Saturday, May 10, 2014

Depth, Perception

The day after my father's funeral, my brother and sister and I, three middle-aged orphans, congregated in our parents' house. We were supposed to talk about how to divide the belongings of our father and mother (who had passed away three years prior), but instead we sat in numb silence in the living room as the television televised.

It was a news broadcast. Something had happened somewhere, and some people were planning to react. Other people were planning to counter that potential reaction, and the talking heads were speculating about possible repercussions. Apparently it was a big deal.

My older brother, Edgar, was sipping lemonade from a store-bought carton. Yelsa, my sister, two years my junior, chewed gum and fidgeted. I stared at the TV in a desultory stasis.

"Dad liked to go deep-sea diving," Edgar said, interrupting our tableau. "He said that once you get so deep that you can't see the surface above you or the sky above that, that's when you know you've found a certain heaven."

That sounded like a great eulogy, and I said as much to my him. "It's just fucking words," he said. Then he got up to take a piss.

I had eulogized our father during the service. I used words like "great" and "loving," because those are the platitudes you use when you are describing the life of a man who can no longer describe himself. I am not a good orator, though, and in trying to sum up the life of the man who helped create me, I did him a disservice. I stumbled through my words. I sweated on the microphone, each droplet a punctuation of my nervous ramble. "Thank you for coming," is how I ended my speech. I wanted to bury myself.

The news broadcast ended and a commercial for windshield washer fluid started.

"I left my contacts in last night," Yelsa said. "I was so tired that I forgot to take them out. When I woke up this morning, I took the left one out okay, but the right one stuck. I started to panic. I blinked, twice, and all I could see was blur and tears. It's scary when all you have in front of your vision is a cascade of vagueness."

"Is your eye okay now?" I asked.

"I can still see. It hurts, but it's all right," she said.

Then Edgar returned from the bathroom. "I think there might be treasure, centuries old, buried under this house's foundation," he said.

I fished a cigarette out of the soft pack in my jacket pocket, preparing myself for what further adventures my life had in store.

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