My father is lost in the desert. Is lost in the shadow of Christ. Is lying in a pool of his own piss on the men’s room floor in the bar at the bottom of the hill, and of course he blames me. Blames my sister, blames my mother, and the woman sits up next to me in bed, small breasts naked in the streetlight, says Holy shit – you’re thirty three years old! Your father is dead! Give it a rest, and I listen to the sound of traffic outside my second story window.
And I drive to my sister’s house on Easter Sunday, past the weeping of small children, through valleys of cold sunlight. A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with cancer. The lawns are just turning green, are already filling with weeds, and the hills are still grey, the fields all faded brown. I am not as hopeful for any of us as I used to be.
And I drive home later the same day, firm in my belief that there is no God. I pass the house of the starving dog, and the chain is still there, tied to the same tree in the front yard. The house itself is deserted, shrunken, windows broken and gravel driveway littered with stained mattresses and worn tires, old appliances, and I knew the kid who owned the dog. Knew his sister. Used to fuck her in an old cabin the woods way out behind the house, and then one day it burned down and that was the end of that. She got pregnant a few months later, moved into a trailer park out on Town Line Road, then just disappeared from my stories.
And this friend of mine, his name is Michael, and he lives on the other side of the country, and he says he’s not really sure how he feels about the cancer. Says he’s told his wife, but not his children. Says he’ll hear from the doctors later this week about how far along things have progressed. About treatments. About time lines. And he emails me and says Shit, at least it’ll give you something to write about, and I guess it will.
And he’s three thousand miles away on the day my father dies, and I don’t even know him at this point. I have no children and a job I don’t want. I have an apartment near the river, and the woman I’ve been seeing says we have to stop. Says she loves her husband, and then four years later she says it again. Sits up in bed, tells me she should go, and her breasts are small and pale in the afternoon sunlight. I pull her back down next to me, kiss her nipples, run my hand up between her legs, and she moans. Says Slower. Says nothing at all, and what it sounds like is the truth.