraid to speak; afraid to move.
"What are we looking for?" , I ask in 'regular room voice'. I am met by four heads turning to look at me in panic and betrayal.
My chin has gone numb from the rough carpeting; I reposition myself so that I am face down on the floor. It is yet another night of father-mandated, entirely silent, night-time spying on my next door neighbor, Shelly, the mother of two who has boyfriends who have motorcycles- the obvious ruin of the neighborhood.
Exhausted, I chew bits of the carpet to pass the time and wonder what this living room floor looks like from an aerial view.
For those of you who knew/know my father, you understand this scene. Years of him throwing people off my porch, out of my house: friends faced with either jumping out a window or having to hide under beds until they could escape. (Nett, you remember that? Being under my bed all night just to have Robbie drop salami on your face because he knew you couldn't move your arms?) It was all such a fiasco when I think about the lighter parts of it. About a year ago, I talked with a boy who, back then, had come to my house to tell me he had a crush on me. When I answered the door, I opened it, looked at him in panic because my dad was home, and blurted "I've got homework to do!" and slammed the door in his face.
Ahhh, Freddy Mack. I'm thinking about you. And although you're back in the Detroit area, perhaps tending to the home-made spaceship you kept in our garage, or walking around in your drooping underwear complaining about the state of the house, I am thinking of you tonight: You who ate scallions raw and forever stank of them; you who drove the 4 AM high speeding car trying to take me to the police station before I jumped out at Plymouth and Farmington (you hit the gas), you who vacuumed the entire house with the tiny tube of a Sears wet/dry vac at 1 AM (my ears are still ringing), you who performed the same, non-consentual science projects at every family gathering, you who has separate handwritings for each person you are, and you who can stack piles of paper more meticulously than any man can.
I am thinking of you as I am sure you will be waking around now, 3 AM your time, to do the dishes and yell at things that aren't actually there.
Love to you and your skinny old man legs tonight, Dad.
My 'unique social skills' and I are picking our teeth and toasting the moon as we ponder where we are from, and from what we are born.
And for a moment- just barely- I can feel the chafe from the carpet underneath my chin once again, and I think of you.