Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Living with Your Past Selves by Bill Hiatt


“Tal, your oatmeal is getting cold,” my mom said worriedly. She always sounded worried these days, actually ever since I had been in the hospital. She was looking more tired than usual though, I suppose because the Gwrach y Rhibyn had kept her up.

“Sorry, I guess I’m just a little preoccupied today.” My mother smiled, just a bit, but she kept those overly inquisitive eyes on me. Most of the time she acted as if she thought I would break at any moment. Hell, maybe she was right.

“The soccer coach tells me the Simpson boy is moving out of town, so there’ll be an opening in varsity this season. I think he’d like to see you go out for the team.” Where my mom’s blue eyes were inquisitive, my dad’s gray ones were more like inquisitorial as they peered at me, the lower part of his face covered by the morning newspaper.

“Dad, you know I don’t have time.”

“But you used to love soccer!” The disappointed edge in his voice felt like a knife, cutting me yet again. Yeah, we had had similar conversations before.

“Junior year is especially important for college,” I replied, remembering previous conversations I had had with the college counselor at school. “I have to do well in my classes, and colleges want to see sustained commitment to a few extracurriculars, not a lot of jumping around. If I drop fencing, or music, or poetry for soccer, it just won’t look good.”

“It’s good you have a sport,” said my dad grudgingly. I guess he was having a good day if he was conceding that fencing was a sport. “But fencing is so, so…” he struggled for some politically correct word and failed to find one.

I knew what he wanted to say was “fencing is so gay,” but those words would never come out of his lips. He was always better at picking away at the edges of problems rather than facing them directly. The truth was he had feared I was gay ever since my collapse four years ago. He might have swallowed fencing; I think it was the harp playing that really horrified him, but the poetry writing didn’t help. I knew that in some deeply hidden part of his mind, he was just waiting for me to announce I was taking up ballet. Honestly, the man would have been secretly delighted if he’d caught me in bed with a girl. Even my getting a girl pregnant would probably have been better for him than the gray dread he must have felt every time he contemplated what for him was unspeakable.

Okay, I know you are dying to ask, so for the record, I’m not gay—not that it should matter. The ancient Celts really had the right idea; if a man were brave in battle and a dutiful subject of his king, people didn’t worry too much about whom he was in bed with, as long as it wasn’t another man’s wife.

“Dad, you know some of the football fathers would feel the same way about soccer that you feel about fencing.”

“I don’t feel anything about fencing,” said my father defensively, burying himself in his newspaper.

I might have had the accumulated knowledge of millenniums of incarnations, but in more ways than you would think, I was a teenager. Yeah, I wanted to rebel against my parents—but I had done that in so many subtle ways already that it was getting old. Really, I wanted my dad to be proud of me, and even though I had some prestigious colleges already interested in me, I knew he just couldn’t feel proud of who I was now. He wanted the little boy again. He wanted me to play soccer and be carefree, like I was before the hospital. But of course, that little boy didn’t have the weight of thousands of years bearing down on him. I would never be that little boy; I didn’t even remember what it was like to be him. I wanted to tell my dad that the boy was dead, but that I was alive, and I needed him—I needed him to love me, not some memory that hung between us like a pale, dull fog. However, those words would never escape my lips.

I guess in that way my dad and I were not that different.


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