In the very early 80s I went to the supermarket one afternoon with my father, out in suburbia where he was still living with my mother. They were going from one rental to another after selling the house that had held us together, selling it – a fire sale – to pay creditors, and now my parents – my father jobless, my mother going from one babysitting gig to the next.
I am in New York City. I have quit publishing and the 9-5 world and I am doing yoga now almost full-time and learning about things like raw food and juicing and I wear baggy violet cotton pants and spaghetti strap cotton camisoles and my body is elastic. I am powerful in that elasticity.
My father says something about how maybe he will go back to Hungary. My father seems like such a loser to me. I watch him having to have a drink every day. I watch him always wanting to lose weight, always eating – and I know so much. It’s easy for me not to eat. I have this unique group of friends in the city. We run a yoga school together and we are friends like no one else is friends. We are doing some kind of great work, something Natvar – who started the school – has really mastered and will teach us. Us. Anjani: small, and white-haired, dark-skinned and pretty. Me. Tracy. Mark. Eve. David. When we see each other we kiss on the lips. We are a little dizzy, like being in love. I bounce into the school, having tied up my bicycle down below and when it gets stolen I say it doesn’t matter – and Natvar laughs with delight that I can be so casual.
Natvar makes sure we clean down into the tiniest cracks, and he makes sure that Anjani brings up the lights on the dimmer and brings them back down just right during class, and makes sure that the books in the little bookstore – just a set of pretty display shelves that Natvar built before I got here – makes sure each book is laid out with equal space between each one and dusted though no one ever buys.
Hardly anyone comes to our classes besides us.
When my father says something about going to Hungary, I am dismissive. “You can’t run away,” I say on the check-out line, something like that, something like: that won’t solve anything. Something like: you have to stay and face yourself.
I am so sure. My father looks like such a loser. I tell him he should fast and he tells me he tried it, until about 4 o’clock.
Natvar tells us what we have to do and all I do is try to do it. It is like trying to climb a cliff and the ground keeps dissolving into gravel so you can’t get a grip, but I just start up the cliff again, over and over.
And I don’t think my father will make any progress, get any smarter, by going back to Hungary.
But he goes of course. And he stays. And twenty-five years later he is still there. And I don’t call him or hardly write. I let him go. Because I don’t feel like anyone is really there. No one has ever been there, behind his eyes. Not for me.
Yes, I think of his voice. I think how happy he is when I do call. It’s like a little flame goes up, I see it flash. And then it’s gone and the words that pass back and forth don’t touch me and don’t touch him. So I hardly think of my father.