Roytype

Later that Friday night in West Hartford I stood in the dark kitchen and watched my father undress on the back porch. Moonlight poured through the windows. Suspended above the tall beech tree the moon was a pool of silver light. My father’s skin smooth like the underbelly of a fish, his arms looking bruised, and when he dropped his navy blue uniform shirt with his name over the left pocket to the floor, his torso gleamed and revealed the ink stains from work, the faint lines like a watermark running along his ribs. He pulled a typewriter ribbon from his pants and held the spool up to the light as if it were a monocle or a telescope to see the moon more clearly. He swayed, the outline of his body beginning to blur, and lay the ribbon on a windowsill. I stepped onto the porch, took my father’s hand, and led him through the unlit kitchen to the couch in the living room. He sat on the edge of the couch for a moment, looked at his shaking hands, and then tucked them under his arms as he lay down. I spread a blanket over him. Lying on the carpet, my back against the bottom of the couch, I covered myself with the hanging bit of blanket, the rug scratchy against my ribs as I shivered. When I was younger my mother and my father’s brother, Ché, would watch old black and white movies on Friday nights. They had these short red glasses they drank from, and the cut glass on the sides sparkled in the flicker of the TV as a horse took off and a cloud of dust took over the screen, or as a woman and a man kissed for so long, their faces big and white, I thought the way their necks angled they might just slide off the screen and roll across the living room floor. Ché would always ask, a small smile starting his words as he pointed at the door behind us, What will you do when your papa walks in? Those words always made me feel as if Ché and my mother were really not watching the movie, those red glasses with their mysterious liquid never existed, and the only reason we were gathered there on Friday evenings was to wait for my father. I had a little plastic hammer in my hand, curled up in a chair, or sometimes sitting cross-legged on the floor, the orange hammer head against my palm as I gripped the blue handle, and then I would strike the air (or sometimes my palm) violently for five or six whacks, saying in a loud, happy voice, I’m going to hit him over the head—pow pow pow—and tell him to get to bed. A commercial played during these brief exchanges, the sparkling winking eye of Mr. Clean or the jingle Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometime you don’t or Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is. My mother and uncle immediately laughed following my words, though their eyes never seemed to leave the TV, and in that flickering light I see the outline of my head turned towards the screen and wonder what’s so funny, and why am I so loud and happy when I imagine my father walking through the door, perhaps swaying a bit, smelling strong of rum and cigarettes, looking elegant in his work uniform, the sleeves rolled tight above his elbows, as I leap from behind and strike him over the head with that little plastic hammer. Back in that living room, now Saturday morning, back there in those memories that return to me without my understanding, I wake up on the couch with the blanket tucked under my neck. I smell coffee, hear my father singing in a low, sweet voice, and then he’s crinkling open a package of crackers, and I know he’ll probably cut some wedges of gouda cheese and slices of guava paste from a tin for breakfast. I lift my hand from under the blanket, turn it above my eyes, the back dotted and smeared by my father’s purple fingerprints, and lying next to me are the typewriter ribbon and my hammer. Sometimes I think I’m only remembering a dream, and yet there are times when my hand tingles and burns with something quick and hard and brighter than the moon will ever be.

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful. I could NOT stop reading this piece. I hope there will be many more, maybe in a collection. I would stand in a very long line to buy that book…

  2. The way you built up to the end was superlative. The end blew me away.

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