- from My Sunshine Away
Perhaps growing wings is what fathers do.
Maybe it is written somewhere that, at an undetermined time, every father will feel an ache in his back. He will sleep uncomfortably, tossing around in bed-sheets that used to feel warm to him and soft. He will spend his private time craning his neck toward the mirror, trying to catch a glimpse of what’s been itching him lately, perhaps only two small nubs at first, right on his shoulder blades, and later the look of two feathered joints. I can’t imagine the fear in these men. I can only imagine their choice. A creature with wings must use them, of course, or else go the way of the dodo.
So these men finish up that last cup of coffee. They wait until no one is watching.
They take to the sky.
Like Lindy’s father, for example, who sprouted his wings far too late. He became an unfortunate hawk, the poor man, circling the blue above Lindy’s head from the night that she was raped until the moment she left him. He was a strange sight soaring over the movie theater parking lot. A distant squawk from the branches of Piney Creek Road. All of this to ultimately become a rueful and bitter bird, a tattered and woeful-looking thing plucking out his own feathers when he finally returned to his perch and found Lindy gone.
But he is not the only example.
The terrible Mr. Landry is who I’m thinking of now, sitting squat and thick-winged on the storm gutter of his dark and musty house. He was like a fat owl who allowed none to pass, a hunter with a head that spun completely around. And yet the true danger of men like him is that they are so still, so quiet, that you forget that they’re out there until late at night, perhaps, or when you are waiting for something to cook on the grill, or enjoying a peaceful time with your family. It’s in times like these when you hear the owl’s call and it chills you, like a voice at the far end of a tunnel. Who cooks for you? the owl says. Who cooks for us all?
This is a question left unanswered until it’s too late, because predators like him [End Page 70] are mere shadows gliding across the dark lawn. In your ear, maybe, the suspicion of wind. Then you are gone, swooped up and eviscerated before you reach the bird’s nest. Make no mistake. He will chew you up in this place, the owl will. He will cough out your spent bones.
All of this imagining just to get around to my own father, I suppose: a canary who felt a need to escape his clean wire cage. A man who, like so many others, flew the very coop that he himself had made.
How else to describe it?
Thin and tall, my father started going bald before I knew him.
In the pictures I’ve seen from right after my birth, from the hospital, his thin hair is swept neatly to the side and gelled, already concealing the truth of him, I suppose. And there are people out there who will claim to remember moments like these, when they were just an infant in their father’s embrace. I have friends who’ve told me stories from when they were one or two years of age, and recited to me the tender beauty of it.
I was ten years old when my father left, and I have few substantial memories of him living with us at all, as if it was in fact his departure that flipped on the switch of my consciousness. Maybe some vague image of the two of us washing his car, sure. Maybe the both of us standing by the pool in our swim trunks. Still, these visions were likely given to me only by the old photos that my mother kept in our albums. Nothing real in them. No connection to the moment as it...