I DON’T UNDERSTAND
I am dying on the ground bleeding to death and I don’t understand. I wasn’t bothering anybody. I was just going to work, minding my own business. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and now I’m on the ground dying.
I’m 30 years old and just a little while ago I’m walking down Bergen Street to pick up my cab from the fleet garage. I have a block and a half to go. I hear the sound of keys behind me. A hand grabs my shoulder and a kid with wild floating eyes is pointing a gun at my head and he says, “Don’t fucking move.”
I say, “I won’t,” and I look away because I don’t want him thinking I’ll remember his face.
The gun’s against my head and somebody’s behind me now going through my pockets and getting the sixty-three dollars I have to lease the cab today. I’m waiting for wild floating eyes to hit me on the head with the gun because I know he will so they can get a running head start. But he doesn’t hit me at all. He shoots me.
I’m on the ground and feel nothing neck down. Nothing. I can’t see. The top of my head feels like it’s been blown off there is so much pressure. I open my eyes and I can’t see and can’t feel and I know I’m going to die.
There’s Jennifer’s face listening to someone tell her Daddy’s dead and maybe if I can get up and die trying to get to the hospital she’ll know I didn’t give up. She’ll know I tried the best I could. I can leave her a courage note that way – if I can only get up.
A dark damp blanket tightens around me and I think of Daddy and how he died when I was fifteen so if he can go from here to there, from life to death, maybe it’s okay then. Maybe it’s not so bad dying. Now I feel less scared. Now I can see smoky light and dark images and shapes and they make little sense to me. Jesus fucking Christ I’m dying and I’m seeing a black and white movie and I don’t understand.
The smoke clears for me and I see I’m on the sidewalk on my right side. I see a tree near me.
I’m standing and I don’t remember getting up, I’m just glad I’m standing. I lift my hand to my head and blood hits my hand before it gets there. I untie my blue hooded sweatshirt around my waist and press it against my head to stop the bleeding.
I am six years old watching my father at his desk reading and marking college papers. He teaches English in Columbia and John Jay College for Criminal Justice. I am sitting at the foot of his twin bed because it faces his desk. He and my mother have separate rooms. They say it’s because my father snores which is true and my mother is a light sleeper which is also true.
I love watching my father work. He wears half-glasses and a draftsman’s light is clamped to his desk. Smoke from his cigarette curls like a white snake up to the light and rolls along the length of the flourescent bulb before rising up and disappearing into thin air. Behind him is a wall of books. I feel a surge of love for him, do an end run around the desk and throw my arms around him. He says, pretending I’ve knocked the wind out of him. We laugh and hold each other and then I go back to my seat on the bed and return to watching him. He returns to his papers. I run and hug him a lot like this and he always hugs me back.
I am two, three, four and I already know my parents are God. Everybody knows their parents are God. I’m on to this right from the start. My mother isn’t even looking when she catches me doing something I’m not supposed to.
She says, “I have eyes in the back of my head, young man. I do. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re up too.”
I know those eyes are in the back of her head somewhere because she says she never lies so I know they’re ther. I can’t find them no matter how hard I search her graying hair, but they’re there alright.
My parents are in charge of everything, of course, because they are God. On Sunday’s we go to the Naurashaun Presbyterian Church. I don’t understand this because my parents are God and they live with me. The Reverend Bill Daniel talks about God like he is invisible or something but I’m not fooled for a minute because I have God sitting on either side of me. Why don’t they just say so? Why don’t they just admit it?