The first time it really happened was when she was five. We were in line at a souk, getting what, I hardly remember. Probably things for dinner, and, back then-unfortunately-cigarettes. There was a positively ancient woman in front of us who turned to look at me. That day, a chilly one in late February, I was wearing a wool/cashmere overcoat, an army-issue button-up over one of my ragwool gray I-Don't-Feel-Pretty sweaters, combat boots, and jeans. My hair was down, and, back then, dyed burgundy-hey, I got my first gray hairs at twenty-five, and, unlike my father, did not want ice-white by thirty.
"You look like someone out of those movies they play at the Mayan or the Esquire," she said, citing two of the art-house cinemas. This was not the first time something like this had happened; because of the length of my hair or something I'd been wearing, I'd been accused of being a musician, a thespian, artist, or someone famous. It was what she said next that gobsmacked me; "Well, at least the little girl with you is halfway normal."
"What the fuck?!?" The moneychanger at the head of the line snapped at the woman before I had time to open my mouth. "That's an evil thing to say! Even in front of his daughter!"
The woman stormed out in huff. The moneychanger got verbally disciplined in front of everyone for being unprofessional, despite me trying to talk to her overseer. On the way home, my daughter placed a warm hand on my arm.
"I think that lady just wishes she had a dragon for a pet like me." I had gotten her a bearded dragon that previous Christmas. Fucking what? She asked me for it.
For her sixth birthday, she wanted a tarantula. I got her one without hesitation. Her mother, of course, was mortified. Tried to tell me it was a big mistake. When I showed my daughter on her next visitation, she asked if she could keep it at my place and name it Zoe.
"Of course, sweetheart," I said. "You think I'd trust your mother to care for one of these? I used to be the one who watered the plants."
My daughter gave me a hug and told me she loved me. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; my x-wife was rebelling when she met me. She figured when our daughter was born we'd get lobotomies, real jobs, and move to the suburbs.
Comic book mantra;
"Suburbia is failure. Accepting suburbia means accepting less. It's a tiny slice of comfort. A rose from Lucifer, meant to buy you off. Rome is burning, and true comfort lies beyond the flames..."
Is it any wonder we split up? I mean other than I'm a heretical Tibetan Buddhist who goes his own way and she was a rebelling Catholic girl who suddenly found god-didn't know it'd gotten lost-upon having offspring? Opposites can attract, certainly, but they will also repel with a ferocity rarely spoken of in anything other than hushed tones. I know this quite vividly.
Two years after that, the 'merican Empire was up in the environs of Babylon doing some shoot-'em-up cowboy diplomacy that really had nothing to do with the parties who brought down the two towers other than the color of their skin or how they addressed their deity. I was a professional propagandist and spin-doctor for a particular telecorp I'd rather forget about. It was the day most major media outlets were placing the bloodied and ashen corpse images of Saddam Hussein's boys on the television screens to prove we got the bastards.
That day, this one woman I knew, who was into autopsy shows, was going on about how glad she was to see those two dead and on display. She'd have loved to watch their autopsy, although, the cause of death would've been academic.
I was, a few desks away, telling someone how my daughter and I liked to watch nature documentaries. We'd root for the predators-hey, even a crocodile's got to eat. I mentioned our excitement watching a moment of hunter and hunted coming to fruition.
"Excuse me," the autopsy woman broke in. "Do you really think your eight-year old daughter needs to be seeing that? Is that appropriate? Just what kind of a father are you?"
One who grew up on a farm and first began to understand the natures of life and death at age six, though I was not nearly that articulate. After all, she made me angry. Anger can cause one to say harsh things.
"And excuse the fuck out of me, but you are about masturbating to those corpses on that television screen there, and you're into autopsy porn, but I'm the bad guy for educating my child in the ways of the food chain?!? Maggots eat your eyes!"
"But..." she started.
"But nothing!" I snapped. "Save some oxygen and don't talk to me!"
"As in close your mouth and save your teeth! End of chat."
And that was when I first heard the term hostile work environment. Although, it was merely a verbal warning. To this day, I don't feel bad about it. I was being fucked with about my daughter and how I was in my parenting. I make no apologies for taking umbrage.
When I was dancing with the dead for money and had just published my book I was at a piano recital for my daughter. She was so excited to see me, which made me smile. I was surprised when she drug me to meet a couple of her friends and their parents', all suburban and clean-cut looking.
"This is my dad!" My daughter said excitedly. "He just published a book about angels and demons and he works in transplant, so he deals with death for eight hours a day!"
What do you say after that? Hi seems kind of hallow.
I have questioned my bearing as a father. My daughter has never had an ill thing to say of me, but, still, I wonder. At almost forty-one I have long, thick, wavy hair-with a kind of cool/interesting white blaze snaking down the right side-tattoos, and a nose ring. I've been friends with pagans, punks, a tattoo artist, an x-constable, not to mention the colorful characters here in our Sahel. I listen to punk rock, blues, Americana, and African-although, that's all punk rock if you think about it.
By the social construct of reality, a man my age should be settled down somewhere, perhaps a little less fantastical. I should be stable and established. Not misanthropic.
I suck at the social construct of reality, and yet cannot be convinced to feel bad about it...
It was the last day of my daughter's latest visit up. She had to leave by early afternoon because of piano lessons and other obligations. We wanted to do something.
Torrey's and Grizzly Peaks as seen from the summit of Mount Sniktau...
So we climbed a thirteen-thousand foot mountain. It was something to do. The whole time, I could not help but think of how our daddy/daughter adventures have rarely been what the social construct of reality would term normal.
Of Course she had to snap this shot whilst I was fishing a rock from one my shoes. Cantankerous child...
We came up via the summit of Loveland Pass, pretty well twelve-thousand feet-eleven-thousand nine-hundred ninety-two, to be exact, but close enough for rock and/or roll. Upon the summit, we encountered a group of three who were mid to late sixties. Their decent was straight down, into Loveland Valley-around eleven-fiveish-though, they'd done the usual way before.
"Gods and bodhisattvas," I muttered as I watched them clamber down. "I am such a pussy."
A lithe arm wrapped around my waste. I felt a familiar head upon my shoulder. I turned down to kiss her crown through a tangle or brunette waves and curls-yes I know where she got those from.
"Don't worry about it, Dad," she said. "That'll be you in a few years."
And we had a good chuckle. I might question how good a father I've been in the social construct of reality-though I do suck at such wackiness-but it was agreed I might one day be perched at the end of a trail with a bomber of dark beer, getting ready to take a road less traveled, chiding those who come up.
"Oh, you went that way? That's for amateurs! It's okay, you're still young, you'll figure it out. Bet you pay full price for your gear too."
Laugh if you you will, but it's possible. And, I'm willing to bet there'll be this girl, twenty-two years younger than me, but bearing a little bit of a resemblance, along for the ride. I've always thought she was fucking magic, and, sometimes, listening to her, it would seem she thinks the same of me.