“We went to the New York World's Fair, saw what the past had been like, according to the Ford Motor Car Company and Walt Disney, saw what the future would be like, according to General Motors. And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
My father emailed me the other day asking for my schedule, wondering when we could have a little chat. My father’s 85 and almost 86 and I’m 58 and not nearly 59, yet. Yet, the phrase let’s have a little chat makes me feel — takes me back — what? where? I am in high school and my father says in the morning before he goes to work before we go to school I’d like you to come over to the store for lunch on Saturday, to have a little chat. The store. This is what we called my father’s place of work, the store. I’ve done nothing wrong I do nothing wrong (I never did anything wrong), mix and match tenses yet. Yet I’m nervous I’m skittery uneasy under the potted palm spooning chicken salad from the avocado boat a bowl of steaming onion soup drippy with cheese sitting in a verandah chair white wicker a plantation feel in a restaurant with the word peasant in the name and maybe even pleasant. It’s 1979. We are eating lunch in a luxury mall in Atlanta, and my father is a prince. My dashing dark father is a prince and the ladies who lunch around us know him and I’m his daughter, his beautiful daughter, there for a little chat. What do we chat about? I don’t remember but there must be something, something like insurance or what you will be studying or let’s talk about your future and I never really know what makes me so uncomfortable so restless and so proud to be there all at once. I guess I want to say that having a little chat with my father still makes me feel so uncomfortable so restless so proud, all at once.
I think about all of these things, all the time. I am thinking all the time, a maelstrom, thoughts broken by a ten minute meditation here a seizure to attend there. I’m knitting an afghan. I’m cooking with my son. Fish in a tomato broth, with a chile shallot garlic oil. I’m reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I teach many many many hours a week while the caregivers come and go. I wake at a certain hour each night and check on Sophie, check to make sure she’s alive yes I do cover her with blankets, lie down next to her. I sleep. I administer plants and poison, drops and pink ovals. I co-sign loans and check the gutters and have little chats. I wear a mask. My knees ache and I walk funny. I look up and the camellia bush next door is in bloom. What the hell happened or will? Was there ever a time other than the present?