Register Sunday | December 9 | 2018

Anything But That

Let’s ignore the elephant in the room. Let’s talk about anything but. Work is different right now. The city is quiet. New York with tumbleweeds, people politely following the “Quiet Please” signs that line the nicer neighborhoods. It feels like after 9/11 divided by 3. 3/3.567, or whatever the math is. It’s like going through the motions.

I met my dad for dinner tonight at P.J. Clarke’s, a beef joint on 55th Street and 3rd Avenue. I left work at 6:30, my umbrella over my head, the rain pooling in the streets. We sat there and ate burger and drank beers, the cane he uses to support his new leg as it heals hooked under the top of the checkered cloth. We munched on fries and just talked.

“Anyone else wouldn’t have been able to deal with this pain. This was pain like I couldn’t believe. I’ve never felt anything like it.” My dad is prone to hyperbole. He likes to overthrow the tale. My friends call this trait exaggeration in me. As Geebs likes to tell people who cock their heads at my stories (or Bob’s), “you have to divide that tale in half. That’s closer to the truth.” But I always tell her, it’s just more interesting the way I said it.

But my dad is a tough bastard. So if he says anyone else wouldn’t have been able to deal with it, then anyone else wouldn’t have been able to deal with it.

We laughed again about the story of my step-mother. Just after he got home last Monday, the first night back in their bed, my dad began snoring. He couldn’t roll over, can’t sleep on his side right now, so he probably freight trains through the night. So my step-mother picked up her pillows and moved next door. To silence.

Somewhere around 3 my dad woke up, in terrible pain. And freezing cold. The room’s air-conditioning was working a bit too well, and my dad couldn’t move. So he called for Robin. For pain pills or blankets. Or both.

The famous quote of this story belongs to Robin. “He was apparently trying to call me for 3 hours, but I think he was whispering because he didn’t really want to wake me up.” This is the line that sends us all into fits of laughter. The image of my dad, his surgically repaired knee shooting pain through his body, probably sweating and shivering at the same time, missing his blankets politely whispering, “Robin. Psst. Robin. Hello? Dear? It’s really cold in here? Can I get a pain pill? Psst. Honey?”

Men in pain don’t whisper. We aren’t polite. We probably get closer to a sock on the arm and a “HEY!” than a whisper and a nudge. I love that story. We laughed about it a few times tonight.

On the subway this morning a woman sat reading her book, a KERRY/EDWARDS pin tapped to her lapel. I smiled when I saw it.

So let’s talk about anything else. Let’s tell stories. Because I haven’t written fiction in a few weeks. I haven’t thought much but about the hope I felt, and the crust that followed. So let’s sit and tell tales. Let’s exaggerate them, multiply the details by two or even three. Fuck it, let’s flat out lie. It’s more interesting that way.