48.1 - Winter 2019

Page 75

the music we’d been listening to. He poured himself another drink. Now this is fucking music, he said, toasting to David Liebman’s iconic Lookout Farm. I wanted to keep crying, but his abandon was entrancing and my feeling of helplessness seemed to disappear. Watching him lose his grip on reality to a song was too much to bear. I felt my heart explode with a deep, painful love. I could only stare and listen as he bobbed his head furiously to melodies and chords that were asymmetrical and sprawling and perfect in the ways that only jazz can be. It was an exhilaration I wanted my father to feel again— behind a steering wheel, before a blank canvas. I wanted him to experience joy again, even if that joy was dangerous. Forbidden. In the midst of this exaltation he stood up, his eyes bloodshot and roving, his legs shaky. He wanted to go for a walk along the bayou behind our house, something he did each night. I urged him to stop but he was already out the door, lost inside the bongos and sax and pounding piano, this manic carnival of sound drawing him out and away from me. No, Dad, I called, but he’d already gone, unlatching the fence lock and stumbling forward. He was gone, immersed in the electricity of his own making. *** Sometimes you take walks at night behind our house after you’ve finished all your stolen tobacco and that glass of blush you could do without. You stumble when you walk. I know because I’ve watched and followed you, my hands trailing behind your soft back as your own hands guide you forward, the both of us like blind cats in the dark. You like to edge close to the bayou, playing a game of chicken with yourself— a silly impulse because you’re already playing with me. Your sneakers catch the tough reeds and sharp stickers as your legs wobble forward, backward, and then you’re okay again. You keep moving toward our unknown destination. There’s a new gas station at the end of our street where the bayou ends. A few men gather around a car as one pumps gas, all laughing with full happy mouths, their backs relaxed, their backs softer than yours. You stop, 66 | PHOEBE 48.1