The neighbors are less suspicious now as I drive down the narrow street and turn into the graveyard. They see my black Jeep a lot nowadays, and once I had to tell the cops I’m just here to see my dad. You know how it is with small town cops. I think they’ve gotten used to me now and I still don’t give a shit.
His grave is between the elementary school and the “middle” school. I can’t help reliving some of those days every time I drive past them to make the turn into the narrow street, or road because it’s small town. There’s a large, green lawn and a big playground down back. My 18-year-old friends liked to play back there in the middle of the night, big kids having fun with their girlfriends, except that one night when he jumped down off the monkey-bars and his boot knife drove into his ankle. That was kind of messed up. These are the woods I hid inside when I played hooky and maybe some other things. I relive those times every time I drive down this backstreet and turn onto a smaller street not meant for two cars passing, neighbors wondering who’s this kid in a tricked out Jeep hanging out in the graveyard?
I wouldn’t come back here for any reason except that you are here. I took my beatings in this neighborhood, not far from the cool place where the under-aged were served at the tavern. We don’t all need to be the king and queen of the prom, but it would’ve been nice not to get beaten because I was a minding-my-own-business Head and you were a Jock serving your term as eradicator of supposed filth. I wouldn’t come back here for any reason, but this was the best place I could find for you, and I know you’d be okay with it. I wouldn’t come back here for any reason except for you. The neighbors are less suspicious now when I pull in between the low and narrow chain link fence. I pull off the gravel road into the grass, my Jeep leans steeply but at least people can pass by if they need to, but they never do because no one comes here except me, day or night.
I’m not thrilled about the headstone the Army provided at no charge. I wish it could be more. I wish it gave me space to tell the world who you have been and who you are.
I come here when I want, no reason or rhyme. Sometimes I just sit and listen to Concrete Blonde and watch the night go by. Other times I get out of the Jeep and greet your stone. I stand beside the dimple in the ground and I just start talking. I tell you everything. I tell you things I didn’t know I needed to say, words I can’t believe I’m saying. Sometimes it’s just the most random bullshit. I can hear what you’d probably say. Or maybe you might surprise me, I don’t know, but this silent ground gives me a place to tell, instead of lifelong silence when I needed you most. Now I tell you all, a silent post.
Should I stay here so I can keep speaking with you, telling you my heart that I will never give another? If I drive my Jeep into desert discomfort, will you still be with me and hear me? I need to go, but I don’t know how to leave you, Dad. How will I find your listening or not listening anywhere else? I flick my cigarette out the window and drive on. Traffic is heavy like it never was before when we were kids. I light another cig and change the song on the machine. I’m looking for something to lift the ribs that crush my heart and help me breathe free.
*Thank you, Kevin, for letting me have this one.