Joyland

New York |

Daddy I'm A Clown

by Kevin Mandel

edited by Kyle Lucia Wu

Gone. Them. Really gone. Eventually she could talk about it easily. Perhaps too much so—glibness being an occupational hazard she was keen to avoid.

“Not at first though. At first, and we’re talking years, it was all really something else. Because there I was, not exactly, if you know what I mean, the shrinking violet type—yet not a peep. It was a thing—no, an experience—that somehow defied anecdote. That was, just to state it bluntly, far beyond my control.”

I’m missing something big. Entering the park that first morning and slowing just inside, there where the contrast with the city street is starkest, the air two degrees cooler, and realizing this with alarm. But moving still, picking up speed even, chugging past strangers until reaching that mildly-deranged Inuit-looking fellow with the cauliflowered scalp standing above his chessboard—Bob, that was his name. She smiled as they caught eyes but kept her pace. Kept moving, past the turn to the dog run and then along a slow perfect bend, until reaching the second bench from the fountain—this the long designated meet up spot with her associates, Flip and Everett.

Unfortunately, though, neither was ready to work. There was Everett, pretty much good to go, yes, but wig in hand, smoking a cigarette. While Flip had done about half his make-up, including his trademark sparkle-tipped nose, yet was otherwise outfitted in flip-flops, cargo shorts, a freshly laundered Amnesty International t-shirt.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” said Flip, a sentiment quickly echoed by Everett.

“Thanks. It’s so good to see you guys.”

“So good to see you, too,” said Flip.

“Yes,” said Everett.

In the moments following her colleagues drifted backward, in halting baby-steps, and gazed at her in a neat blaze of affection and trepidation. Not wittingly, she guessed, but as if by instinct they feared anyone arrived from distant parts—in her case south suburban New Jersey—whose business had anything to do with death.

“So…” she said, looking toward their preferred playing area, situated behind a large angel statue, so that in effect their lunacy was often capped by a set of expansive, rough-hewed bronzed wings. “I’ve got a good feeling about today. Eight days away is just about the perfect break.”

“We didn’t know!” said Flip.

“We thought maybe you’d just want to talk today,” said Everett.

“At least through morning,” said Flip.

“Then maybe go light after lunch. Juggling, balloons, whatever,” said Everett.

“Ah, okay, I appreciate the thought,” she said, relieved, though from what she couldn’t discern. “But what I’d rather do is jump right back into the heavy stuff. Routines, I mean. So why don’t you guys get all the way ready, while I grab our space before someone else does.”

Flip and Everett looked at each other, then back.

“What?” she asked. “Is that too bossy?”

“No,” said Flip.

“But…” said Everett.

But,” she repeated.

“Nothing,” said Flip.

“Nothing really?” she said, “or…”

“Or what?” said Flip.

“Are we having a thing? Which is fine, because, of course, a thing’s a thing and people naturally have them.”

“Agreed,” said Everett.

“Agreed what?”

“Things—people have them,” said Everett.

“So are we?” she said.

“I don’t think so.”

“And you Flip?” she said.

“What? This, now, a thing?”

“Yeah.”

“No. I’d also say not.”


In the hamlet of Shady Grove (population: 4780; median income: a lot), where she had been for the purpose of her parents’ funeral, there had most decidedly been no things, let alone any ambiguity whatsoever as to who did what, when and where. Those she joined—her brother and sister; relatives; parents’ friends, colleagues, lawyer, parish priest—had command of all the details large and small associated with such circumstances. And further, to her surprise, made space for her in a manner with which she could not find fault. That was, from all angles examined, sincere, uncritical, openhearted.

Her parents were dead. Drowned in a boating accident in Chesapeake Bay. This was information tendered to her unceremoniously, feeling the moment she heard both somehow impossible and totally expected. Though of course, in certain ways, she’d been preparing. Preparing always. Had imagined this inevitability, as all children do, many times before. Her experience, all through the years, a variation of the same: a flash of acknowledgment, a rude incursion of a blunt fact; followed by an equally swift repulsion, an equally swift turning away.

So then, what to find now?

Astonishment, first, at what there wasn’t: a pause in the earth’s rotation, comets streaking across the nighttime New Jersey sky. Let alone a single shred of evidence anywhere that from a big picture perspective, really big, anything had actually been disrupted.

But not only. More things too were discovered. For example, Hollywood—it’s handiwork was pretty much all about. Insofar all the services and gatherings she attended felt stunningly familiar, akin to one of the many thousand fabrications she’d witnessed in her life via movies or TV. In conversation, she noted, the influence was particularly perverse. Veritable swap meets of They’re in a better place now. It seemed so sudden. Life goes on. I can feel them now looking down on us

Also this, a final discovery: there in her old hometown, among this temporary community of mourners, was a vacancy, or opportunity of sorts. Impossible to hang a simple tag on, informed as it was by a tangle of potent if seldom felt emotion. And requiring as it did an atypical array of experience and skills. Key among an unfailing nose for despair, your own and other peoples’, and the infinite ways all try to mask it. An appetite, no, a love for unflinching engagement. A measured and beguiling forwardness, bluster, even impudence.

She leapt in.

There was no performing of course, not even close. In fact, as far as she knew, the entire week her profession was not once mentioned. Just her—roving various Shady Grove parlors, living rooms, backyards, meeting those she didn’t know, greeting others, listening, talking. The rest of it, her craft, then flowed invisibly, organically, customized for whoever’s eyes she happened to be holding.

The effect, as the days passed, could hardly be missed. Children detected what she was as if by sixth sense, could often be found hovering nearby, as if at any moment she might turn into a swimming pool. But adults too were conspicuously drawn. And she became close with many of her parents’ mourners, including their dearest friends, the Lewises, Josephs and D’onfrios.

And here was something extraordinary, something to remember: to feel so surely their received opinions of her fall away like so many brittle leaves. Replaced, as surely, there on the spot, by something admiring and affectionate, almost urgently so. A phenomenon that extended to her bother and sister; who together insisted on driving her to the bus station and there, before parting, spoke in somber tones about the holidays, and how much it would mean to them if this year she could find her way home.

Success! Who among does not crave? At least a little. Or is immune to its charms? After all, a peaceable trip to Shady Grove, bubbling over with bonhomie, connection, love, without a single slip into some cast-off childhood monster version of herself was, well—unprecedented. All to explain certain abnormalities of her experience. That is, certain questions later begged. For example, how was she feeling about her mother and father’s deaths? Feeling truly? As a daughter. But also, an artist. And, not only what were the answers to these, but how could she have gone eight days and one morning before she had even an inkling to consider?


They got their spot by the fountain, but after that it was all downhill. In short, nothing worked—neither warhorses like Potato Sack or Tooth Extractor, nor their most popular originals, Lost Android and Laptop Repairman. This last, an homage to the great Emmett Kelly, they’d thought particularly bulletproof. Their rendering of a hapless technician and a computer that belches, squirts water in her eye, tumbles out nuts and bolts from its bottom and, finally, bursts into flames, almost always good for a round of heartfelt and cathartic applause.

Of course, the instant they began she knew it could not be otherwise. After all, the entire idea behind forming a troupe, even a small one like theirs, was to cultivate familiarity. To foster a deep level of non-verbal communication. And by and large they’d succeeded. If less by their aesthetic lights—their trio, they’d agree, had yet to truly gel—then otherwise most emphatically. Like it or not, between them information flowed, and much about the other could not be tuned out, including moods, caffeine levels, dental hygiene, the general regularity if not the precise day and hour each had last been laid.

And for her, this circuitry was particularly alive with Flip, with whom she had a longstanding conversation on the topic of our freaking parents! Which explains perhaps why all morning as they played she heard an extra voice. Felt herself harangued by Flip’s imagined point-of-view: so your parents suddenly died on you—what do you have to say about that? Huh? You! Over there! Self-proclaimed poster-child for Living Your Own Life… Accepting What You Cannot Change… Getting On With It… And oh so much more. How does this part work? Eh? Toss me a pearl now!

They were all dreadful—slow, clumsy, tentative—but she must have been worst, she deduced, by the asides breathed her way. Things like you, “You okay? Let’s take a break.” Which she deftly ignored for long stretches. Yet every so often, when her neck burned hottest, breathed back, “No. I’m fine. Just pay attention and slap me harder.”

So it went until she forgot one, then another line, ignored a cue and then finally pulled up short, just as she was set to leap into Everett’s arms. “Actually, maybe I should,” she said.

“Should what?” said Everett.

“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she whispered.

“Wait,” said Flip, he’d trotted over, and stood with his back to the audience, a dozen people, mostly tourists. “Talk. You okay?”
“Yes, fine.”

“Hold on,” said Everett.

Yeah,” added Flip, “we’ll bolt together, go cool off somewhere.”

“That’s okay, thank you though,” she said, backing away.

“But we should talk,” said Flip.

“Absolutely,” chimed Everett.

“Yes, agreed,” she called, still backing away, but now smiling. “Of course that. Always. You know me, never shy away from a good chat…”

*

“Disappointing one’s parents is no joke. Psychologists, guidance counselors, those who study suicide know this well. For certain children—often the highest achievers, for whom love and praise have become fused—the experience really can be its own kind of apocalypse. Especially when this occurs at a particularly vulnerable time for the child. Say, for example, his or her early twenties, when childhood for certain kids, perhaps the lucky, comes upon a last and final divide.

“What will you do now, really? Who will you be? What shall the adult world call you? If the answers to these put you at odds with those you have only ever loved infinitely, and likewise been loved by, woe unto you, and good luck. Because how you decide is not a matter of life and death—not technically. Yet in a certain way it is.”

These were among the shining pearls she had at some point shared with Flip, and for that matter all her friends. And years earlier, to be honest, people who were not friends at all but happened to be sitting next to her in bars, trains, planes, doctor’s waiting rooms. Almost always illustrated with aspects of her own experience.

“Awesome people. Great people—that’s the first thing you need to understand about my parents. Love, support—beyond. Beyond. Wanted only for me to be successful, super-successful in everything I did…

“That’s why at first we were all like ‘no problem.’ You love me, I love you, of course we’ll work this out. Work it out like we’ve always worked out every difference we ever had.

“And the effort made! Wow. I mean hours, days, months. On just this one topic. Should I or should I not. Because it’s that important. We talk and talk. Sometimes cry. Sometimes scream. I swear—once my father even wrote me a poem…

“Only here’s the thing. Ready? Because it doesn’t work. Together, despite all, we failed. These terrific people, who are in most ways extremely open, still loathe what I do. Detest the fact of it. Really, the word itself—try as I might I can’t recall even once it passing their lips.

“Anyway, what happens next is kind of interesting. Because, well, maybe we start to see each other differently. No, we definitely do. Glimpse with increasing frequency a weird fact. Namely, that in addition to mother, father, daughter, we’re also just three people. Three people kind of worn down. So that effort of ours—remember that?—which really does at first present as this infallible thing, this ‘we will never stop talking’ thing—turns out to be, well, something else.”

Here was truth, she liked to say, hers, just sitting there. Undeniable, irreducible, nauseating—lots of things, yet not this: full. And that’s because the full truth, as it often will, came with a twist.

To wit, after the suffering—i.e. the colitis, bulimia, psychotherapy, anti-depressants—she turned a corner and came to recognize the split as a positive thing. Not instead of all the shitty aspects, but in addition. Positive because essential. Insofar as now, without their influence, without their strings, she’d at least have a shot at becoming that which she knew rare under any circumstance: a person of her own creation. Who hears and follows one voice, only.


Rubba Bubba legs, she called it; or sometimes, when teaching a workshop, Silly Walk. An effect wherein a practitioner’s legs appear to take on a life of their own; that is buckle, flap, wobble and in general perform at odds with the wishes of those to whom they are attached. Alarmingly, however, not fifteen minutes after parting from Flip and Everett, this occurred involuntarily. On an overfull sidewalk she’d bumbled and swerved half a dozen car lengths before aiming herself at a parking meter oddly obelisk in shape and evocation; and there with both hands took hold, jerked in, pulled herself upright. She then slowly turned around, affected nonchalance, thought que fucking pasa?

Her head, her body—nothing felt conspicuously awry.

Is this what grief feels like, she wondered, slipping through the backdoor? Seemed unlikely, but then so did her other theories. Dehydration? How? She’d been drinking water all morning. Low blood sugar? Impossible, before leaving her apartment she’d taken the time to have a full breakfast; juice, tea, one of her famous vegan western omelets.

A new concern then struck, more pressing than health: the rest of this day—her day—is shot.

And she’d known what it would look like too. The remainder of the morning spent freestyling, her term for walking the city and mixing willy-nilly with whomever she encountered. She in character; and the city too, she liked to joke. Staccato interludes, five seconds, thirty seconds, a minute, maybe two. This a reliable vocational pleasure, and an appetite once felt almost always fed. Certainly there was little risk. Never the type to cause a fright, her costume and make-up were only ever stylish, in the European or Russian tradition. Today she donned pink overalls, a polka-dotted bow tie, pigtails, lightly powdered face, a tiny pink dot on the tip of her long, narrow nose.

Then she’d see friends. After freestyling; a small handful, those who’d been available when she’d texted, days earlier, from Shady Grove.

She counted twenty slow breaths, then reassessed. She felt sturdy, perfectly fine. Still, to be safe, took more time. Let ninety seconds pass, then forty-five more. Next she shook out her shoulders, rolled her neck, shoved off the obelisk and joined the wavy line of pedestrians heading south.

This went poorly.

Immediately saliva flushed and filled her mouth as her legs again went rogue and it was all she could do to reach the corner, tilt over a teeming garbage basket and wretch up in waves the remnants of her breakfast, her famous vegan western omelet, and then anything else previously unattached inside her. While, during, she became aware, her fellow citizens brandished cameras, mostly on mobile phones, to capture the action. The majority not even slowing down, but a few pausing, to zoom their lenses and/or improve their angles. And she really not begrudging, feeling almost flattered, almost gratified. In fact for one photographer adjusting herself into frame and offering up a kiss; for another a thumbs up sign; yet another a leer.

*

“Come on, you’re embellishing! For the sake of a story. Once I began telling it, people, I’ll admit, accused me of this. And not without reason—in theory I certainly have nothing against taking a liberty or two when telling a story. But in this instance, of course, they’re completely wrong. I take no liberties. It all happened exactly this way.

“And I’ll tell you something that was important, I mean back then—that I had a life. Had made one for myself, a life, over the course of several years. Which means that as I pulled away from my past—my parents, everything really—I had something to hold onto. And also, when I needed, to move toward.”

After rising up from the pavement, a scent of vomit caught in her nose, she headed to Starbucks, to use the bathroom, buy a blueberry muffin, skim latte, close her eyes. Then she took off, to meet some friends.

Only this did not prove as satisfying as desired. She could not seem to consistently hold up conversation; or, more upsetting, persuade the others she was for the most part okay. This last made embarrassingly clear when finally she stood up and declared she had to leave.

“Do you need help getting home?” said Ziggy.

“And home is where you’re heading?” this from Arlen.

At which point she summoned up a performance persona, said, “I appreciate the concern—I so do. And yes—home is where I’ll be heading—without passing go. In fact, all day I’ve been fantasizing about getting into bed and curling up like some kind of very large snail.”

But then not heading home. Instead, alone on the sidewalk, breathing the hot, rank, depleted air, she called her friend Vivienne and asked if she might drop by.

“Naturally,” said Vivienne. “Tell me what time.”

“What’s that?!”

Phone conversations were often difficult with Vivienne; she owned a nightclub. “Why are you shouting, darling, can’t you hear me?”

“No, I can hear you fine.”

“Fantastic then,” said Vivienne. “By all means, come on by.”

“Really?” she whispered.

“‘Really,’ is that what you just said?” said Vivienne.

She didn’t answer.

“Sweetheart, of course. All day I’ve been waiting for your call.”

So she’d forgotten her plans with Vivienne. Being reminded seemed to come with a pronounced two-stroke effect. First, self-rebuke, as in what kind of jerk forgets a good friend? Followed, within three short blocks, by an intimation. Polyglot and nonverbal but basically informing this: whatever she was weathering, the worst was now passed. She was coming out. Peeking through…

Then felt it validated. The intimation. First by Vivienne, who, though managing a handful of minor crises, hugged her at the door and set her up at the bar with a salmon burger deluxe and diet coke. Then the staff’s sincere happy greeting; the deliciousness of the salmon burger deluxe; the swanky mirrored wall of backlit liquor bottles behind the bar; the convivial rumble of a nightclub crowd on a Saturday night.

And soon Vivienne was back, put a steady hand on her shoulder, said, “Okay then. Let’s have a look at you.”

She turned.

“So sorry to keep you waiting. It’s just, as you can see—thank heavens we’re busy.”

“So happy to see.”

Vivienne squinted, smartly re-arranged a lock of her hair. “I kept looking at my phone.”

“I’m sorry.”

“But you’re hanging in there.”

She nodded.

“I knew you would,” said Vivienne. “But still, we should talk.”

Rising up from her bar stool, she was about to say ‘Thank you. Thank you so much’ when Vivienne became distracted; was tapped on the shoulder by a new waitress with a question about whipped cream. She stood wide-eyed, looking at the back of Vivienne’s head, mesmerized by a growing bald spot just right of center; then she spun away from the conversation and tiptoed in a wide arc around Vivienne into the kitchen. Why? It was a fine question, considered quickly, even as she pushed through the scuffed up, fast swinging doors. And answered, at least in a provisional way, that with a crowd this large perhaps the chef had been caught off guard, could use a deli run for this or that supply.

The kitchen another world. Metallic, loud, bright, hot. She saw Big Pete by the sauté station, garnishing a row of plates, but did not immediately approach. Took a moment to ingest the special energy of the space, and appreciate her privileged status as a tolerated non-employee. Then she assured herself with only slightly too much conviction that she was okay. That whatever was actually happening at present there was still a healthy gap between it and real trouble—of the “please call an ambulance because I’m having a fucking breakdown” variety. After which she moved forward, with a fairly bright smile, and let know the purpose of her visit.

“Artichokes, like a dozen,” said Big Pete.

“Okay, good,” she said. “Anything else?”

“Um, yes. A bottle of Worcestershire sauce.”

“Worcestershire sauce?”

“Yeah.”

“And artichokes?”

Big Pete huffed.

“You got it,” she said. “Coming up.”

Wonderfulness was the matter, she later grasped. Vivienne’s—in relation to the monumental, now unavoidable topic at hand. Because Vivienne was not a perfect friend, was not even a reliable friend; moody, conceited, distracted as she often was. But in times of crisis one thing could not be denied: Vivienne would rise. And this topic—the explosion, the carnage of families—was hers too. As a daughter, and also a mother. Vivienne was an insider, and so Vivienne would get inside. And oh what she would do there. Had been waiting to do! Challenge her, Vivienne would, and she would respond because she loved to be challenged on this topic, the topic of her mother and father, and all she had to do when they made it clear she’d broken their hearts and all she had done, the way she had changed, to save herself, save her heart, for the way words mean anything at all to keep herself alive. And she would cry. Of course. Cry and cry and cry.

And it’s not that she didn’t want this. Want this all. She did. Just, only—not now. Not yet.

Errand completed, she stood just outside the kitchen door, an island in the stream of customers, and pondered a next move. Skedaddling, she knew, was the smart choice. But a single step toward the street made it clear: she may not be capable at present to converse with Vivienne, but neither was she eager to leave her behind. That what she wanted instead was… nearby. Nearby was perfect. So without the actual ‘talk and listen thing’ she could still partake. That is, glimpse Vivienne, feel her presence, hear the clarinet voice, even catch whiffs of Vivienne’s old school perfume—what was that stuff anyway? Halston? Chanel? Some lost Saturday night circa 1974?

So she approached Dakota, at the spotlight. Climbed to Dakota’s perch and asked if she could take over. Only this went poorly. She bungled the very minimal requirements. Quickly too. It was open mic hour and halfway through the third singer-songwriter she was relieved, rendered again unoccupied.

She immediately sought and found more to do: bussed the bar, cut fruit, greeted and seated, policed the smokers out front.

After this to the kitchen again, behind the wood-paneled walk-in cooler, to the improvised desk used for ordering. Here the intention was to make some notes on an idea she and Vivienne had of late been discussing—a monthly Vaudeville night. But instead her mind began to wander, and where it went it had been a thousand times before: To great artists she wished she’d seen, hello Mr. Griebling, Mr. Kelly, dear Mr. Marceau; living legends she has: Bill Irwin, Bello, Slava, Avner, Yes! Yes! And that she too would like to be a great artist, and maybe I will, maybe I’m still on my way, but even if—so what? Would anyone care? Of course not and nor will they ever but instead continue pretending they don’t need us, any of us, me, Flip, even Everett whose not very good or the work we do that keeps the great green earth from spinning into—

There you are…”

She started, looked up, saw Vivienne holding a loosely corked bottle, wine goblets, an electronic cigarette. “Oh, hey.”

“There’s a lull,” said Vivienne, “I thought we could talk a bit.”

“That sounds good, Viv, it really does…”

“But?”

She leaned back then sprung to her feet. “I’ve got to go get going.”

“But where?”

“Oh, guess.”

“Meeting Lionel?”

“Yes,” she said, “exactly. He gets off in like twenty minutes.”

Lionel was waiting outside a midtown tower, where he worked at a job she didn’t fully understand but had to do with computers talking to other computers, making sure they were secure. “Hey,” he said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thanks.”

They began walking, and while doing so she caused their hands to bounce and brush together, then slipped her fingers between his. She liked holding hands, deemed it a simple pleasure; but tonight, more than this, she was eager to gauge by the pressure and play of Lionel’s grip how interested he’d later be to climb on top of her. His doing so, climbing on top, something she had been anticipating now for many days. For the physiological effects, mainly, was how she was thinking of it. Not to altogether demean her feelings for Lionel (menza menza and fading, if she was honest), but to get that thing where afterwards you feel turned inside out, but in a good way; raked and potted and your brain sprouted with lilacs, daffodils, pansies…

“Should we shower before bed?” she asked.

She hoped this would work as code, as she noticed that Lionel almost always took a shower before intercourse.

“Maybe,” he replied, “yeah.”

“Good. I’d like that,” she said, and lightly squeezed his hand.

“But maybe not.”

“Maybe not?”

“Yeah, maybe not,” said Lionel. “Do you mind?”

“No, of course not.”

“Gracias,” said Lionel. “Because no offense but I may be a little too cooked.”

The park the next morning. Flip and Everett again were at the bench before her, only today met her wearing no costume at all, and had in mind a shared idea, something for the three of them to discuss—or, as Flip put it, “Uh, maybe we do have a thing.”

A hiatus is what. That their little troupe should take one. Long term, open-ended, but also loose. So they could each take stock of their own professional situations, pursue other projects (and in Everett’s case apply to graduate school), whatever; but also come back together if they wanted, at any time.

She pondered a moment, then responded in a way she later felt good about. Told her colleagues she was glad they’d said something. That freedom—hers, theirs, anyone’s—was pretty much her highest value. Always had been. So, though wistful and not without a misgiving or two, she was behind the idea, if in fact it’s what they really wanted.

The three spent the next twenty minutes standing around the bench, speaking about how strange and sudden this development felt. But at the same time, now that it was decided, how sure they were it was the right thing. Then they hugged and said goodbye.

After, she spent the morning freestyling in the financial district, then busking in the same. Employed a mime routine about a manic stock trader. And also her best juggling set; wherein she keeps aloft three, four, than five various-sized cell phones, the last and largest of which was only slightly smaller than a brick. And this time the work went well. She knew it in her gut (where she always knew), but also from the faces of her audience and accumulation in her tip jar, which steadily rose to overflowing.

Later, alone in her apartment, she prepared dinner. Stood at a counter, in front of a cutting board, using a sharpened ten-inch chef’s knife.

“And I’m dicing… Dicing carrots, radishes, tomatoes, celery sticks. Tat tat tat—the blades popping, chopping away, but at the same time I’m totally relaxed. Because I do this, chop, all the time. Or maybe I like cooking. Anyway, doesn’t matter because what matters is I’m relaxed and kind of surveying my life, going over it, item by item, you know, as a person naturally will: Lionel, what to do. Rent, coming up. Toilet paper, the spool is empty, wait, or nearly when suddenly I just paused, put the knife down, looked up, and knew.

“I was already done. You know, ‘my process’ as people call it… my mourning or grief or whatever—complete. Complete.

“And I had this impulse to call someone. Right there. Flip, Vivienne even Lionel. And report this, this information that somehow felt like hot breaking news. But I didn’t. Did not, okay? Instead went back to my veggies, making them just so—carrots about a pinky nail bigger than the radishes, the radishes half as much to the celery. Tomatoes too, which I always find to be particularly tricky, liable if diced too finely to kind of come apart in the wok—

“Anyway, so it actually proved. Not the tomatoes—they came out great—but the other thing. The thing I was dealing with. Done…

“Yet here’s the strange part. Strange and maybe also, wait, I’ll say it, kind of okay. Because soon after, and I mean less than a day, I actually found myself getting close. Closer, again. That’s right, with them. What I’m saying is… I began talking. Hearing. Talking.

“Yes—a conversation. And maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. Because, well, it’s mostly pretty good. Rancor gone, I hear them better than ever. Understand them, it seems, almost perfectly well. And, at the same time, have found a way to make myself better known. To my parents, at last. I have found the right tone. So now we talk, at the oddest times, in the strangest places. And I put it out there. Words long ago spoken and stances taken I wish had been otherwise. And also that which became clear to me, yet no matter what I said, or did, they never seemed to really comprehend.”