Thursday, November 1, 2012

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The Last Day We Worked Together

 I have been working a lot on my book since graduation; mostly trying to change it from a collection of essays to a memoir. I get up everyday around 5:30 or 6 and write for two hours. I think I am finally started to get used to it. Sorry I have not been posting on here much. Everything I write lately seems more like filler sections, fractions of the overall story that are not really an essays but more like mortar between bricks. Anyway, below is an example of what I'm talking about. 

The last day we worked together Dad picked me up at 10 AM, two hours late. His face was unshaven and he smelled like sweat and alcohol. We got into the pickup, and Dad sat for a while, struggling to keep his head upright. He slumped his shoulders and leaned his head against the steering wheel. I asked if he was OK, and Dad shook and then he leaned down for the ignition.
 We drove to a parking lot next to the Provo River; the same parking lot Dad took me to years ago on the afternoon of my wrestling match. He parked next to the Geneva Bridge and gazed at the water flowing over the smooth river stones. He rested his chin on the steering wheel, neck extended, hands gripped tight at ten and two. Sunlight broke through the thick canopy of willows and elms in twinkles and the sounds of the river nearly overshadowed the cars and semi trailers traveling along Highway 114.
We sat for a while. I kept asking Dad what was wrong, but he didn’t respond. Eventually he turned his head, sat up straight, his thin face whiskery and pale, and said, “Sally’s leaving me. She said I’ve got to be out by the end of the day.”
He stopped speaking for a moment and dragged his dry cracked tongue across his lips. “Do you ever feel like you can’t do anything right? Like your whole God Damn life is nothing but shit?”
This was his fourth marriage, and for some reason I assumed devoice would get easer the more it happened. But he appeared heart broken, a side of my father I’d only briefly seen the night Ryan and I took him to the hospital. When I think about this moment, I wonder if Dad really did long for a lasting relationship, but with each failed marriage, happiness must have appeared further out of reach.
Dad looked to his left, gazed at the cars traveling along Highway 114 between Provo and Orem.
“Let’s go stand in the road,” he said.
He stepped from the truck, and I followed him. It was midday and I didn’t know what to expect. It all felt surreal at the time, like a dream. I knew I was walking behind him, but I couldn’t fully comprehend what he was planning to do, or what he wanted me to do.  He stepped into the southbound lane, his head down, eyes closed, arms open like a crucifixion.
The tires of a red Ford pickup screeched against the asphalt, and stopped feet from my father. Dad crossed into the northbound lane and a black Pontiac skidded to the right, into the gravel and dirt along the side of the road, and drove around him.
I watched from the side of the road and thought about following him, and somehow I knew he was expecting me too. I couldn’t muster the strength to make my legs move, or to yell at Dad to get out of the road. I felt anxiety and fear as Dad made it to the other side. He turned and looked at me, his moist eyes rich with longing for a driver to have struck him down.
Dad made it to the other side of the road, and then sat in the gravel with his legs folded. I waited for a break in traffic and crossed. I crouched next to Dad and he looked up at me, eyes searching my face.
He didn’t say he was sorry. He didn’t say something prophetic that changed my life. Nor did make a joke to ease the tension and then break into tears and say that he couldn’t do anything right, not even kill himself. He sat in the dirt and told me he didn’t understand how women worked, or the world, or money, or friends, or kids. “I don’t understand why I got to keep getting beat in the head.” He repeated it three times, and I wondered if what he really wanted to say was, why I have to keep beating my head against the world.
Dad stood, looked both ways and jogged across the road. I followed him. We got in his truck, and he drove me back to Grandma’s.