I spent this week working on a complicated answer to a very simple question.
Who am I?
I'm back in school. The novel is written. I run. The cancer is gone. My addictions are under control. I met my son.
I've been a gypsy living off the grid with fake identities and on the run from government agencies. Now I own property, stocks and worry about my credit rating. I've led and rarely followed.
The only regret I have is something I can't do anything about.
I'll never know my father as a man.
The first time I saw snow was the night he came home with a truck bed full of the stuff after driving home in the middle of the night from a job in Texas. He held my arms up and splashed me in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. I saw that there was more shape to the Earth than the flatness of where I lived when I rode with him through the hills of northern Mississippi.
I learned to read from the comic books he would give me, but never understood why I preferred super heroes over Casper and Little Lulu. I knew he kept magazines with naked women in his truck, but it didn't bother him that I only looked at them once.
He was a storyteller, a jokester and he loved to cook. He had a large garden that provided the food for our table and with his own two hands he built the roof that covered our heads.
I don't remember the last thing I said to him before the stroke left his entire body paralyzed. The last time I saw him was when I was on my way to New Orleans to begin a new life.
I had stolen money from my family to leave town and had stopped in the hospital where they kept him to tell him what I had done. I told him I was sorry to have disappointed him. I told him I was gay.
He could only lie there and blink his eyes.
I was waiting tables at a restaurant off of Canal Street when I found out he had died almost two years later.
Before my mother passed away she told me to take whatever I wanted before everyone started fighting over her meager belongings. The only thing I wanted was a photo of my father when he was eighteen, standing in a garden with his father.
I never knew I had a green thumb until I started growing things. I didn’t know I could cook before I made that first pot of gumbo. I love playing tricks on people and still read comic books. I relish the story my father told me about how he would walk twenty five miles, not to school, but to the dance hall and I know why he never said anything about my late nights spent in the disco.
I don’t know what he wanted for me, but I don’t think he’d be disappointed to find out how much I took from him and made into myself.