We were huddled in a group in the foyer. I was glad of the warmth of the hotel after the biting wind in the cemetery. My hands were still dug deep inside my pockets and felt as if they would take a while to defrost in spite of the blazing fire(more) in the grate. My brothers stood beside me, tall and awkward and wearing black wool coats and not looking very much like themselves. I didn't even know they owned such things as proper shoes and grown-up coats. It turned out they didn't until yesterday's emergency funeral shopping trip. I was also in black but there was some red on my tights. Mum had gone to be with her sisters in the bar so we were left to fend for ourselves.
It was going to be awkward, we knew that. The last time Mum had spoken with her father was before I was born. He had never met me. I had raised this point the morning before in protest to going to the funeral of a man I had never met. This was met with a hostile glare from Mum and that was the end of that subject.
As I began to slowly warm up and take in my surroundings a little more, I noticed a group of teenagers around my own age huddled around an older guy and his iphone. I nudged Maurice, my older brother, "Who are they?". He knew more of the family tree than I did and was generally the source of all of my family related queries.
"They're our cousins."
Cousins. It had never struck me that I had a whole set of ready made relations that I had never met before.
"Should we go over to say hello?", I asked, my curiosity now piqued. (less)
I had prepared myself for the worst. I mean, there were so many possible variables of doom flying around that to pick any one of them would be enough to make a grown man cry. I was a grown man and right now I wanted to cry.
(more) In the grand scheme of things it wasn't a big deal. So I lied to my prospective girlfriend that I knew the Smiths well. The truth was that I didn't know them well. The real truth was that I didn't know them at all. I met them once, last year, on holidays and we did the number exchange thing at the end of it.
Yes I know, I know. Who ever expects someone to make contact, to actually send that email or make a phone call when you are actually in their neck of the woods.
No one. No one ever expects that your well meaning, formality of a good gesture to pretend that the holiday friendship was anything other than dumb luck that we ended up in the same hotel.
But here I was, in a taxi, heading to the home of the Smiths. Here I was trying to impress my soon not to be girlfriend.
But in my defense, the blind date was going really well and she said that she was a reporter. I must admit I expected her to say that she just did local news, but when it turned out that she was a crime reporter, I was, well, turned on.
When she gave me the gory details of a couple who had been escaped a murder conviction two years earlier, I realised it was my 'friends'.
I of course told her I could get her an interview.
scabby knees, torn stockings
on the fence between the farm and the baseball field
who are they? say the boys
who slide in the dust and pass the ball
bite your chipped fingernails
watch them whoop, holler at the sun
(more) ignore your pigtails
and imagine that you too
It's not often you can point to a memory and go "There, that was a pivotal point in my history." Those moments are like scars. That is, knotty, raised lumps in your mind you touch frequently without realizing it. When people ask, you say, "Oh, that's from the compound fracture I got(more) from a car accident I was in." But you know it could easily have been, "That's from the fall I took getting out of the way of a drunk driver." Or even, "That happened when a piano fell out of the sky and landed on me."
I tell my story a lot - not the least because it's absurd to the point of hilarity, but because I keep waiting to see if people notice the scar. Look at the story and go, "Man, if the wind had blown just slightly harder to the left, you might have a wholly different life right now." So would they, maybe. Kids, no kids. Successful career, or struggling artists. Cycle of abuse (that one never changes, in any life, if it had gone that way.)
I'm happy with the scar. I dodged a speeding vehicle, and saved my life. But I'm a storyteller. What other stories could there have been for me to tell? I always wonder.(less)