Post-Mortalism in Dale Caps – Peter Tyree Morrison Colwell
November 27, 2021
It’s the second-person thoughts, talking to you, talking in you, talking you into death with economics. A cost-benefit analysis of your life vs. your death. Leave something behind, more than your life gives. Save what could’ve been, your unknowns, before they’re gone. That old man has more of a future than you do. And he’s dying in a lawn chair.
We sat outside in foldout lawn chairs, drinking Buds, dipping tobacco, spitting in empty coffee cans. Me, my dad, and the night-swept woods, critters crooning from the black. Dad wore his wore-out, mesh-back Dale Earnhardt, Sr. cap. I wore my crisp, clean Dale, Jr. cap. Bills tugged down so you couldn’t see our blue eyes, the other thing we have in common.
“No ‘i’ in ‘team,’ but there’s an ‘i’ and a ‘me’ in ‘America,’” I said, looking up at the sliver of hazy moon, trying to remember where I got that saying from.
“Yep. Born free, but then freedom ain’t free,” Dad said, in his gravelly, masculine voice, where I hear how much closer I am to a boy than to a man like him. He rocked forward in his chair, spit in the coffee can at his feet, leaned back, and held a blink, thinking hard, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin.
“Your birth wasn’t free, son,” he said, looking straight ahead, at the dark woods. He stood up, touched the black bill of his cap, and walked back inside the trailer.
Damned if he wasn’t right. The one thing you have, a life you didn’t ask for, and it was never free.
I can’t read much into it. My dad’s been saying things like that since he learned about his prostate. Paired with a heavy despair that stalks him on Sunday nights, the cancer meds whirl mortality in his face, louder than the AC unit humming out the trailer’s window. Cancer took Mom some years ago. Dad’s fine with it coming for him, just thinks it waited too long.
The next morning, Dad was gone. We share a one-room trailer on a small plat. There’s nowhere to hide from each other here. You gotta leave to be gone. I could guess where he went. But he went like he did to go there alone. So I won’t chase after him. I don’t know if I’ll see him again. But that’s his call, his ending. I respect him enough to let it be, and wait inside.
The mornings here are quiet. I hear each step I take on the wobbly, carpeted floor. I sit in a chair next to the door, thinking in silence, until I hear a voice singing. Our neighbor is back installing floors in his cabin. He sings unabashedly, wailing over soft rock radio and a circular saw. He knows I’m here, knows I hear him. But I don’t mind. It takes me out of my head for a bit, so I let it take me, as long as it’ll let me be gone.