- Captain America
One of the last things my father said to me was, "I've seen more pussy than a toilet seat."
He was unbearably thin, wearing Captain America pajama pants and a baggy T-shirt. We were talking through Skype because I was in Luxembourg and he was in Northern New Mexico, but I could tell right away that he was swaddled by a narcotic blanket. Then he said, "Look, I'm drinking Coke," and held up a half-empty glass. Drinking was a feat for him because the cancer in his esophagus had plugged up the passage from his mouth to his stomach and, until now, nothing could get through. Then he said, "I'm also wearing a diaper. And peeing right now."
I did what you do. I laughed. Because fuck the feelings of watching the man that created you disintegrate before your eyes.
He died a few days later while I was flying over the Atlantic on my way to him. In those final hours, he made a video for his children. He was in a hospital bed and the nurses had hacked away his overgrown facial hair to thread tubes into his face. In this video, he mumbled while drifting in and out of sleep, like he was about to nap on any Sunday afternoon from my childhood, him lying on the couch with [End Page 73] football on the TV. I cannot remember what he said in this video as I only watched it once.
I won't watch it again because I don't need it. I have so many other memories to choose from. Like when I was sixteen and got arrested; at 2:00 a.m. he picked me up at the police station, and after fifteen minutes of yelling at me on the drive home, he paused, and quietly said, "You're no better than I am." Or that time he stood nose to nose with me and screamed in my face about something I can't recall now; what I do remember are the little flecks of spit flying out of his mouth and sticking to my cheeks. There is the time I called him to let him know I'd cheated on my wife and I was getting a divorce, and he said, "Shit happens, man. Don't worry about it." Or the time when I was seven and swimming at what I came to know later was my dad's dealer's house; I thought I was drowning and when my head surfaced I yelled for his help, and he turned, beer in hand, and said, "Grow the fuck up and save yourself." Or the time I wrote a story about how my brother was hit by a car and died right in front of me; my dad called after reading it and, while weeping, said, "You're an exceptional writer. You've done your brother justice."
Or the time I realized he was going to die.
I arrive from Luxembourg around Christmas time and my mother drives me to their house. My father is there, ensconced in a recliner, a few months from death.
My mom says, "I'm going to work."
She kisses him on the forehead and leaves.
He looks up at me from his chair and says, "Hey, want to drive me to the weed store?"
"Sure," I say.
I start my van and he gets inside and we drive Highway 550 from the edge of New Mexico into Colorado. At the weed store my father knows everyone and they know him. He talks to them about different strains of weed and such. They laugh at his jokes. He is wearing the Captain America pants, slippers, and a thick coat.
We leave the store and get back in the van and I head down the road. After about two minutes he says, "Mind if I smoke?" [End Page 74]
"No," I say.
He rolls the window down a bit and opens a pill bottle and the van is awash in a dense, green smell. He pulls a glass pipe from his coat pocket and packs the bowl. Then the lighter...