this is my dad. well not really, because my dad was this little chubby guy with a weird sense of humor who smelled like murray's pomade and wore paisley polyester shirts with exaggerated collars. this is a box containing his incinerated cremains, and they have sat in a bag in my closet for the last six years while i have avoided the subject of figuring out what the fuck to do with them. it took eleven years after he died for me to even summon the courage to pick them up from the funeral home, and even then i made my sister do it because i was too chickenshit. i was 18 when he died and 29 when my sister came to my job carrying a blue shopping bag with this dusty fake wood box in it and the first thing i thought after peeking inside was, "BITCH HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TAKE THIS HOME ON THE MOTHERFUCKING TRAIN." she couldn't just swing by the crib? i gotta drag this heavy box of dust around yawning brooks brothers suits and teenagers twerking for change on the red line!?
when i die i want to be cremated and sprinkled on the breakfasts of my enemies. or whatever works for whoever is around. last thing i ever want to do is stress my homies out from the grave. i don't know whether or not SB had a death plan, but if he did he didn't tell that shit to me. the last time i spoke to him i was in my dorm room at northern illinois and he had just suffered a brain-frying stroke and was describing to me these hallucinations he was having that he truly believed were real. i'm not even sure he knew who he was talking to as he described riding a bicycle through the morgue to check on the dead bodies. LOLWUT. his funeral was heavily attended by evanston's finest assortment of drunks and degenerates, his closest friends, which means there were actual men in salvation army suits circa 1973 smoking kools and tipping out brown-bagged fifths of cheap vodka in remembrance of their fallen comrade onto the street in front of the funeral home minutes before his homegoing service. it was kind of exciting.
our family tree is so goddamn sparse that if you shake it you'd probably start a fire. my dad is from mississippi but spent his formative years in memphis where he fathered two sons before promptly abandoning them to move to chicago and eventually meet my mother, who already had three young girl children of her own. they were black people married for eleven years before finally deciding to do it the white way, and they celebrated by deciding to create a new human life using a dusty old egg and a doggy paddling fifty year old sperm. in case you can't really put together what that means today let me lay it out for you like this: ALL OF MY SIBLINGS ARE NEARING SIXTY AND EVERYONE ELSE IS DEAD. my sisters are going through motherfucking menopause. think about that next time yours is bugging you for twenty bucks or your netflix password or whatever.
i haven't seen or spoken to either of my brothers since they attended my mom's funeral in june of 1998. that's part of the reason i've never done anything with our old man, because it's just my luck that the minute i decide to dump this asshole in a barbecue grill or sprinkle him outside the shady men's hotel he lived in for a while one of them will turn up and be upset that i hadn't included him in the decision. my sisters don't give a shit; he was the kind of jerk stepfather who yelled a lot about nothing and nailed the windows shut after they'd snuck out of them at night to go meet their boyfriends. hell, he punched me in the face when i was in high school over a frying pan. he wasn't always the nicest person. carmen has our mother because she's the oldest and super responsible and she knew her the longest so cool. i ended up with SB on a technicality. the thought of transferring them to a nice container grosses me out, plus i ain't got no fireplace. where is he supposed to go? should i, like, display him? NOT DOING THAT. but isn't it wild disrespectful to just, um, throw him away? is there no discreet disposal service i could use? WHY DID THEY MAKE ME HIS GUARDIAN I HATE BEING IN CHARGE OF THINGS. i've had a million opportunities to do something with him, but if andre or cedric wanted to take part in getting covered in microscopic bits of our dead father as an inevitable breeze blows him back in our stupid faces who am i to deny them that experience?
THE PROBLEM THO: i can't fucking find them. these are not men who "facebook." once every couple of years i do some google sleuthing and call the first handful of phone numbers i come across, but so far they have all been dead ends. i have a couple addresses? but who the fuck knows if they live there anymore. the last time i was in memphis i was 15 and spent the entire time taking pictures of women in blue eyeshadow sobbing at graceland. i'm not sentimental; i don't save birthday cards or baby pictures or newspaper clippings, i have no real traditions, i throw everything away the minute it stops being shiny and new. this dusty box that's full of my dad's ground up bones and brain has been sitting in my coat closet between the cat carrier and a bag of hats + mittens for seven years and i am not moving it to another apartment ever again. it's time for this dude to get free, ie stop creeping me the fuck out every time i need a goddamn jacket.
so today mavis and i are renting a car and driving to tennessee where i am going to engage in two potentially dangerous things: 1 trying nashville hot chicken for the first time and 2 knocking on the doors of some unsuspecting strangers who probably wear gun holsters to ask if the residents within know either of my brothers. it'll be just like that book "are you my mommy?" with fewer teeth and more n-words. basically what i'm trying to say is that i'm probably about to get murdered. helen is enjoying a spa week at the kennel, i cleaned the stove and mopped the kitchen because that seems like a smart thing to do before leaving town, i made the craziest playlist ever in the hopes of staying awake on the road, yet i still have not: packed my clothes, gathered all of my medications, decided whether or not to take a full bottle of good shampoo or travel size bottles of a mediocre one, purchased road snacks, or PICKED A PLACE TO DUMP THESE STUPID ASHES. some ideas:
1 liquor store. we had those 12 step books all over our goddamned house. i'm not sure why, because even though he drained the family savings on three separate attempts at inpatient rehab, that dude just loved to drink. E&J, grain alcohol, nyquil: you name it, he drank it. most of the people in his professional life had no idea; he saved the shoe polish drinking for those of us he loved the absolute most. try as he might he could not shake that demon. i am a tenderheart when it comes to addiction. life is fucking terrible, and if you reach for a bottle of pinot gris or a cheeseburger when you feel bad i get it. shit, i am it. i don't judge, because you can look at my body and see just how awful times in my life have been. look, i'm happy for those of you who have no emotional attachment to food or booze or pills but fuck you if you can't cut the rest of us a fucking break. drink your water and eat your carrots and have some goddamn empathy.
2 someplace that sells lottery tickets. every christmas i would get a fistful of scratch off tickets. my dad would play $50-60 a day: 3-digit, 4-digit, dollar straight, dollar box. does anyone under the age of thirty know what the fuck those words even mean? he used to hang out at this place called ramy's and every fucking day would exchange thick wads of cash for a handful of flimsy tickets. and that motherfucker couldn't catch a cold. he never won shit. yet every day he dutifully played his numbers, a grown man whose wife had put him out and was so broke that he was living in a rooming house with a communal fucking bathroom at 60+ years old still found fifty bucks a day to spend on his birthday, my birthday, his anniversary, our old address, the last four digits of his first phone number, and so on.
3 a restaurant with pig feet on the menu. my dad ate, like, six things. TOTAL. kidney beans, potted meat, hot water cornbread, pigs feet, fried chicken wings, and black walnut ice cream. i lived with him my junior year of high school and i am not kidding, he never deviated from that super-nutritious diet. i would go to the store with him and gaze wistfully at all of the fresh vegetables and cheese while he loaded up our cart with vienna sausages and cornmeal, longing for the day he would let me at least smell the warm bread in the bakery. "but you live in the north now!" i would plead, shaking a box of tuna helper under his disapproving nose. "we like pizza here!" occasionally he would go to KFC and i could get some goddamn cole slaw and corn, but if i ate a vegetable in 1996 that motherfucker came from 1 school or 2 your mom's house.
4 at a dice game. once my father hit a dude in the head with a hammer on our front porch because, as legend has it, that gentleman tried to cheat the old man during a vicious game of click clack. A REAL HAMMER. can you believe that old country ass shit? how much could a bunch of broke motherfuckers possibly bet on craps that justifies a goddamn brain injury?! (ps, my dad was the best.) SB was also incredibly proficient at bid whist, a partnership trick-taking game that is very popular among african-americans. i told you this dude loved gambling more than he loved his children and/or pets, and one time he let me sit in on a spades hand and we got set because i overbid and he for real would not feed me dinner that night. I WAS NINE, FAM. he was for real, like, "goodnight, samantha" at four in the afternoon. i have little joker nightmares to this very day.
5 outside of al green's church. SB was not religious, but come on. how cool would that be!? i know the words to "my god is real!" that whole "livin' for you" album is a jam. that's how it works, right? instead of preaching he just sings a medley of his greatest god-related hits? my body is ready.
so i'ma try not to fall asleep on the road and order hella room service in this swanky hotel for a week and listen to some country music and work on my book which is due in two months holy fucking shit and maybe reunite with my brothers and watch that show nashville on hulu to be ironical and instagram some obnoxious meals and see dave chappelle at the ryman and probably drop SB in a river or something. and pour a little out for my homie.