Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A boy's perspective before Katrina

Pass Christian the summer before Katrina, a 15 year old boy’s perspective from his diary as I imagine being back there.

Walking to the mansion...

I recall walking to the mansion between the big house and Mama’s cottage. My chest feels heavy and I hear people talking in the distance. No, it’s Dad he is walking beside me. It’s hot, hot. There is sweat on my nose my chin I look down at the hard yellow grass, sweat in my armpit. A bitter taste.  I want to tell him how I love this land. How I dream one day to see my children here. A Knife in my chest. He’s talking with that low rational slow voice about how he doesn’t want me to make trouble. How this land wasn’t meant for me. How I shouldn’t feel jealous that he wants to sell it to give it over to someone else and it’s his by god so he can do what he wants. A pause.  A mosquito bites my temple. I scratch it.

So hard it is. My earliest memories are of the water. Screaming out from the car’s back seat “Wa Wa” soon as I saw the Gulf. Looming up at the end of the road as we turn on to the beach highway. So surprising. So magnificent. So unexpected. This huge body of blue just waiting for me, to dip a toe into, to squish my feet in the sand, to harness the courage to run down the water’s rim with my dog shooting ahead, unafraid of the highway, of robbers, of strangers, or onlookers, just free. When I was two I started loving it here.

Dad says very little. I hear his feet plod strong over the ground. There is a silence inside of him, so if I cry or wait or scream (I’ve done all these) the silence will remain there like a weight fierce cold solemn.  How do you talk to someone who’s mind is fixed plugged into an energy socket that’s closed. I hear him sigh. He starts to put a hand to my shoulder. I walk ahead quickly. 

“Do you know how that makes me feel? That you would just sell Serenity. Give it off to someone else for the profit for the fun for the...  Treachery is what I feel. I am breathing deep, like I’m adopted and just discovering this, like I’m being shipped off to an orphanage, like I am a bastard. A wiring scream goes off in my head. My eyes tighten I have a pain in the back of my neck. The oak trees loop down as if they are crying and I want for them to swing down and take me up. I love my Dad. I don’t want others to see his meanness. I don’t want to be part of the—God I have the same genes. Would I defy all for money. Maybe one day I would. I am not really part of this land this endless grass, this big stretch of grey water, this scenic drive looping in and out around the gulf. What strange planet do I come from and am I going to? My heart sags. I close my tight eyes, look up but Dad is trodding off back to the mansion. He didn’t wait for a response. He just makes a decision and like an egg you crack, throws down the shell, doesn’t look or see where it lands.

My throat is hot, a warm breeze sifts through dry pecan trees, fallen blossoms from the dried out rose bushes lay on the ground.

So many silences here. Silences in the footsteps you can’t hear of people departing. Silences in the dying roses and dried out pecans and retreating beach. The warmth is coldness. Oh god I love my father and yet that love is rooted in a fierce misunderstanding, a shift of values, a betrayal that makes me yearn to self destruct or leave this cage of misunderstanding.

I’m a rich boy. No sympathy for me. No sympathy for a kid who flunks out of school from too much Internet and predawn watching of TV.

Inside the guest room is dark marble topped dressers and desk, cold Ming china bowls, silver ice chest full of warm water. I look for family. This is the room that receives new people, that brings hopes, that is full of camellias floating in water, and cool lemon fresh bed sheets. This is the room where Ana and I have met and hidden beneath red satin covers and magically discovered a new softness.

But it’s dark now. If only sex could stop open the memories, could hold parents accountable, could stop time and choices. If only sex could make you get good grades, and win awards, and bring your mother back to all family functions.

“Time holds me green and dying.” Mom said that. She drifted away. My head spins. My eyes water. I’m angry. I kick at crochet step stool beside the bed. All these heirlooms from ancestors gone by, If only they could whisper in my ear how to grow up in this family, how to love it, how to leave it, how to fill the silences; how to avoid the contempt.

Dad is at the door. My god he is spying on me. Always looking to see what I’m doing under the covers. Does he suspect my affair with Anna or is he just there? His mouth moves but I can’t hear what he is saying.  He is a contemptible vile brute. Always scheming for how he can make money. Always free with the choices that are best for him.

It’s hot in here even though the air conditioning is drumming. Dad leaves. Wow just appears and leaves that’s a wonder.  Think I hear something like I’m sorry son floating on the dry air. He never talks loud. You got to strain to hear him. What he says is so important you have to be alert to get it. He never repeats.

He’s sorry. Grandma’s sorry. Mama’s sorry. Everyone is sorry and for what. I’m a rich boy. They’ll be someone who’ll take Dad’s money or Grandma’s phone call, a school, a camp, a troupe of some sort will take me in.

Knifing in my back, ear hurts, neck hurts. Be brave. Be strong. Get out of this town while you’re young, and strong. Plan your own life for yourself.
Problem is you can’t plan your life without the resources. And it takes time to negotiate between different perspective like a cold war between relatives you have to watch the barometer and see which one is leaning toward a hurricane.

Ah Serenity with its looping oaks, its paths of heron; its stormy skies; it’s water going out to sea farther and farther.  And all the well dressed people, in Brooks Brothers white collared blues, and Rolex watches, and khaki, and white linen suits; croquet on the lawn and mint juleps on the gallery.

Always a feeling of being thirsty for a mint iced tea, or lemon-aid over crushed ice, or bloody Mary’s with snap beans, or cherry cokes with lemon, or purple cows (coke with ice cream/ vanilla or chocolate, or a silver pitcher of ice cold water, or a Heineken from the freezer, or a Sazerac on ice. Or any kind of really cold soda, Red, Sprite, Dr. Pepper. And all drinks have to be frozen or iced or in some snow ball kind of glory: like strawberry, very very cherry, blueberry, vanilla, lemon, and hazelnut. Those iced drinks flow right through you to your fingertips, numbing and sweetening everything. And if you can’t find an iced drink you better rush to the Dairy Queen for a vanilla cone with chocolate dip.

You are really landing into the core of the father son dilemma. It’s a classic tale a boy has to kill off his father to come into manhood.

I want to tell him I love it here.

It's his by god and he can do what he wants. He’s going to be forced to go out. Felt conflict and the presence of the father. A powerful presence. He had started to love it there when he was to “Wa Wa” to let him see the child in him (great)

Up against the silence inside the father.
I love my dad and I don’t want... to see his meanness.

I’m starting to love the way he describes the land. He’s damaged goods. He's accepting his father’s view. He’s caving.

Cracked eggshells image.

Love rooted in a fierce misunderstanding. The son spending his life trying to understand.

If only sex could do . . .for me.
How to grow up in this family.