Another Year

Someone tried to tell me all this one year sooner and I just disappeared. I could have had another year with David before we signed up for different colleges. I could have said something to my father before he died. I don't know what, but something.

Shoulda woulda coulda, hunh? I know.

I was trying to forget my father. He was a world class loser and I was terrified people would see me the same way. You know the movie Hoosiers, where one boy's father is a drunk who lives in a shack in the woods? That's how I felt. The new coach wants to give the drunk another chance, as assistant coach. He was a big basketball star twenty years before. The son says forget it coach, please, he can't change. Every time the drunk shows up on the basketball court he embarrasses his son. That's how I felt. My father lived two minutes from my school and came to everything but I didn't say a dozen words to him his last two years. Mostly just "please don't come."

Forgetting isn't like evaporation, like water on the floor. It's hard work. You have to keep at it and not forget.

My father wasn't a drunk. People could understand that easy enough. He was way worse. I don't know how to explain except I got the idea he was a Quaker. My town Paulie is in the part of New York near Connecticut, and the hills in between are called Quaker Hill. My father and I hiked around up there and went to the church there. There was a big famous Quaker library there, but it was from a hundred years ago. There are no Quakers anymore. You can see why. Quakers didn't believe in violence. They wouldn't call the police for help, either. That was just more violence, if you let someone else do your violence for you. They wouldn't join the army except the medical service. They wouldn't haul you into court. They wouldn't hire a lawyer if you hauled them into court. How they lasted long enough to build a library I don't know. When my mother took us to court his ideas got us killed. When no one tells you, you come up with your own explanations. I wondered if he was some kind of Quaker, or anything like that.

My mother told everyone not to ask me anything, I had already been hurt and embarrassed enough. If anyone asked her, like when he brought his mother to my Science Symposium and I didn't say two words to them, she hissed that he had kidnapped me and that was the end of that. Everyone just backed away and never brought it up again. I guess I can't blame them. I did the same. Maybe I could have asked her for more? Or asked him? But she would be furious, and if he couldn't protect himself he couldn't protect me. Better just let it alone, and leave it for later.

My father said don't waste the future trying to fix the past. OK, that much I agree with. But he also said the futures you dream are mostly the past in disguise, an endless parade of clever and sexy disguises. You won't know the past from the future until you know the past eye to eye. The past will come back again all your life, every day and every hour, but you can learn to see it coming a block away and say Oh no, not this time, no thank you. You can change in a moment, but only for a moment. Change enough of those moments, though, and you get a different life.

Except he said it a crazy way that no one could get. "You can never transform yourself, you can only transform the moment, the moment you step out of your self." He just looked looney, and me with him.

My advisor Mr Cionte says to summarize what's coming. So, someone tried to tell me all this, or the start of this, at the start of my junior year. Madison was AP English and Newsletter and wanted to be an investigative journalist. Her father was some big lawyer in the city. She wanted to interview me, or talk to me about maybe an interview. She had heard the kidnap story. It was a trick, she said, an old and well-known trick. I basically knew that, minus the details, but I didn't want anyone else to know. It was better if people thought my father was bad, a kidnapper, a daring outlaw who got caught. I knew he was a loser instead, full of foolish ideas. That's why I disappeared from Madison. I pretended not to see her when we passed. David sat at her same table at lunch. I could have met him a year sooner, maybe in time for us to plan something before we went away. I saw him looking at me that day, the way I had been looking at him a long time, but I didn't want to start that way, with him asking about my father.

Better to forget my father for a while. Then other people would and then I could. Till after high school maybe, or when I had kids of my own. I thought there would be time. At that age you think there's time for everything, all the time in the world. Also, any day could be the end of everything for you. So which is it? It's a crazy time. Maybe you remember.

Forgetting isn't like evaporation, like water on the floor. It's hard work. You have to keep at it and not forget. One day you forget and you remember.

Yeah, that was my father too. One of his funny riddles. We laughed.

I don't know what I would have said to him anyhow, his last year. Sorry? I don't blame you? Thank you?

Forgive me. I forgive you. I love you.

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