Every so often, and I would never know when, I would find myself talking with my father. There would be a gap in his indifference and inattention and he would turn a yellow eye on me and speak.
He would start with a question, something I could never answer about the meaning of life or loss or sometimes a riddle or a joke but the conversation was always lumpy and uneven, difficult to hold and balance and it would slip away from both of us, often at the same time.
But by infitissimal degrees, I learned everything about him, or so I thought. I watched his mouth move as he massaged the heel of his palm with the great pad of his thumb and I believed everything he told me, his reasons and beliefs, his justifications and certainties until, over the years, from the clues and fragments, I constructed a résumé for him that read like the epitaph for a great ship – forged in fire, strong, unsinkable and I used it as a charm against loving him or expecting, ever, for him to love me.
I thought a big man would make a lot of ash but it blew away in seconds, all the words he ever spoke and all the ones I couldn’t hear.