Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The Future's Still Perfect Post
The old man sits this time at an old, round, pedestal table. Though tired and worn down, both he and it are still strong enough to take the weight of the time, meals, work, tears, laughter and joy that life so freely wields against tables, and men.
He looks long and hard at the other three chairs, empty now. He remembers the parade of boys who sat in them; the little babies, eating the mush so eagerly shoved into their waiting mouths, the toddlers wrangling food with their own fingers, awkwardly, happily. He hears the giggle of slurping noodles and forgotten, silly jokes. He hears the mumbles of disagreement and discontent as the years go by.
He remembers all the crayons and pencils and markers and paint; the Play-Doh, the LEGOs, the models, the paper airplanes; he remembers cutting, smushing, glittering, wrapping, singing, yelling with joy and without. He remembers the books, the writing journals, the laptops and tablets and all those damned phones, the years of homework.
He watches as the morphing memories in the seats change from boys to men and wonders when exactly that happens. He remembers first seeing the whiskers on the bigger boy on a winter's evening as the light came through that window from behind him, golden and perfect, and realizing that boys need to be taught how to shave. How had he missed that?
But memories dance and float and fly like ghosts for him sometimes now. One replaces another so quickly and randomly and come at him like a summer storm, seeming so real, so palpable, he has to stand up, wipe a tear from his wrinkled face, and refocus on them one at a time.
He sees two little heads, firmly, intentionally, pressed against one another, peering in to a bowl of month-old Halloween candy, lamenting the loss of the good stuff. He sees those same two heads bent over Christmas thank-yous, science projects and senior yearbooks. He sees the frustration at a clay sculpture gone bad, a project exploded, a computer crashed, a girl gotten away, a place on a team or in a show not realized.
He seemingly remembers it all at once.
He hears a noise, the long rambling rumble of an air vent hit hard, intentionally. He focuses on the sound. Years of quietly standing in the hallway, listening to toddlers talk of God, tweens talk of girls, boys talk of life; years of listening closely when the quiet got too quiet, actually recognizing the soft sound of crayon on paper; years of squinting his ears to focus on the tone of the argument in the backyard or in the basement waiting to hear if it gets too angry; all those years of listening so carefully have made him expert at determining what a sound is.
Tick, tick, tick! The sounds of sticks smacking against one another, medium velocity. Previous to that, the vent noise. Previous to that, the sending of two grown men into the basement to switch out a non-functioning power outlet, the one the lights for the boys' Christmas tree always were plugged into.
He shakes the memory of so many trees and ornaments and half working light strands.
"I have five-hundred health."
"Well. I have five-thousand!"
He hears laughter and he knows, he knows like you'd know an earthquake, and he feels the memory like one as well. He laughs out loud and chokes up simultaneously...
The fall they were wizards and still believed in Santa.
He can still see them in his mind's eye, they were wizards for Halloween, inspired by an online computer game, the name of which escapes him, and there they are again, so young and beautiful, dripping with hope and playfulness, swinging long scepter-like wands at each other in mock battle, declaring their health and battle status. Two-thousand-twelve he remembers for some reason.
Here is what he knows has happened: He sent his thirty-three-year-old twin boys downstairs to change the outlet. The outlet is on the ceiling. They looked around, flashlight in hand, and found them, the old sticks, on top of the air vent. Their dad, now that tired old man, had stashed them up there that November so long ago, unable to just trash them. He knew then how much time and energy and joy they put into them and could not desert them. When he found them, laying criss-crossed, abandoned to the wind and rain on the porch he knew he had to save them, so, he hid them away and... forgot about them.
Until just now.
He knows they are smacking at each other with those long-forgotten sticks, reliving their youth, finding the fire that had fueled those scepters so very long ago again.
"Put down those wizard-wands and change that damned outlet, boys," he yells, focusing his voice towards the heater vents as he always did.
He smiles knowing how much the have always hated how he seemed to know what they were thinking and doing. He told them there was something magical in his powers but, it was admittedly just sheer deduction and maybe a little inspiration.
He turns to walk over to the steps that lead to the basement, happy to have this particular memory come up, so real and so unremembered for too long. He starts down the steps slowly, carefully, feeling the weight of his seventy-seven years bear down on his knees as it had his memories.
"Hey Dad, how'd'ya know we found this old stuff," the darker, more serious of the two asks.
"I always knew what you guys were up to."
Nearing the bottom of the steps now, he looks over where they are standing. He stumbles a little and sits down on the steps. He puts his face in his hands and begins to cry.
They had remembered where their old costumes were, in a chest full of silly stuff for "dress-up" and...
They are standing there in their full wizard regalia, gowns too short, hoods too tight, giggling like the seven-year-olds they once were, and are, once again.
"Zack, what'd you say? Are you all right, Dad," the fair son asks.
"What's wrong," Zack asks.
"I miss the little guys you once were, boys. I really do," the man says, into his hands, slightly ashamed at his emotions.
"So do we, Dad," they say at the same time and then immediately, "Jinx, you owe me a soda..."