Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Wheels Good II

When I first held my fancy new digital camera, I was awed. It was technological, electronic, and expensive. It was my first camera. I realized I would quickly destroy it. That flash of unusual self awareness led me to pay the extra hundred dollars for the repair/replace insurance. Five months later I lay the crippled instrument, wrapped in a shroud of the policy documents, before the clerk at Ritz Camera. "It'll take four to six weeks." she said. Excepting pictures taken during that machine's five month run, there are very few photographs of me after I left my parents house at nineteen years old. Once in awhile there would be a print mailed or given to me after a party or event, or a series of photo student friend portfolio essays, or my presence in a snapshot clicked by a friend who'd picked up the camera I'd borrowed for some one or two roll purpose. None of it's digital.

There are no photos of any of my two wheeled conveyances save three taken at once, and too embarrassing to scan and post here. All are of me on the white Honda Elite 70.

Yup. Dad came through. I presented a lucid, well researched argument for him, laying out all the numbers, in letter form. The written rather than telephoned communication avoided the likelihood of me mimicking the pedantic monotone Dad used whenever explaining anything, or me bitchily injecting that he'd LEAPT to pay the membership dues to my brother's stupid frat, even though Henry still spent half his time living at their house in the room which stood exactly as he'd left it (and would remain so, labeled as "Henry's Room" in almost shrine like preservation for a decade, years into his marriage) when he'd gone off to college. No. Theatrics and recriminations would not further my cause. My room mate edited the letter, and checked the spelling. I stuffed it into an envelope and licked the flap with the tongue that in conversation, I would surely have had to bite. I waited. To my surprise, Dad wrote back that he'd do it. The next time I visited, we would go to Dixon Square, at the bottom of the hill I'd climbed up and raced down on the Puch moped, to the Venerable Bank where his family had been making transactions since it's founding in 1800. He would sign the papers.

I stayed in the room I'd vacated many months, which had been immediately transformed into "The Sewing Room". Mom had measured for her new curtains while I was loading my things into the van in the driveway below. On the day dad and I were to go to the bank, I rose early from my bed, a folding lawn chaise set up for me in a narrow open space in Mom's new workroom. A second rearangement of the sewing room had opened up enough space to stick me in there - a considerably more comfortable berth than the exercise mat under the dining room table, where I'd slept the last time I'd visited. When my brother was off at school and I was home, I slept in his bed. When we were there at the same time, I made do. Downstairs In the kitchen, Dad was sitting in his hard backed maple chair, the one closest to the wood stove which had been stoked against the early spring chill. He nodded to me. To his right, Henry's chair was empty - Henry was still asleep in Henry's Room. My mother busied herself at her sink, next to the cupboard where the dishes were kept. I reached back behind the first few rows and shuffled the dozens of mismatched mugs and cups, a ceramic record of their twenty five year marriage (nothing was ever discarded in that house) searching for the mug I'd used almost as long as I'd drunk coffee. My other, oldest brother had bought it in the 70's from a hippie artist commune on a farm out by the Naval air station. The curve of the mug's body fit my cupped hands as though I'd thrown it myself, the flare of the thin lip slipped perfectly between my own two and I loved the feel of the ridges impressed by the potter's fingers and the tiny bumps of coarse texture through the mottled gray and blotchy mud colored glaze. I'd fill it with hot water from the kettle which always sat on the wood stove, to heat it's thick stoneware walls. Emptied and refilled with dark brown liquid, it'd keep the brew at a perfect temperature.

"Where's my mug?" I asked her.
She didn't look up from the dishes; "What mug?"
"The grey and brown mug that I always use. Eric's old mug. My mug."
She was puzzled, then; "Oh that ugly thing? It was cracked. I threw it away."

I selected another, this one a dull white cylinder transfer glazed with a company logo and it's telephone number and address in the town where I no longer lived. I reached for the coffepot on the counter between us.

"Leave some for your brother" she said.

I did.
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