IT SNOWED IN MALIBU YESTERDAY
Where: 92673 San Clemente (United States). When: on 17-12-2008.
Written at 23-04-2011 by Bryan Price
Labels - snow mailibu cancer prostate cancer father discovering father has cancer big days bob the butcher of bliss san clemente california united states
My mom delivered the news. I pressed end and said, “Damn it”. Then, my eyes filled.
Two women were sitting near me. I wanted something from them. Anything. I wanted them to hear the news but be respectful enough to pretend to not have heard it. I felt something similar while making the drive to my folk’s house after the Twin Towers fell. I was in L.A. living in the Rampart District and didn’t have a television. I felt I was the last to know. I kept looking for the horror in people’s faces but saw nothing. I distinctly remember a guy putting his keys into the door of his car with this lump of question in my throat. “Do you know what just happened?” But kept moving.
One of the women sitting near me asked me to look after her bags while she went inside. It was a perfect response to my imagination.
I called my sister. My mom told me not to tell her yet because over the past year her life had reached a chaotic state and she felt that my sister was too frail to hear the news first thing in the morning. I promised my sister that I’d tell her as soon as I knew. I thought withholding something like this would be unforgivable, given our agreement. Plus, I thought she was tougher than that.
I told her that Cheerful Bill would be allright and that it wasn’t all that bad. Prostate cancer. Be optimistic. It moved slowly. He was positive and a warrior . . . . etc. She took it better than I thought. No beating of the chest and plucking out of the eyes. Then she started asking me questions I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t. I told her something to the effect that the unanswered is the unspoken sibling to any kind of cancer and we would have to ask more questions to suss the truth of the matter out. With no more answers, we left those things to themselves, and hung up.
I called my friend Jason who wanted to know when I knew. He didn’t pick up.
I left it in a message. That’s how that goes. I left the news on his voice mail in a few curt sentences. That’s how it goes when a decree is fired into the abyss.
I stared for a while looking at nothing with my hand over my mouth. My moment.
My heart thumped. I smoked a cigarette, got up and threw the rest of the pack away for every reason why.
I went home to find my mom in the bathroom doing her hair. Her eyes were full. I wanted to hug her but was afraid to. I smelled like cigarettes. That news would have broken her, considering I was quit. After a while it didn’t matter anymore and I went in for her.
As usual, she had her arms at her side with her body stiff as a board. Like she does when getting a hug. Refusing the love. Refusing the comfort. I knew this would happen. I knew she needed a hug and her behavior was comforting. Like nothing in this world would change no matter what.
I went downstairs and turned on the television. Martha Stewart. Her show was about bread. I wondered why she would do a show about bread and it grew into a great diatribe in my mind, between the elusive meaning of the flat line of “absurdity” and its relationship to me.
I went outside and sat in the sun. As it fell, I continued with my abstractions. I went through a lot of things. Nothing was excluded from the curriculum. I fell into a poem while I sat there wondering for the first time about limits on verse and privacy. About the private moments you don’t betray and are stifled at best.
I went back inside and heard the TV talking about the high price of guacamole due to the crops being destroyed in a cold front. They talked about people being out of jobs because of it. I wondered what they were going to do.
I got in my car and continued my poem on the way to see my psychiatrist. I saw my psychiatrist. I am making progress. He thinks I’ve been misdiagnosed. He thinks I’m bi- polar. The diagnosis matters very little to me. It changes nothing.
I went to get a prescription filled at the pharmacy. The girl who took my order was cold.
A fat man sat in the middle of three chairs and didn’t make room for me. I sat on a table fuming. I hid the rage by looking at cold remedies. He got his pills and left. I scooted over into a chair and waited. My wrath followed him outside.
I got a call back from my friend, Jason. It was short. We talked about things. I told him I was all over the place. He asked if I wanted him to drive down to San Diego from L.A. tonight to be with my family and me. I told him that it would be better tonight without any company.
We said goodbye.
I went back inside. There was a new arrival. An old man in a red white and blue jumpsuit. His medication came and was expensive. He protested. I wondered how many shades there are to the process of taking things away from people who play along and in the search for more life. Fucking whore industry sucking the marrow out of his old and creaking bones. I wanted to punish somebody for it.
Then my medicine came and the same girl became warmer when she gave it to me.
My opinion about her character changed. She tried to talk to me about how we should switch to a system like the one they have up there in Canada. I tried to offer something for her to work with but the moment was bankrupt. No stars and stripes or revolution or righteousness. I didn’t care. Not today. Other days I felt like her and wondered what I would do and what life would be like if I couldn’t pay for my health. Then I paid for my health, went outside and climbed into my brand new car.
I drove home. I found a place to sit. My dog demanded attention. My dog is huge, unruly and head-butts you when you pet him. I was not feeling up to the challenge and pushed him away until I felt bad because he doesn’t know anything, only love, and I was punishing him for it because I didn’t want love or to give love. To anyone or anything. I wanted no comfort. Or tenderness. Nothing soft. Just silence and a clenched jaw to seize hold of this world with. I wanted nothing of it and wanted to beat anything resembling it. I would never love anything. Not as long as I lived. So, I pet him.
My mom got home. She went shopping. I helped her carry the stuff inside. I ate some food. Put the new flowers she bought into the sink. I drank a glass of water. Then I went outside to take down the Christmas lights. A strand was hanging from the roof, barely started – for me to notice. A hint I was supposed to catch wind of but missed until today.
I wrestled with a ladder and some poorly placed bushes to get position to take them down. I felt my weight sink it into the ground, which was wet and unsteady. It effected my method of removal. The style with which I removed them will prohibit a second use. I wondered if there would be a next year. This one starting out so swell, and all.
After that, I picked up dog shit because I didn’t know what else to do and completing tasks that needed to get done was doing something for me.
Dog shit scooped, I went inside with nothing and watched Bob Ross, paint a sky. He told me to believe in myself and I could do anything. There are no accidents. Everyone deserves a friend. He is dead. I wish he wasn’t.
I went out back to finish my studying for the day. I fought with the wind as it blew the pages around but I beat it. I tore through the remainder of the curriculum and finally finished the course. It was a process that was long and drawn out. I wanted to tell my dad I was closer to my goal and would be working soon because it was important to me. To let him know I’ve done something
definitive to prove that I had woken from my unemployed stupor and was on my way, as planned.
I went upstairs and watched the end of a movie about beer drinking. It ended. I had nothing to do. Salvation came when my mom gave me a check to deposit into my account because that is how things are built right now and is part of the problem. I do not find real estate appraisal very sexy. But for me, the long form of the poetic in me is the reason why I am willing to shit-can every delusion of grandeur for the esteem of feet.
I got in the car and went to the bank to deposit it. The anger came for me. I bought another pack of smokes in spite of every reason why and smoked one in the parking lot feeling paranoid about what I was taking in. Like the world was murder because murder was in me and the owner of the liquor store was an asshole for no reason other than the simple fact that he a Budweiser/Lakers neon thing hanging in his window and it is relentless but not lost on me the ways these targets come for me when I feel like obliterating the earth. I figured it was a hard day and it was to be expected and would pass with sleep.
On the drive home I got a bloody nose and didn’t have anything to stop it up with. I held it shut with one hand and choked a little on the blood but made sure to still use the turn signal as I made my way through the neighborhood. At one point I felt horrible for all the distress I’ve caused my father over the years. I had built myself a reputation for misbehaving. I had a dark streak in me, I did. But was not darkness. And my father is a man of faith and optimism. It would put a certain strain on our relationship.
He would tell me that God had a plan for me and was certain that his sensitive son would become a preacher. I felt I spoke just fine and was doing good work and his concern made me feel like he had no interest or ability to see me if all the pieces did not fit correctly. Because of this feeling I couldn’t see him and would try and get excited about going to a Dodgers game with him as we tried, like men to bridge the gap but would offer little remedy. We were trying. To change the dynamic and it was uneasy and strained. There was no doubt that he was loved and I in return – but at the core of everything – there was rejection. The gap would come up. When it did I would be confronted with the feeling. The feeling came from the message that I was hearing: All was wrong with my life. In the coaching I heard that I had not the skills to navigate and was lost. All he wanted was to be looked at like a counselor and respected and listened to for the wealth of his age and experience because he was my father. It is stupid. With our time threatened, I could see a little better. And, I saw him as a hero.
My first car
was a Datsun 240Z that he bought a year before I was born. He took great lengths to restore it but I crashed it into a tree, I ran into a house, I ran it into the back of a Lincoln Continental, I ran into the huge median on highland that holds the marquis for the Hollywood Bowl on a foggy night when I thought that it would be a good idea to floor it. At the time, I drank like a mute so this was common.
On the other side of that, my plan was to restore the Z, all shiny and new like when he bought it as proof that I got my life together. A tangible symbol of the circle and the complete success of the perpetuity of his heart felt life.
I felt time and the sinking sense that I took to long to come to this.
I went home to try and recreate the poem I was writing in my mind earlier but decided against it. That poem is for no one. I will never speak it. It is my secret. What was in my heart will remain between my dad and me. My undying
love for him grew invincible by the omission of a line. It is and was and will never be again. Only the intention will remain and the singularity of that moment.
The anger came for me. Again. This time it bloomed like a cauliflower, rolling and orange, on fire like the bombs that went off in Nevada as the world saw those first atomic booms. It ate me up for my belief in order. In this I adorned my father with justice then stopped this demonstration of physics. It was a waste of time. Anger is nothing more than a bitch burning holes in my
shoes. No prayer lost. No motion wasted. Make moves towards the sum of
I decided that from this day forward I’m not going to put up with any bullshit from anyone including myself. It does not matter. Give teeth to the razor,
simplify and put a bullet in the head of that animal. Walk into the home of that creature and kill it where it lives.
My dad got home and I went downstairs to face him.
I gave him a hug. He gave me a smile.
I could go my whole life without seeing that smile again.
He went upstairs to change. I sat
down. Mom was drinking a glass of scotch.
His smile. Naked. Heroic. Afraid. Feeble. Mortal. Paternal.
Terrified. I cried a bit.
downstairs and was hungry. “Let’s go to Baja Taco.” I drove. A
conversation ensued. I can’t
remember much of it other than my mom started to locate the beginning of his
illness years and strung together the signs. She started in on his character for not taking care of
himself or going to the doctor more.
He, she said – was too passive and optimistic. My dad told her that there was no point in going over that
business now. Now was now. It is what it is. He has to do what he has to do. He was firm. The was fire. She
grew quiet and the onslaught stopped.
A strange paralysis
came over me. I kept every
opinion to myself. I only wanted
to hear him and not demand anything.
My mom grew
tender and I saw the day’s widow pass by as we drove by through the
window. I didn’t like hearing that
kind of softness from her. It was
a gross deformity. Unnatural.
He asked me
what I did with my day and I told him I completed the curriculum.
from the car to the restaurant a certain panic overtook me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run. We ordered food. I brought us an assortment of us
A kid kicked
me as I sat down and I felt it was something significant.
We sat and ate
chips and salsa for a while.
Crunching. There was
significance in this as well.
Finally, we had a short discussion about what we were going to do as my
dad cleaned his plate. He ate
Pulling up to
their house I noticed some balloons in the trash. Two days leading up to today my genius brother in law’s
mother in the splendor of her infinite blank sent him get well packages before
the news was in and we really knew if he was sick or not. I felt like blaming her for the results
we got by making a premature spectacle of support in the interest of bad news. She brought in the sickness with her
idiotic need to contain the fear with cheer. Last year, she lost her husband.
going to bed I decided that I would watch TV with my father. I would go to bed, sometimes at seven
to escape it. I hated the ritual. The way he punctuated the day. He’d lay there exhausted, never really
watching anything, flipping through the channels refusing to fall asleep. It seemed dishonest to me. I felt like he was a petulant child at
a slumber party where nothing could be missed, but was missed nonetheless – in
weariness. It made me sad to see
him so old and I resented it.
upstairs to put on some comfortable clothes and called my new friend. She was the kind of new friend
that you call when you have no words for anyone. She gave the stars their splendor and nuclear their minds
but she didn’t pick up. So, I went
watched the first of two crime dramas.
She called. I told her the
news. She tried to comfort me and
apologized for the fact that she never knows what to say about things like this. I tell her it didn’t matter. I didn’t expect anything. There was nothing to say. I just wanted to tell her and say hello
and the here efforts worked out just fine but felt bankrupt. That’s how I deal with disappointment.
I spent the
rest of the night watching my father go through his routine. Just when the show ended to declare
what he observed. “That was an
Usually I give
him shit and tell him to go to bed because its silly, but tonight I just tell
him it was a weird ending and love as best I can that obstinate boy living in
him trying to stay up longer than any of us. To be the last man standing. I know that boy will never die.
TV. I watch him crumble and sink
into the upholstery. His hand
could not support his chin.
Despite his attempts to refuse gravity he was falling and it had the
immeasurable beauty of a weeping willow.
come on the TV and sing, “Every Time You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello” and it rips
my reality. It put nails into the
moment with the certainty of importance.
My head spun, caught fire and was there until it wasn’t.
back to the crime drama. The first
scene I see takes place at a graveyard.
I galvanize into something I was all along and run up a banner for
forever. I grit my teeth as I
think about the future and decide I will follow him anywhere. Everywhere. To the end if it calls. And I will devour every moment with a hungry mind and open
heart. Nothing will escape
me. I will hold him. I will sit with him. That sweet boy refusing sleep. Slowly
losing if that’s what comes to be.
I will hold
him “like a demand written down on the palm of my hand”. This beautiful proclamation comes
courtesy of a poet named Saul Williams.
I take note
and record it so it won’t desert me.
A certain kind
of morbidity takes hold and I begin to gather the scraps.
I try and wake
him. I am successful. He says, “What’s up?” I tell him the news. “It snowed in Malibu yesterday.”
He tells me,
“It wasn’t even that cold”, then flips the channel.