A Thousand Words About Bullying Poverty & Fathers

This morning Charlie woke up and found the breakfast I had left for him and the toy cars and blocks I had lined up last night after he went to bed and I knew he would stay occupied for a while so I drifted back to sleep because it was a crisp late spring morning and I fell back unusually quickly and started dreaming that I was running past an outdoor bookstore on a university campus and I overheard three kids laughing at the fact that they had seen me browsing the two dollar books on the used and bargain shelves downstairs past the shirts and hats and pennants and calculators and computers and that I couldn’t afford the new books and that’s why I wouldn’t amount to much more than an oddball poor kid running around in a torn denim jacket and worn down work boots, and as they narrated my actions it was as though they robbed me of the actions themselves, as though they could make my motion and my life their story rather than my doing, as so often the poor are displayed in images on television and magazines that tell their story for them, and in sound bytes of voiced-over struggle while their rage rises as mine was in the dream, and I turned back and ran to the kids and grabbed the oldest boy and shouted in his face and shook him by the shoulders and pushed his filthy mouth and his filthy words into the sand under the concrete bench in the otherwise quiet bookstore courtyard, in among the landscaped trees and planter boxes and accent lighting that cost more than I’ve ever had in my pocket on an orange-tinged evening in early autumn, and I cursed him and his friends and their ignorance of me, the real me, the me I am to me, not to them as an unread book bound in tattered cloth, discarded before its title page, and I struggled to find words through my anger and I struggled to make sense of the sounds coming out of me in the dream, desperately wanting to tell a whole story in a sentence, in a picture, in one impressive instant, explosive in a way that would annihilate their discrimination and scatter it among the dust and pollen to the wind, diffuse their unquestioned hatred for no better reason than my circumstances, taken out on me as though I am only my place and not my parts and my actions and my ambitions and my loves and all my frustrations that probably mirror theirs more than they recognize without looking any further because they’ve never had to take that long a view, yet they’ll never feel my struggles as real as theirs but of a different character, my hunger through an entirely exhausted body, my anger and rage welling up and misunderstood even by me, releasing and washing in and out as a tide of driftwood and oil slicks and pollution that you can stop no sooner than you can stop the phases of the moon, and I wanted to infuse them with my frustrations, my obsessions, my motivations to write the antithesis of all the world expected of me, becoming a perpetual motion reading machine sponging anything and everything I could afford or find, soaking, churning around and around, extracting and separating the raw mixtures of words and ideas and everything more I found scattered and tucked behind the lines, behind the books’ covers and faces, much as it occurred to me last week when my father visited and I looked at him closely for what I realised was the first time in our lives and I saw in him where I came from and who I will be, just as I see in my little boy who I was, and it occurred to me that I rarely look into my own face, much as I wouldn’t in my darkest days when all I wanted to see was everything but me, and I got used to it so much that little of what I was remained in my consciousness just as I had hoped in my deliberate purge and I had to relearn to see myself in the world and against the world as a backdrop, yet here I was again looking, this time into my future face and I was afraid, though not for who I saw because my father’s a good man who lived his own frustrations and struggled with his own expressions and obsessions and addictions I reckon, but instead here I was afraid of all that I might become if I go on unchecked or unexpressed and fail to find a way to ensure that when my boy sees and hears what I heard in my dream, words of the sort I had in fact heard but couldn’t handle as a child because I hadn’t been schooled in the art of asserting my existence, my boy will have the expressive capacity to respond, because I want to stop this cycle of frustrated aggravation and rise up and tell him and assure him that mockers mock through empty vessels, and their broken hearts and bones beat because they are as frustrated and troubled as anyone, as I was at the fact that I couldn’t tell them all this when I heard their beration and damnation when I was a boy and even in this late morning vision, and let me tell you Charlie if they ever laugh off your two dollar books and your boundless ambitions, there are six words that speak the sentiments of this sentence all at once, which is all you’ll want to say, and as far as I’m concerned you can scream them with impunity and I’ll understand why and never question you and I’ll stand by you where a father always stands tall beside his son as you unleash this simple truth about dads and dreams: “Fuck you. That’s all I wanted.”

The Lawnmower
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