Marche Slave
I remember his science fiction books all over the back room sanctuary.
I remember looking around to show him something I’d made.
I remember country songs, CB radios, “breaker breaker one-nine.”
I remember military marches, the World at War, words like “honor” and “countrymen.”
I remember his barrel-chested torso, a nylon Teamsters jacket, Local 676, “Mike” stitched into it.
I remember when I got to drive his truck into the dock, his shift over—I was 13 and it was the thrill of my life.
I remember the belt, how he let me snap it, make a loud noise.
I remember him saying that it made sense I got straight A’s since I was from “good stock.”
I remember the game where we punched each other’s arms until I’d say stop.
I remember how his eagle tattoo flapped its wings.
I remember he said “show me a man who doesn’t eat pussy and I’ll take his wife away.”
I remember I didn’t understand at all what that meant.
I remember wanting to go to Annapolis because it was the navy and he was in the navy.
I remember him shirtless and hairy, scaring kids on the beach.
I remember guns in the cellar, potato wine, Soldier of Fortune magazines, saying “I’ll be ready when the revolution comes.”
I remember his Hitler fascinations, KKK biographies, eugenic rationales.
I remember being sad for him, how he seemed to hate everyone.
I remember not telling him I was an altar boy.
I remember taking trombone lessons because I saw a picture of him playing one.
I remember he told me to not stop fighting until the other guy died.
I remember lay-offs, unemployment checks, blaming the blacks who took his job.
I remember looking at pictures from one of his books, Sex and Society in Nazi Germany, blurred pictures of women with swastikas and their breasts hanging out, as some of the first erotic pictures I’d ever seen.
I remember when he finally told me he’d spent a year in jail when he was 17 for blowing up a Mexican’s car.
I remember when he finally told me how he’d broken his nose—in the navy after calling another sailor a “nigger.”
I remember thinking he deserved it.
I remember our last conversation, the clink of his whiskey on ice.
I remember I’d just said I met the woman I was going to marry, and he asked “what ethnicity is she?”
I remember I said Jewish and Irish and he was upset.
I remember it was New Year’s morning, 1995, I’d taken mushrooms the night before, the sun had just come up, and I realized he wasn’t kidding about all this.
I remember mom sitting us down, telling us what he’d done, and how he had to leave.
I remember going back to my room with headphones on, blasting heavy metal music.
I remember “perpetuate the race.”
I remember Boys from Brazil.
I remember telling him to “get a job,” and how he punched me to the ground.
I remember when he stopped reading—no more Asimov, Blavatsky, Descartes, Bertrand Russell, no more cogito ergo sum—“I can’t see the point anymore,” he said.
I remember thinking on my 28th birthday, “This is the age when he started to go crazy.”
I remember when I first saw my naked body as looking like his in the mirror.
I remember thinking, right then and there, that if I have a son, he’ll never meet him.
I remember driving into Camden, NJ to apply for welfare—Mickle Street, where Walt Whitman died.
I remember he said, pointing out the car, “if things don’t get better we’ll have to live here with all these people.”
I remember another game: Two fists in front of me—pick one, left or right—“six months in the hospital” or “sudden death.”
I remember laughing, wanting to play again.
I remember when my sister told me he put all his things in a trailer and moved out to the desert.
I remember I wasn’t surprised.
I remember that he let me listen to George Carlin but not Richard Pryor.
I remember he took me to a Nazi memorabilia store and had me try on an old Nazi uniform.
I remember I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I looked handsome.
I remember how he didn’t want me go to college, but I did, and he said, “Good luck.”
I remember thinking I should just drop out of high school, work at the car wash.
I remember thinking I was an All-American Boy.
I remember thinking I should march when I walked.
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