I was out in the garage trying to fix up my broke-down car, trying to make it good again. But it’s been tough. It seems that all my fixes end up making things worse.
That morning I meant to give my old car a new coat of paint. With my brand new power-sander I buffed away the old coat—“China White” it was called (who in hell comes up with the names for colors?). Ready to treat my car to a fresh coat of “Baby Blue,” I opened the rear-passenger side door, pulled up the tarp from off the backseat, and found my son lying there (dead?), asleep. They look like perfect angels when they’re asleep.
My son’s lethargic eyelids peeled open, slightly, and he looked up at me though narrow slits. He closed his eyes, and for a moment I thought he might not fully wake, and then, recognition—jarring from his sleep, he recoiled, pressed his back against the dusty upholstery, kicked away the tarp, and snatched aimlessly at the door handle. It seemed that he looked up at some living nightmare, some kind of monster, or some agent of death that might bring about his ruination. His snatching hand finally found the door handle, and he fell backward, sprawling out of the car.
“Shit, Dad, I’m sorry!” he said while staggering to his feet. “I meant to leave before you or mom got up. I’m so stupid!” He yelled and then dashed for the door at the far side of the garage.
“Wait!” I pleaded. He did. “It’s been so long since I last saw you. Won’t you stay and visit with your old man, a while?” He walked toward me, keeping a cautious eye on the door leading into the house. We talked, or rather, I interrogated. He gave one word answers, mostly, nothing too specific, but I didn’t care. I was overjoyed to see him. It was amazing. His hair was a mess of oily tangles. He always hated to brush it. There were swollen, bruised bags beneath his eyes, which figured. I couldn’t imagine that anyone could get good night’s rest in the backseat of a car, and with all the grinding. His clothes were tattered and old, the same clothes he’s had since he was in high school, but who the hell can afford new clothes in this economy. It must be tough for a kid entering the workforce during these tough times. When I entered, the economy was booming. He asked to borrow money, which I was happy to lend. He thanked me and promised me he would repay me. Of course, recompense from my son was the least of my concerns. At the top of each forearm, at the crook of the inner elbow, there were blood-red mosquito bites with nasty rashes forming around them. My son always had terrible allergic reactions to mosquito bites. That probably explained why he kept scratching his neck beneath his chin. God! It was so good to see him.
The sound of my wife’s footsteps walking down the stairs alarmed us both. My son dove beneath the car, out of sight, and I pretended to clean whatever tool I snatched up when I heard her coming. Honey, who are you talking to? She asked. I said nobody. It’s funny, she mused. I swear I heard Alex’s voice coming from down here. I must be losing my mind. Then I said, maybe you miss him, and she replied, of course I do, but…I thought we both agreed you were going to get rid of that junkie thing! Not a chance, babe, I told her and then I said I can make it good again. You’ll see. Yes, we will see, she said, but until then, I’ll leave you to it, and she left.
“Alex?” I called, but already knew that he had already gone. Such a good boy—the first time I ever held him in my arms, I promised myself, and him, that I would sacrifice my life if it meant saving his; lying to myself about him, I suppose, was the next best thing.