academia | advice | alcohol | American Indians | architecture | art | artificial intelligence | Barnard | best | biography | bitcoin | blogging | broken umbrellas | candide | censorship | children's books | Columbia | comics | consciousness | cooking | crime | criticism | dance | data analysis | design | dishonesty | economics | education | energy | epistemology | error correction | essays | family | fashion | finance | food | foreign policy | futurism | games | gender | Georgia | health | history | inspiration | intellectual property | Israel | journalism | Judaism | labor | language | law | leadership | letters | literature | management | marketing | memoir | movies | music | mystery | mythology | New Mexico | New York | parenting | philosophy | photography | podcast | poetry | politics | prediction | product | productivity | programming | psychology | public transportation | publishing | puzzles | race | reading | recommendation | religion | reputation | review | RSI | Russia | sci-fi | science | sex | short stories | social justice | social media | sports | startups | statistics | teaching | technology | Texas | theater | translation | travel | trivia | tv | typography | unreliable narrators | video | video games | violence | war | weather | wordplay | writing

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Candle: a short story

When he learned his dad died, Peter immediately realized two things: he had to move to Buffalo to help sort out his dad’s stuff; and somehow, somehow, his brother and sister were going to be dicks about it. And his mom wouldn’t back him up. And no one would appreciate what hard work it was. And they wouldn’t help. So, not two things.

The whole bus ride, it didn’t seem to Peter like he was mourning. He spent the snowy hours imagining going through the shelves and boxes in the garage, excavating and cataloguing. He couldn’t wait to start. Why hadn’t he ever thought to do this while his dad was alive? It felt so right, thinking ahead to opening each mysterious bin, touching each thing that his dad had cared about enough to sort and keep. Peter’s toes were soggy and distractingly cold in his sneakers, but imagining his explorations in the garage kept him warm.

To keep a thing — what a curious idea that seemed, in a way. Why is an album on a shelf, an album that you haven’t played in probably twenty-five years, any more yours than if it weren’t there? He knew the album he’d reach for, absolutely confident that his dad had kept it, even as he’d given up the storage space in a concession to family budgeting, and whittled his LPs and CDs down to a single shelf.

He remembered the first time his dad had played it for him, waiting for a time when it was just the two of them, knowing that his mom, Kristen and Jeff wouldn’t respect the delicate and sacred risk of sharing a piece of music that really means something to you. He remembered the cover, a single candle, a photograph, blurry in a way that made him realize he’d entirely overvalued camera focus. The opening guitar, both impossibly lush and dangerously aimless. Kim Gordon playfully coming in, barely audible, barely singing. He didn’t know a woman could sound like that, not entertaining him, not entertaining anyone.

He’d broken up with his eighth grade girlfriend days later, and he knew, consciously at the time, that Kim Gordon on that track was the reason. That album freed him, in a way, opened his eyes to how much more was possible, and how much around him was fake. But in that room, hearing it for the first time, he also knew that his father was sad, and incomplete. Some part of his father was still in that room, stuck. And Peter was heading there too, on the fastest ticket he could afford.

Labels: ,