My Soul in a LocketDan told me the other day that he saw you, recognized you, even though he was a good ten yards away, his vision obscured by dirty city bus window. He told me that your walk is burned into his brain, the subtle limp, the hulking stride, the way your shoulders round off and heave forward with each insulting step. Funny how insignificant things like someone’s walk can stay with a person, even after twenty-five years. He was, what? - nine, ten the last time he ever laid eyes on you?
There was no doubt in his mind that that was you, and before the bus gasped and lurched away from the stop, you turned in its direction, in Dan’s direction, and he saw your face, plain as day, bloated with alcohol. Your unmistakable seventies era, I-Look-Like-Burt-Reynolds-Don’t-I? mustache still rusty-red, still ridiculous.
But he remembers that walk of yours, not only the visual peculiarities, but the sound. He laughed as he said to me “Remember how he used to clomp up the stairs when he was pissed, and Rob and I would hide in our bedroom closet?” He laughed, but the humor was forced, just as it always was forced. Our laughter helped us tolerate the intolerable. We used to call you Big Red behind your back, even our dad. So how’s that asshole Big Red? he’d ask And we all would laugh.
You won’t like what I’m about to tell you, but Dad once declared that if he weren’t so goddamned weak with cancer, he’d blow a hole in your red face with his hunting rifle. I enjoyed hearing that. You, the coward of all cowards, couldn't wait for him to die, could you? You restrained that one last devil dog within, the most evil one, until it was safe to let him loose. I think I actually heard the snap of the leash on the day my father passed.
Sometimes my brothers and I called you Big Red Thud, too. Or just Thud. You always wore your shoes in the house, would leave tracks across Mom’s clean linoleum. I don’t allow shoes in my home, like the Japanese. It is disrespectful to bring the filth of the streets into someone’s home. But you wouldn’t know about that, just as you wouldn’t know about the nightmares I still have, the nauseating waves of shame that overcome me at odd times, the exasperation of my husband when I get in a mood, how I hide not only from you, but from the world as well
And you wouldn’t know the insecurity, terror, suspicion I carried for years, still carry. The sheer obesity of it all prevents me from mastering certain tasks, indulging in ordinary privileges most take for granted, as I am weighted down with you, just pounds and pounds of you. I am seen by many as eccentric, dependant, strange, but they don't know how strong I really am. Despite the unnatural disasters I've been through, I've accomplished much, I take pride in those accomplishments, and I've earned the right to shout a big fuck you at those who look upon my lifestyle or my choices with scorn.
I have survived the avalanche of you, and I am glad to be alive, but the dust, Jesus...Some days I can hardly breathe. Some nights it settles into my sleep, and I dream of being tapped on the shoulder, I dream of innocence tumbling down, of your limping gait; I dream of lost childhood things, like tiny violet-scented dolls encased in lockets or passionate notes scribbled in raggedy notebooks, and I miss them with an intensity afforded only to living things, real things.
I wake and wonder where they might have gone. Are they lying beneath tons upon tons of others’ childhood things in some Riga landfill? Are my dolls still whole, would they smell as sweet despite decades beneath the rot? They were, after all, protected by sturdy gem-cut glass. They are a symbol of preservation, though their whereabouts are a mystery, but they are out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered, cleansed, worn on a chain around some darling little girl's neck.
Metaphor, I know, is above your ignorant head, but I want you to know something, you rotten bastard, I want you to finally know something, so I'll state it simply, loudly: I may still be covered in your dust, the rubble of injustice, fears that taint the quality of my life, but you will not suffocate me. I may not be capable -- yet -- of living my life easy, but I will never go out the hard way. I may choke, weep, cough, bend, but I will always find a bubble of fresh air to get me through. And I may never recapture those damn dolls, but I will continue to search, even if it takes the remainder of my life. So keep walking, free man, keep on limping toward your invariably lonely death, and take my burden with you, please. I don’t want to carry you anymore.