Can you draw me one?
And so my father takes out his pen and paper
and draws me an ulcer.
It's a very fanciful ulcer, somewhere between an oyster and an orange peel. I have it here in front of me, the ink still looks wet, as if he has just executed it. It is so heavily shaded it is almost black, but even so, each line is itself and no other. It has been painstakingly drawn. And yet, when he is finished, he hands it to me to color, to smear over his fine ink lines with my waxy crayons. I replay this gesture, this act of generosity. I judge people by how they treat children, not one another.
It is strange how gentle my father is when he is drawing things for me. His face softens as he turns away from me, not wanting me to see what he is drawing until it is done. And then he smiles--his own drawing satisfies, delights him, and then I think: I cannot define him. Because there it is, confusing the cruelty and deception: this odd moment, like an unexpected convergence of light, where he is intently drawing something for me. There is a kindness here, his face suffused with a golden light. And so I reshuffle him in my mind.
I have to redefine evil with regards to carelessness, an inability to sustain these moments. There is no line that separates a goodness from the rest, there are no lines to draw within, only hesitant crosshatching, a restive, scratchy nest of marks. I look at his crosshatches darkening the page in an illusion of depth. I wonder if being kind is like holding one's breath.
He hands the drawing to me, as though he is giving me a handful of gold, color it, he says. Years later, I found in his desk a sheaf of my drawings, each smoothed out, encased in a clear plastic folder. On the back were the dates. He has no pictures by my brother , none of demeter's tentacled angels. Only mine. I cannot understand him. I cannot endure these colors.
When's she going to get well?
You mean your mother?
She's getting better and better everyday.
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