So, this thing happened around the end of November. My dad died.
Everything after that, for, like, the next month? It kind of feels like what Ed Norton’s character in “Fight Club” describes insomnia to be like: a copy, of a copy, of a copy. Nothing’s quite real.
The Maestro and I ate at La Villa Rosa a few weeks after this had happened, and it fell squarely into that hazy time for me. The place was…fine, really. I’d just come from the gym– because that’s how you want to do pizza, see, right after working out– and I remember sitting there, feeling like things were going on around me…but I was outside of the world, watching it. Watching reality happen without my participation. Watching the wheels, to quote my hero John Lennon.
I wonder if this is what Dad sees now, I thought. I thought back to what Rufus the Apostle said in the movie “Dogma:” “You know what the dead do with most of their time? Watch the living.”
I remember glancing outside– it had begun to snow– and looking at the car I was driving, which was Dad’s car, his customized silver Ford Mustang California Special.
I remember every blink seemed to be like I was holding back tears.
Leon was there, and his girlfriend, and Jason, I like those guys. Mrs. Maestro, who is one of my favorite people in the world but with whom I have a famously prickly relationship, showed me a Star Wars joke on her iPhone.
The TV on the wall was showing a Disney Christmas movie, which begged the question of why the hell Donald and his related Ducks never wore pants.
The Mustang’s going to fishtail in the snow, I thought absently. Dad always used to put bags of salt in the trunk after the first snow. Another blink, to hold back another tear. He’s only been gone a couple weeks, and I’m already lost without him to tell me what to do.
I remember looking over at the Maestro. He looked back at me, and the exchange was without words. He knew I was in enormous pain, and he had no idea what to do about it.
He and my father are similar in that neither of them deal well with feelings of helplessness when it comes to people they care about.
The pizza was all right. Gooey cheese, enough crisp veggies. It fell in the middle of the bell curve quality wise, as far as I was concerned. Conversation swirled around me; the lights on the Christmas tree the restaurant had erected twinkled; outside the snow had begun to fall a little harder.
Dad’s signature turns of phrase echoed in my brain. Communication is the art of exchanging ideas. Nothing has meaning except that which you assign it. Watch what you’re spending your energy packets on.
As I studied, outside the window, the glint of the streetlight against the silver of Dad’s Mustang, the image occurred to me of him coming home from work early one day, still in his shirt and tie, to take me to see Return of the Jedi in the theater. Just me and him. He had told me that he had a lightsaber in his closet, but he couldn’t show it to me because “Yoda said no.”
But, he said, when I was old enough, I could build my own lightsaber, just like Luke Skywalker had.
I once snuck into his closet, when my parents weren’t home, looking for the lightsaber. I couldn’t find it. I assumed he’d stashed it in the shoeboxes that were too high for me to reach.
Smart thinking, I had thought at the time. Make the student Jedi work for it myself.
“Would you like a box?” the waitress was asking me, referring to my leftover pizza.
I looked at her blankly, unable, for the moment, to shove the image of my father’s coffin out of my head.
“Yes, please,” I finally said, shaking out of it.
Because you have to shake out of it eventually.
Or else the Maestro will wax your ass on the go kart track.