Phase Three: Chicago Tribune Comics

Posted: December 5, 2009 in Chapters of "In the Gray"

“So, uh… how’d your meeting with Trevor go?,” daddy pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows, keeping his general, spacey stare on the poorly paved road ahead. He oddly held the steering wheel at five and seven, as if he were barely steering – and for a split second I saw us calmly veer off the road and crash right through the Dairy Queen like some dramatic, bloody, explosive wreck scene from a movie. Some people are diving out of our path, some are getting caught under our tires – and the whole place… boom… explodes. I crack a smile. Aaaand roll credits. Back to reality.

Daddy turned down the radio because the music annoyed him. A direct quote from a few months ago, “I hate that Beyonce shit. Pop in a cassette.”

“You mean Tyler?,” I looked out my window, seeing if I could keep my eye on a single light pole and follow it – as if I were making time slow down. That’s one skill I’ve always been trying to perfect.

“Yeah, that one. You feel a little better talking to him?,” we came to a stoplight and sat in the emptyish Taurus like the last two lonely cigarettes in a carton.

“As good as I’m going to feel. He kinda reminds me of Uncle Todd.”

“You mean he’s gay?,” he answered back without missing a beat. He’s so weird about that.

“NO. God… I meant his demeanor.”

“Oh… gotcha.”

Daddy could only find it in him to talk to me when he didn’t have to look me in the eye. Part of me thinks it’s because he doesn’t want to see his youngest daughter cry, while the more confident part of me thinks it’s because he doesn’t want his youngest daughter to see him cry. Sadness is a weird thing. It was never acceptable in my family to cry; it was more commonly referred to as ‘boo-hooing’, ‘being ridiculous’, or ‘causing a scene’. It wasn’t a human attribute, but more a sign of awkward vulnerability that you only see on Dr. Phil. And even then, it was only borderline tolerable. Daddy always hated Dr. Phil, but he still watches Oprah. That was the only show mom ever made time to sit down and watch when she was alive, and it’s the closest thing to ‘alone time’ daddy gets with her now. I try not to tell my friends that my dad watches Oprah because they’d all say he’s a faggot, or something totally absurd like that. It would be all I could do to hold myself back from strangling the fucker who made a joke about my only parent’s desperate attempt at emotional peace. It’s a difficult thing to explain, and even though I enjoy embarrassing people, that’s a certain territory of awkward I refuse to enter.

“So, you think you’re gonna keep seein’ him?,” he tapped the underside of the steering wheel with his thumbs to the beat of ‘Roxanne’ playing dimly, along with the rattling of our car.

“You wanted me to talk to him, didn’t you?”

“I wanted you to have someone to talk to, yes. True enough.”


“Look, I wish I could be there for you, Ziggy. But… I’m going through some stuff too, you know, with your mom gone and everything? I would never want my problems to leak in with yours and your sister’s. I know part of you has gotta understand that.” Still avoiding eye contact, biting his lower lip – not that he really has one. Part of me? The only part of me that understood that sentence was my nose.

It bothers me that he still calls me Ziggy. It bothered me since I was little. ‘Ziggy’ always sounds cool unless you read the Chicago Tribune Sunday Comics – because then you know it refers to that bald, big-nosed bastard who doesn’t wear pants and gives inspirational advice on how to feel better about your shitty life. That’s not me at all. I take the more realistic approach and let people know that this is the pinnacle of their pitiful, bottomless chasm of a life. Why sugarcoat things? It’s cruel.

I broke my nose when I was twelve; it was swollen like a big lemon, right in the middle of my face. Yvette and her stupid friend, Stephanie, were playing with those creepy helicopter fairy dolls. You know, the ripcord ones whose wings would pop out when you launched them into the air? It was a 90s thing. They kept chasing me around the house with them and wouldn’t stop, no matter how many times I asked them to. Yvette launched one of her fairy skydancers into the ceiling fan by accident and it was knocked out of sight. While she was crawling around looking for it under her bed, behind the curtains, in her shoes – everywhere a stupid, daft fifteen year old would look – Stephanie had finally cornered me in the other room against the computer table. She aimed her dumb barbie-copter at my stomach and reached for the ripcord, and for some stupid reason I felt severely threatened and scared for my life. I did the first thing any threatened animal would do and attacked her. Like… not physically. I just told her that ‘Stephanie’ was a fat girl name and made her cry. Hoping she would run away in tears, she instead threw the entire toy at my face so hard, it cracked the cartilage in my frail, beautiful, near-perfect little twelve-year-old nose. Give or take a day, and it turned into a grapefruit and I earned the nickname ‘Ziggy’. For some reason, normal nose and all, I have yet to live that moment down. Daddy, Yvette, my friends, and boys I liked… everyone had a name for me. Rudolph, Doug, Gonzo, Honker – any possible annoying nickname that could be attributed to a big nose, I had it. To mom, I was still Leta. She told me I was still beautiful. The fact that daddy still calls me Ziggy troubles me quite a bit. Yvette doesn’t really address me by name anymore, much less a nickname; she either makes loud noises or snaps her fingers to get my attention, but that’s okay. In compensation for her treating me like a gangly stray cat with rabies, I’d honestly rather her not talk to me, anyway.

In case you were wondering, Stephanie did run away in tears, just as I had thought in my twelve-year-old mind. And I still think it’s a fat girl name. I’d rather be called Ziggy any day.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really want to… you know… reconnect with you girls. It’s just now, it would be kind of selfish for me to try and then not really be there,” daddy cringed as the words came from his lips, taking time to breathe deeply.

“No worries. I’m really not all there, either. I totally understand,” I would always say the same thing, only because I felt sorry for him and his inability to take up his paternal role again. It was sad to me. How could I expect much?

“Thanks, Zig. It means a lot,” he made one last turn of the steering wheel into our driveway, as the pavement turned to gravel and my half-smile turned to a half-frown.

I reached and pulled down the sun visor to look at my nose in the mirror. It’s a subconscious thing I’ve always done since that “Lost Year”. Daddy pulled the gear into park and looked over at me, smiling.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s