|Me, Dad and my brothers in Dad’s house. Texas
The thwack of the daily paper on the front porch announces the start of a new day in my father’s house. Slivers of morning sun squeeze through the blinds, always shut tight. A caged bird screeches against the drip and hiss of morning coffee brewing, while a candy-apple cardinal feeds freely outside the window. The shuffling of slippers, TV news and gospel music is our cacophonous morning song. A fog of cigarettes and something frying in the kitchen settles over me like a blanket. Glenn Beck rants from car radio speakers as we head out for Sunday church services where my family, two gay and one ex-con, will all be Baptists for an hour and ten minutes.
At midday, the Texan sun overthrows the clouds, summoning youngsters outdoors to ride bikes and catch balls and tattle on each other while cicadas and jaybirds compete to be heard and dogs meander then curl around our feet. Dad and I sit in lawn chairs talking, as we always do, about God, politics and prison. Ru Pauls’ Drag Race blasts from the TV inside where my brother gives haircuts on the kitchen linoleum.
Humidity rolls in from Galveston as the sun fades in a blood-orange sky. Phones ring, dogs bark, the back door swings opens and shut as kin stop by bearing Texas-sized pecan pies and Bluebell ice cream. Dad’s Jambalaya simmers on the stove. We siblings sneak margaritas then hide the tequila from him. Harsh words and tender exchanges will take place in this kitchen before we hug goodnight, accepting the way it is, and who we are.
All is still but for the blare of five televisions tuned to different channels. I am lulled to sleep by the low hum of factories steadily pumping their toxins into the night sky. A lonesome train whistle punctuates the stillness, reminding me that soon I, too, will be leaving. Jesus hangs solemnly over the kitchen sink, eyes closed, expressionless.
To read the story of how I found my father, click here.