Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Benediction by Alan Abrams

A marvel, it is, how we share these times. It goes back to that spring morning, 50 years ago–after I had abandoned any hope of recovery–for a magic bullet, a miracle cure–those miserable, worn out hopes that had sustained me through those long, wretched years of decline–and after I finally let myself say it, I want to die. Yes, that morning, when you, my oldest son, came into my room to say goodbye.
Not goodbye, father, may you find peace and liberation from your years of suffering. No, it was goodbye, I’m driving to California with a woman who is running out on her husband, a woman I slept with once, but who is seeking out her true love, a stoner living in a run-down bungalow on the beach in Summerland. Or some such cockamamie bullshit.
I replied, but my voice was so weak you could not hear me. So you leaned your ear down, so close to my lips that I could have kissed you; I felt your long curly hair and that horrible beard brush my face. Then, in the faintest whisper, I spoke my last words to you. You’re crazy, just like me.
In fact, those were the last words I spoke to anyone, because that evening fever took me, and I slipped into a coma. Dr. Britt finished examining me, and called my wife into my room. Lisabetta, he said, your husband's condition is grave. He will be gone very soon, perhaps by morning.  I could admit him to the hospital and they could drain his lungs and possibly revive him (No! No! Please let me die!), but even so, this will only happen again.
Thank god she let me go. If I had suffered, she had suffered twice as much–this still young, voluptuous woman who gave me enemas, this still young woman with wide-set brown eyes, who irrigated my bladder drain twice a day–thank god she let me go. This woman who turned away my neighbors, my old high school buddies–who thought they could get away with it--this woman who buried her wishes for my death deep inside herself--thank god she let me go.
Enough already.  Let’s talk about happier things.  I’m delighted you've settled down.  You even call your mother once in a while. And you’re finally making a little money–although you didn’t do so well last year. But you could have made so much more of yourself.  The opportunities you pissed away. What I could have done with them!  So many times I wanted to get up out of my bed and beat you. I mean beat you. Hurt you, like you hurt me.
If only you’d have found a nice girl, a Jewish girl. Those tramps you used to go with, one after the other.  Living together–uuuhhh! What kind of a way to live is that? And that one you married, what did you see in her? She was just as sick as you were. She was built, I’ll hand you that–every bit as nice as my Lizzie, from what I could see.
There were some good ones; that country girl, from Virginia. Now she was nice–even if she was flat as an ironing board. But the nice ones–those were the ones you treated like shit; you’d cheat on them, and then leave them, like the dirty little shit you were.
And that friend of yours, that sissy boy. I told you he was a sissy–I could tell the first day you brought him home. You were friends all through junior high, all through high school. But my god, how angry you got, when I warned you what could happen.
So much anger you had!  I’ll never understand. But that’s all past. Maybe it’s your new woman. Finally someone that’s good for you–even if she is a shiksa.
I tell you, I was right–you were crazy. Even now, a little. No wonder we get along. It’s so nice when you tell me about your life. And the things you remember, from way back, before I got sick. Teaching you how to swim, how to rotate tires. And the books I bought you. How you loved books! What you could have done with them.
Even so, I felt so comfortable, right away, when you leaned over me to listen, when I opened my lips to speak and my soul flew up out of my mouth and into your ear, I felt at home, like being with an old friend.
Oy, enough already. I love you, my crazy son.

Alan Abrams has worked in motorcycle shops, construction sites, and architecture studios. He has lived in the heart of big cities, and in the boonies on unpaved roads. His poems and stories have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Rat’s Ass Review, The Raven’s Perch, Bud and Branch (UK), LitBop, and others. His poem “Aleinu,” published by Bourgeon, is nominated for the 2023 Pushcart Prize.