Thursday, November 19, 2009

It is ... What it is ...

My father, the original old black man, encountered a problem today - a persistent and pernicious one that occurs more and more often nowadays ... shit stops working. I am not referring to myself, of course. I, as you know, have never worked ... but my father has been working since probably right before even he was born. And so it seems beyond him that things stop working.

Every parent tells stories about their childhood; my parents told stories about slave quarters, share-cropping, hog-slaughtering, and an all-black town in the Texas interpretation of the deep South - all of the hate and racism, plus heat and Mexican food. Apparently, for a quarter, my father and his four siblings could go to Luling's City Market and have lunch. It was the Depression.

He was the baby of the family, and I can picture my aunts and uncles - people who I did not know well, and whom I will never know - taking my Daddy's hand, walking along a dirt road in the damned hot sun. It was miles to the city (which is, even now, just a small, small town), and it was extravagant for my father's father - a quarter so the kids could take a break from working and walk into town or sausage and brisket, crackers, and a shared soda or two.

And so today, when the dryer stopped working, my father seemed confounded - not that it was another expense, another problem with which to deal, but that it was just so odd for something in this house to cease functioning. It is an old house; my parents moved in in 1954, and there are many things in the house that are older than that still. And they still work.

When I informed my father of the dryer, it was while blowing into the kitchen in my bathrobe, and in the same breath I asked him to give me a ride to work. I have a job now. I realize now that I somehow managed to miss that detail.

I am a sales associate in Men's - at Macy's. I keep thinking, fondly, of the British sitcom (BritComs, darling ... BritComs), "Are You Being Served?" ... or, in any words, "Mr. Humphries ... are you free?" I am, by the way, free.

And - at the wage they're paying - I am practically working for the sacred pleasure(s) of being near designer clothing ... and having another excuse to replenish my wardrobe. All black. It's required.

My father fixed the dryer; it was something about a screw and a plate a short somewhere, and a 220 volt plug.

The A/C's gone out. The garbage disposal stopped working. Faucets are leaking. An inch wide crack in the den wall, and another smaller crack in the hall ceiling indicate the house is settling. The dishwasher hasn't worked since the mid-'70s, and I am fairly sure that my shower isn't supposed to spit scalding hot water at me before it blasts cold. A rotting pipe somewhere pours water directly into the bucket beneath my bathroom sink, and my father no longer uses his own toilet because the water leak was challenging his "Mr. Fix-it" supremacy.

It is an old house, and it confounds him when things stop working - perhaps precisely because he never has.

Ova the Top and Daddy are closing on their house - a new house, rather large for a one-story, rather large for a leather daddy and his boy, uniforms for a fetish, coffee machinery for an obsession, a bitchy room-mate queen, a dog, two cats, and an antique Caddy - that I am certain is too large for the one-car garage.

I walked through the frame of the house, and it was just a frame (then), a few weeks ago; I marveled at the idea that people still build houses. The idea that at one point, more than 50 years ago, this house was new ... and being built for a couple who were not exactly young though they were hopeful.

I am applying to law school. I did this a few years back, but - as one might say of any non-traditional student - I am older, wiser, and paying out of pocket; so, it means a little more than it did when I was just a kid.

I am applying to only four schools. The decision was based as much on my chances of getting in as it was on my willingness to live in, say, Lexington, Virginia. It is also a direct result of just how much money I have to spend on application fees and the minutia associated with the application process. I applied to St. Mary's - as much because I am a native San Antonian as that I am nostalgic, and that this is still home.

It is late as I type this, and I am putting off studying once again - as I did the last time I took this test. It still doesn't work. But it's me.

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