The memory Pete had of his father was on a Sunday, the kitchen heavy with the aroma of gravy, frying meatballs and sausages and then the pot flying through the air and a wide hot curtain of red, like the blood in the horror movies that he loved to watch, splattering his mother. He cringed as she flung her arms up and screamed like those women in the movies trying to fend off a werwolf with their puny white arms. He remembered the crying and cursing and the bathroom door hanging by one hinge and the men in white attending his mother. His father, squat, muscular, hanging in the corner like a gargoyle waiting for these strangers to leave his house.
Pete stood alone in the cold, quiet hospital room. He saw a clear plastic tube conveying an opaque liquid from a hanging plastic bag into his father’s blue, distended vein. He bent over and the rush of blood was such that he thought for a moment he might faint, but he didn’t and then his father’s rancid odor hit him. He forced himself to put his lips to the old man’s hairy ear and and say, “It’s me pop. You wanna confess your sins?” The old man’s lips moved. He didn’t catch it. He thought his father had said something to him. He had rarely said anything to him even when the old man had just gotten home from prison. The lips moved again, he caught it, a rasping, “Fuck you.” The old man’s eyes fluttered and for a second Pete could see a flash of brown-yellow teeth. He said, “Still a tough guy, huh.”
Memories, fragments of memories blipped through his mind. What had the doctor called them, repressed memories? One thing he did remember was that day, coming home from school to an empty house; no garlic frying, no pots and pans banging in the kitchen, no singing. He didn’t know any better so he searched the house for her. He crept into his parent’s bedroom opened the closet door and saw the row of empty hangers, the old crumpled dress on the closet floor, he was stunned he couldn’t believe she could be gone. How could she leave without him? Then,the front door banged open and heavy feet stomped on the hard wood floors and his father shouted, “Bitch, bitch, bitch” as if it were an incantation that would make her reappear. His father saw the empty closet and uttered one more “bitch” then a powerful hand grabbed his arm and jammed him into the Caddy. He remembered the mad drive to the city, parking in front of a fire hydrant on Mulberry street and being dragged down concrete stairs into a dim room, a place he knew where only a certain few men were allowed. His thick-necked Uncle Vinnie leaned across the green felt card table, “She’s at my place. Go get her I can’t have this.” He didn’t get to go to Uncle Vinnie’s. His father dropped him off at home. He sat in the dark watching Mission:Impossible eating potato chips, rocking in front of the flickering screen waiting for them to come home. Waiting for the cursing and the accusations and the thumps from his parent’s bedroom. It never happened.
He said, “I know pop. I know what happened. I found out.” The old man’s eyes flickered, he shrugged his bony shoulders. Pete remembered that night. Pop came home alone and walked right past him into the kitchen, a bottle of whiskey in front of him, a rhythm of pouring and drinking as if he were trying to wash something out of himself. He refused to look at his son who stood by the table staring, shaking, waiting for an explanation believing with all his heart it would all be okay, that he would see his mother again. “Where’s mom?” His father tossed his head back and slammed the glass on the table, “She run off, don’t ever mention her again.”
Looking down he said, “I searched for her. I couldn’t find her. But, I found you. Uncle Vinnie confessed. You confess.”
Pete squeezed the plastic tube closed.