Parker left us when he was just seventeen. He broke up our family pretty much. My mother took to her bed and made a profession of suffering in half-darkness. My father stayed as furious as hed been just before Parker left. Over time he became as brittle as the mantelpiece of porcelain ornaments he cleared with his fist when Parker failed to return from school, from training, from wherever he might have gone after school that final day.
From then on you didnt say anything to my father in case he shattered open in front of you like a petrified man.
At first, I didnt pretend to notice. Parker was making a drama as usual was how I saw it. I also saw an opportunity for me to step up and become my parents favourite child. But it doesnt work that way when one child goes AWOL. Parkers absence was still the heir apparent.
Around five years later I finally left home. It was a more reasonable age to leave, less flashy, and my first real chance to test whether leaving would make any difference in my parents disinterest.
At first my mother would ring occasionally, asking me how I got on in my apartment. But even that stopped after a while. They stayed just the same as beforegrieving parents in search of a corpse. Id go back from time to time with a stranger’s curiosity. I told myself I didnt care anymore. I just wanted to see how things were going on.
They werent, to be honest. My parents kept Parkers room just the same as the day he leftfootball posters, medals, scuffed trainers, boots, the same boy-sized curled-up socks in his drawers. It was like a suburban museum dedicated to adolescence. Id sit on the side of his single bed and listen to the creaks. When the hall clock chimed I got lost in that houses species of reverie. I almost expected Parker to return. The whole house wanted it that much.
Of course, I didnt live there anymore and I dont truly nurture such backward notions in my daily life. I had moved on. And besides, I had seen Parker a few years previous to my fortieth birthday. It was in a shopping mall. It was definitely himI have no doubt of it, although he seemed much changed. Older, balder.
I recognised the stride as much as the expression on his faceboth carried a boy’s careless swagger. He wore a hunters cap, a grown man nowhe looked quite the lone wolf.
I followed him for a bit. The woman he was with was the sort my mother wouldnt approve offlorid with drink, raucous, bad dye job showing greying roots. I went as far as the street. The man that was Parker flicked his cigarette butt into the kerb, and jumped into a grey Scion. The woman floated a bit on the pavement uncertainly until Parker hollered at her to get in. First she smoothed down her denim skirt in a way that suggested a highway seduction. No longer tottering, she swung herself into the passenger side with the dexterity and speed of a coked-up child bride. The car fired up immediately as though it were waiting for her spice to ignite it.
I ran forward almost despite myself. Half of my instinct was sensible—this might be my last chance to make contact. We could exchange phone numbers, swap addresses. The other half of me just wanted to jump in beside them, whoever they might be, and ride away from this town forever.
The car swung out of its spot in a crazy loop, then sprung like a rocket towards the highway.
I never told anyoneleast of all my mother and father. What would be the point? This almost-revelation-made-flesh was something I claimed for me alone. Let them rest awhile in their waiting, I reckoned.
So I say nothing when I visit. I sit in silence, joining my parents in their vigil for the boy whose ghost wont rest in peace in this world, but goes travelling from place to place, as my father says, as freakish as a twister.
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