Everything falls apart someday, he said, but if you're paying attention, you might figure out how to put it back together.
by Jason M. Heim
Even now, you're a mystery. Your deceitful eyes are pleading, that much is certain, but it's unclear what they're asking. Do you just want me to stop? Maybe you'd like some more drugs to dull the pain? Perhaps you just want to know why, or how I could do such a thing? I'd take the tape off, but you already broke your promise not to scream. Your promises never were worth much, sweetheart.
Don't worry, this won't take much longer. I'm almost there.
While you're waiting though, I guess I could give this some thought. Call it multitasking. Unravel one riddle while dissecting another.
When in doubt, blame the parents. Mom was the good cop, Dad was the bad. Typical role-playing bullshit. But for some reason, the day I learned to tie my shoes comes to mind.
You see, Dad never taught me anything except how to teach myself. Four years old, the farthest back I can remember, I used to wear sneakers with two straps of Velcro instead of shoelaces. I never had to tie my shoes, so I never learned.
My grandfather, we all called him Pappy. His shoes were like mine. He taught me the word “arthritis.” Pappy died just before I turned six. Grammy had his wake on my birthday. Mom bought me a suit and dress shoes. I couldn't tie them. She tied them for me.
All through my birthday, the laces kept coming undone. Mom would retie them, and ten minutes later, they'd be dragging out from under my cuffs. I think she was too sad to tie them right, couldn't see through her tears.
Don't cry. You know I hate seeing you cry. Let me finish this story.
Dad never cried that day. He stayed beside Grammy, caught her each time she broke down. My laces came apart again, I asked him for help. Grammy tied them. She asked Dad why I couldn't tie my shoes yet. His glare pierced me.
He said I was too old to have people tying my shoes for me. He stood up, took my arm, and ushered me into the lobby of the funeral home.
On the way there, one shoe came loose again. Dad had me prop my foot up on a chair, told me to watch closely because this was the only time he was ever going to do this. His fingers looped and twisted and tugged. He tied my shoe so tight that my toes went numb. He caught my wince, told me to go ahead and untie it if it hurt.
Oh my, are those ropes starting to chafe? Your hands are turning purple. I swear, this will be over soon.
So anyway, I started pulling on the loose ends of the laces and he tells me to go slow, to be careful, to watch this unravel, because I was going to have to put this back together on my own.
I pulled until the loops were almost gone, then teased them back into place. The knot, a little more loose, the black strands a little easier to follow how they intertwined. I pulled one side, then another, a bit at a time, then popped one loop through. It nearly fell apart, but I tucked the loop back through into a knot.
Dad never took his eyes off of me. He even smiled. A room full of people crying in the next room, and he's beaming as I pull this thing apart bit by bit and twist it all back together again.
He said, there's nothing he could teach me that I couldn't teach myself. Everything falls apart someday, he said, but if you're paying attention, you might figure out how to put it back together.
Hold as still as you can. I'm there. This is it.
The ribs took some time, but with those out of the way, I can see it beating. But wait. Something's not right here. It's not twisted or black or scarred. It looks just like the anatomy book predicted. Where is the damage?
One time, you caught me reading your diary and the next day you broke things off like I'm some kind of creep. I just wanted to learn more about you, to find my way into your heart. People toss out their garbage with more care than you dropped me. Such indifference, so cold, I swore I'd find something wrong in here.
I'll have to keep pulling this apart. Even now, you're a mystery.