A Happy, Normal Life
My barber’s daughter is having a rough time in Pittsburgh. There is a clearance sale over at Batteries + Bulbs. The signs are everywhere.
My mother’s surgery went well. The many mini strokes have subsided. 100% blockage on the left side, nothing they can do. The right side is enough, Dr. Charles said. Dr. Charles says she can live a happy, normal life with just the right side. I’m relieved she didn’t die. I don’t know how I could have written her obituary. I’ve been blocked for months.
Dr. Charles says she can live a happy, normal life now.
I don’t know what he did when he had her filleted on the operating table. That now she can live a happy, normal life. It doesn’t seem possible.
My barber, he gave me a pompadour. I don’t know why. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t ask for any of this. I was in my mother’s belly, cradled with love by the smoke from her nonstop Salem Light Menthol 100s then I was outside my mother’s belly and it was Summer or Fall and the cousins are running in the dandelion fields by the curing barn and the uncles are shooting apples-there must have been some mistake there almost always is-then it was later, some other time I guess, and my kids are screaming over each other about a scholastic book fair or field trip or a field day maybe, and I have to stand there and take it with a pompadour.
The scar on my mother’s neck is so disgusting, it’s not even a scar. It’s her insides mingling with fresh air. She won’t wear a scarf. Sometimes it pusses. Sometimes it bleeds. It grows bigger and nastier in my imagination, which is the only place it lives most of the time because I can’t stomach the sight long enough to look at her. Why is it taking so long to heal, my dad asks. That’s a great question, I say. At least she’s not dead, he thinks. There’s no way I could have written her obituary, I say. I’ve been blocked for months. My daughter’s wound healed much faster and there were over three hundred stitches, I had to hold her down with all of my strength on the pediatrician’s table while they took each one out, one by one by one, with tweezers and she red-faced screamed at me the entire time, I never broke eye contact, I did not shed a single tear, I gave her my face to scream at the entire time because it was the only thing I could give her and she didn’t nonstop smoke Salem Light Menthol 100s until the left side was 100% blocked, nothing they can do, she was just playing in the water on a beautiful summer day, her bathing suit is a little too big my wife says lying next to me, watching her, it’s the last time she’ll wear it, I reply. They will probably have to cut it off before the surgery to save her leg. What surgery to save her leg, my wife asks, concerned. Then the screams.
I’m going to give you a hard part on the left, he says. All I hear is “hard part on the left,” 100% blockage, nothing we can do. I didn’t know this meant I would end up with a pompadour. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t ask for any of this. My barber’s daughter is having a rough time in Pittsburgh. The hard parts are everywhere. She’s always had emotional problems. It started when she was young. Do you have a daughter, he asks. I do. She’s seven. She will be eight in February. She has a shark tooth. Left leg. This is the hard part. 100% blockage, nothing we can do. His daughter sells her artwork. A lot of it is hung up on the wall of her father’s barber’s shop. There’s a terribly ugly collage-like rendition of the cover of Thriller by Michael Jackson and a terribly ugly collage-like rendition of the cover of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, and a terribly ugly collage-like rendition of the cover of Kick by INXS. How much is that one, I ask. Which one? It doesn’t matter. They are already sold. His daughter sells her artwork. He buys all of it and hangs it up on the wall of his barber shop. She only calls to talk to her mother. She doesn’t tell me much, he says. She has emotional problems. She always has. Probably she’ll move back home, he thinks. You just have to be there for them. That’s all you can do, he says.
The supply chain is a disaster. There’s a paper shortage. There is a clearance sale over at Batteries + Bulbs. The signs are everywhere. My barber’s daughter has emotional problems. Her roommate gave her a month to pack up her stuff and get the hell out. Something awful happened. Where have all the reliable truck drivers gone? There are kinks in the supply chain everywhere. It’s been blocked for months. Am I going to have to go down to the docks and sort this mess out myself? Help is wanted. The signs are everywhere. The price of everything is going up. Pound of flesh. Sharks in the water smell blood. Pittsburgh? What did any one of us expect? Buried in all that steel. She’s an artist, he insists. Pittsburgh is home to a vibrant art scene. Vibrant. It varies. There are variants. Buried in all that still. I can see the shore. We’re having trouble getting the things we need from here to there. Kinks in the supply chain, don’t kink shame the supply chain. Help wanted. Fifteen dollars an hour. No one can get any paper.
I can’t believe I’m telling you all this, he says. “Who would you even tell though, right?” Right, I mumble. It’s not like I’m getting this all down, I joke. How could you, he asks. I’ve been blocked for months, I couldn’t even write my mother’s obituary, I confess. When did your mother pass, he asks? She didn’t. I even tried to kill her on a rooftop in Crown Heights, singing the lyrics from The Dolphin Lane Motel Offseason (1993-1995) to so many sad strangers. That’s good she’s not dead, he says. It would have been a real tragedy, I think. Where do you even put an obituary these days? The paper doesn’t come anymore. There’s a paper shortage.
On the drive home I listen to terrible Midwest emo from my childhood. Everywhere I look there are snags in the supply chain. There is a clearance sale over at Batteries + Bulbs. The signs are everywhere. This time next year I’ll be a famous novelist. If they can at least figure out the supply chain. There’s a paper shortage. It’s been blocked for months. I can’t believe I have a pompadour. I can’t even hide how much of an asshole I am anymore. I’m furious at my barber. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for any of this. I can’t say anything. I’m stuck like this. We’re both stuck like this. I’ve been blocked for months, and his daughter is having a rough time in Pittsburgh.
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