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Think Like Me
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately.
It’s not like I’ve been staring at your picture on the wall for hours or anything. No - I’m not that kind of thinker - but I have been imagining your actions, your appearances, your choices. Some people would say those things are your “picture on the wall”, but not the smart ones. At least, not the ones who think they’re smart.
I’ve been pondering – wondering, merely – about what you’re doing right at this moment of time, and I’m not lying when I say I have no idea where you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. But does it matter? I’ve been thinking of you, and that means I care about you.
It’s not like I made a doll that looks like you that I carry around all the time when you’re not here. No, I’m not that kind of thinker; but my heart has been aching every time I imagine you as a child, in my arms, in my hands, and in my possession. Some people would say that’s the same thing as a “doll that I carry around all the time”, but not the ignorant ones. At least, not the ones who think they’re ignorant.
You know, something’s been odd about you lately. Something’s been…off…and I worry. Not the kind of “off” that means you go breaking the windows in the garage or anything like that with your bare fists. No, nothing like that. You’ve just been, well, quiet, and, well, troubled-looking. Nothing too severe, otherwise I would’ve called your teachers, asking them if you were alright.
But then you did start acting like you were going to break the windows in the garage with your bare fists, and you looked like you needed help. So I did call your teachers. It’s not like I yelled at them and cried while I was talking to them, saying in that childish voice people use the phrases people never use like, “You’re doing something wrong!” and “What have you done!?” and “It’s your fault!”. No, I’m not that kind of thinker, but my voice did tremble as they answered the phone and I poured out my concerns for you. Don’t you see how much I’ve been thinking? Caring? Worrying?
So, there’s proof that I do look out for you. See, you do have people who are there for you. I prove you wrong - but lovingly, dear, lovingly. It’s not the kind of lovingly like in the movies where there’s all this chocolate and birthday parties and such. No, I’m not that kind of thinker, but it is still whole-hearted. Some people would say “chocolate and birthday parties” are the same as whole-heartedness, but not the sensible ones. At least, not the ones who think their sensible.
But that is not what I was trying to say. I won’t rant on and on about how father’s right, father’s right, father’s right, father’s right, father’s right, father’s right – aha, I’m RIGHT and you’re WRONG! – no, I’m not that kind of thinker, but I did have to say it once. Just once, that’s it. Efficiency is key, you see, efficiency is smarts and efficiency is proper. Just once. Some people would say it was more than once, but not the normal people. At least, not the people who think they’re normal.
Anyway. Your teachers – right – your teachers said there was nothing wrong at all. Not a thing! Even though you weren’t participating much in class, all your assignments were spot on! A’s all around the board (except for in participation, of course, we never got a chance to talk about that!) and you seemed to be understanding everything. All your tests, you got a B or higher (we never got a chance to talk about that either, but oh well!), and you didn’t have a single weak subject in the book. What a joy! What a student you were! What a surprise of happiness! How proud I was!
But I was not happy, you see, because I thought they were lying to me. So I checked your grades and I went through your binders. I went through your computer and your essays and your notebook and your schoolwork and your room to see if you had hidden any report cards in your drawers or in your closet. I didn’t find anything out of place, not really. But true enough, the grades were spot on, all tucked neatly into your binders with care. Your answers to the tests, written without any sign of work to go along with it, were always accompanied by a red check of the teacher. Check check check! I was very happy right then (how proud I was!) because I knew you were an efficient student all along. The less work there is on the paper, the smarter your brain is, you see? Efficiency is smarts. Efficiency is proper. I was right about you all along. But you still bothered me.
It’s not like you bothered me enough to have me biting my fingernails, missing the coffee cup, pulling out my hair, screaming at the television to tell it to shut up and stop screaming please just shut UP FOR A SECOND AND LET ME THINK!!? No, I’m not that kind of thinker (I’m just not), but I do get bothered enough to forget to go to work sometimes and forget to feed Casey sometimes, and to cook dinner, or to come out of my room, and to take a shower, and to pay my bills. Some people would say that’s the same thing as “missing the coffee cup”, but not the ones who know what I’m talking about. At least, not the ones who think they know what I’m talking about.
So next I called your coach. I didn’t get angry at him, actually, quite the opposite. I stayed completely calm and chill and excited to talk to him. He said you were doing alright on the field. Hitting the guys hard; harder than you ever had before. Putting your heads and not your brains in play. So efficient! So proper! That made me proud all over again, because I knew you weren’t afraid to use that helmet of yours! I was right about you all along. See how much I know about you? Care about you? Worry about you? Bother myself over you? Think about you?
The coach said a bunch of other stuff about off the field and things but I wasn’t listening. What do coaches know about that stuff? Frankly, as he kept talking and sense I was forced to listen “politely” because of what a “polite” reputation I have to have for “polite” little you and be a “polite” role model and hold a “polite” status in this “polite” situation with a “polite” phone call and your preppy “polite” private school, I got very angry and by the time he said goodbye my hands had blisters on them from clenching the phone so tight to my ear. Blisters! They still haven’t popped – that’s how just goddam “polite” the whole thing was and it angers me so much I just want to “politely” punch them out of my hand and watch them politely dribble away. Polite, polite, polite. Give me a break! Who has the time!? Who has the TIME!!?
Anyway. I had heard what I needed to hear. You were winning the games, hitting them hard, being a good athlete! What other could a kid on the team want? So I knew nothing was wrong there. Nah, sports have always been the relaxing part of life for you! No troubles, just ease! How efficient!!
Even though, two seasons ago, remember how you were all the sudden “scared” to hit ‘em? “Scared” to use your helmet for the only good purpose – to ram it into the offense?! “Scared” to fall down, “scared” to hit your head, “scared” to have blood come out your ears like it did once – just once - before? “Scared” to go to the front line, “scared” to join the varsity because all of the mean people there, “scared” to join their group because of what they did? When should my son, my child, my goddam representation for the next generation ever be “scared?! Why?! Huh? Why could you ever, ever, ever, EVER EVER EVER EVER DO THAT TO ME?! TO YOUR ONE FAN?! TO THE PERSON WHO CARES SO GODDAM MUCH ABOUT YOU!? SO IT’S YOUR FAULT, YOUR FAULT, YOUR FAULT, AND YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU GET SO JUST STOP ACTING LIKE YOU DON’T!!!
But then, everything changed. I opened up the door, saw you come tumbling out, stepped away, and watched you fall. Your face was in the rug. Your blood was in the rug and you didn’t frickin’ care about it. How dare you? How dare you? How dare you?
However, I no longer felt angry. I knew then, what was wrong. You see, I’m just that kind of thinker. And now, I’m all alone, you see, all alone in this place, all alone in this one room for the rest of my “polite” little “scared” life, all alone in these white walls, away from Casey, away from you, away from the window, away from the house, away from the picture, away from the doll, away from the carpet, away from the coffee cup, away, away, away - and I have time to think. Time to think about what was wrong with you. What was wrong with us.
But, you see, I did care. I did listen. I was there. And that’s why I was honest-to-god surprised when you said in that red ink that you never had anybody. Hey, what about me, huh? What about me? You must’ve forgotten. You must’ve blanked. Poor you, huh? Poor, poor, you who had no one in the world but themselves? No. No no no, professor, you’ve got it wrong. Poor me.
Because I have to live with the same realization over and over and over and over again. Huh? I’m the one that has to be reminded by these jackets they put on me without ties and without any shoes and without any black and never tell anybody that you left and all because you left because I was never there. Hah! Huh? Huh? Huh? All because I never asked? I never asked you what was wrong, was that it? Huh? You never felt cared for or safe or thought after or bothered by or worried about, because I never asked you. Fine. Huh? Just fine.
Because it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I watched, and knew, and feared, and fretted. And no, I didn’t go to you. I didn’t see you before it was too late. I didn’t ask you. I never asked you. I just assumed you were alright; that you were wrong and would come around. That I was right and you were wrong. Right, wrong, wrong, right. I didn’t recognize what you were doing. No, I’m not that kind of thinker. But I still bothered. I was still there. I still listened. I still cared. I still watched. I still worried. I still cried. I still waited. I still screamed. I still called. I still thought.
And – I’m sure – some people would say that I never did anything at all for you, my only son, but not the ones like me.
At least, not the people who think their like me.