… later I get flashes of grandpa with his old runners all rolled up into one giant sticky mess—balled and held together with tape…
He’d talk about the high school girls he’d “teach” Bible Study to.
They: all spouting the traumatized truths of teen-age diarists with red or pink manicured nails chipping or chewed off at the ends.
He entoning: “these sorbriquets of the new generation means what to me?” He’d say in frustration, sounding the bad imitation of counterculture nomenclature, “none of those young blondes or brunettes would get it.”
An inch long ferrule of ash growing from the nub of his Kent 100 planted in the crevice of his forefinger.
“What in tarnation?” he’d say. “They’d look at me with dilated eyes ready for something once the drugs took effect.”
Grandpa says he went to college to become a critical thinker, but he ended up doing things he didn’t think he’d do.
I, personally, don’t know what to do, playing with the jalousie window handle—spinning it this way and that—slats open, slats close, slats open, slats, close, slats open … you get the drift, and think the girls got the best of him.
Then I think: thanks for shopping at low hanging scrotum mart, and what am I supposed to do but open the front door, sheepish-like, and offer grandma a coke and a smile, ready for her comeback from gallstones and such … come again now, ya’ hear.
I hear things. I see. I hear, and don’t report a thing.
There are airs and wispy memories of foul and forced love—that isn’t love—all over this house. Which is now my house too.
So I go to my new room and I put the Runaways “Cherry Bomb” on the turntable and “Doctor Love” by Kiss on the cassette player, and play them simultaneously, and hiss obscenities at the walls—bare and pockmarked with fist and knuckle markings.
And the neighbor woman sings something in the backyard. Her rasp scratching through the jalousie slats and dusty screen.
She sings: “I don’t care what you’re talking about, noooo!” And it ain’t good, there ain’t no way to parse it—it’s pained. And she continues: “don’t shoot for craters, no…” and then it sounds like she sings: “don’t shoot the the prattles of my menstrual age…” and I don’t understand a thing now.
And I don’t think I ever did. Nothing in my life makes sense. So I expect the unexpected—and expect pain. I live those rules now. Good rules. The only rules, I realize, I’ve ever known.
I learn to argue from a point of syllogistic logic and scream at my grandfather often. His bristly hands this way and that.
Grandpa’s off his rocker, for sure. I go and find Brillo pad puffs and stuff them in his loafers. I glue Brillo pads as afro puffs on his bald head when he sleeps in his recliner—three Kent 100 butts deep in his smoky whiskey glass; and I stick a fork, as if it were an afro pick, into the fold of his wallet on the chifferobe; and I magic marker a bottle of his Aqua Velva into a bottle of Afro Sheen and leave it on his nightstand.
I want to remake him into Stevie Wonder, my favorite. I like “Living for the City” and “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing,” all of Innervisions, really. Grandpa thinks it stinks.
I hate it here. I hate my room. I hate my house. Dare I say, I hate grandpa.
He’s always making me go buy him cartons of Kent 100’s, and insisting that I write 100-words just to round myself out, but I don’t enjoy the rounding out—especially when he grabs my backside and rubs it all soft, and the like; or when he sticks his hand in my underwear and jiggles me and says I’m becoming a big boy now.
I get a bad gassy feeling in my stomach and hardness there below, and I don’t understand none of it, other than I don’t like it at all. I understand he’s a man, and he knows the world and all, especially from the war—but it feels strange, wrong, to feel that way.
But he’ll buy me a Whaler from Burger King or get me a Hamburgler glass from Mc Donald’s and it sorta’ makes me feel better. For a while, anyway.
do any of us really have before the body
begins to break down and empty its mysteries
into the air?”
— James Crews / “Self-Compassion”