When his mother dies and he discovers the man he believed was his father is not, sixteen year old Chris is haunted by a mysterious apparition that forces him to question his pampered existence and embark upon a quest to find himself. Hoping she will “make a man of him”, he seeks sanctuary in the home of Magda, a middle aged waitress with a penchant for sex, only to discover she lives with her father, a cigarette smoking, beer swilling immigrant.
Chris hates his shabby new surroundings at the end of the street and the shabby old man at the end of his life who spends his days listening to old blues records and making Chris fetch him fresh cans of beer. But, when the old man tells tales of Communism, torture, escape and the mysterious medallion he wears, Chris learns that, like the old man’s skipping records, history repeats itself and the roles we play have been played many times before.
Hi Chris! Thanks for stopping by today!
Thanks so much for having me Yet Peng. I appreciate you taking time.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a very well-to-do household. I had all the priviledges of wealth. However, it was a fairly disfunctional family. The man who I thought was my father wanted me to be someone I wasn't and always kept a certain emotional distance from me. My mother, while I loved her very much, was a creature of a consumeristic society. She was very materialistic so that, when she died of cancer at a young age she had no idea what her life was about and died a meaningless death.
Oh, I'm sorry. That's a tough life, and you've come through quite well, don't you think? :) How did you find out that your dad isn't your dad?
My mom and "dad" would go through occassional periods where they would fight and argue behind closed doors. They were close to divorcing on a couple of occassions. I was young and with fireworks like that going on I got curious and listened outside their closed door. There was nothing specific that was said but, over time, I began to understand the underlying reason for the fighting. I remember the day I made the realization that I was not actually who I was raised to believe I was. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror for a long time flexing my hand and touching my face as if to see if I still existed.
You're a very descriptive young man, aren't you? So, why seek out Magda after that? Why not, say, a priest? How did you get to know Magda?
Ah, Magda. She was a waitress at a local diner where I used to find myself after wandering and wondering about life. Her smile was like my mother’s and radiated lines of happiness from her eyes and the corners of her mouth. While my eyes moved back and forth between hers, occasionally sweeping over her hair, her ears and her long neck, I realized that, though she was still youthful looking, she was old enough to be my mother.
I remember that each night, as she moved through the diner taking orders and clearing plates, she reminded me of a jungle cat I saw once as a boy pacing back and forth, back and forth; sleek, fluid, sexual, seeking release behind the bars of a cage. Occasionally she stopped to bend or twist so that the fabric between the buttons of her pink polyester uniform puckered and revealed to my eager adolescent eyes a glimpse of the black lace mysteries contained within. Over the months, like a sorcerer’s spell, her name became to me an incantation which, if uttered harshly, or too quickly, or in incorrect circumstances would cause the stars to fall from the sky and the mountains to perish into bowls of swirling sand.
By that time in her life she had already worn out two husbands and was worn weary herself by a life of standing on her feet, frequent car troubles and struggling to make ends meet. Though her shape was still slender and her body was still firm, she was being slowly ravished by the effects of time and, the truth be told, her age was the very thing that made me desire her so badly in the first place.
She was very well-read and, late at night, when I was her only customer, she spent her idle time reading on a stool behind the counter. She was interested in everything from ancient history to modern astronomy and, though I was afraid to talk to her at first, she was very friendly and, like Scheherazade, entertained me with stories from her latest readings.
Magda. To me she was the dear daughter of the universe itself.
Ah, that's nice. She must've been a very worldly person. I haven't seen one personally, but I think this type of people would stand out in a crowd. Maybe that's also what drew you to her. What was life like living with her and her father after you ran away?
When I got to Magda's house I thought she lived alone and so I was quite surprised when I was confronted with the filthiest old man I ever saw in my life. Hump backed and bandy-legged, he looked like some Craftsman god Magda told me about from Greek mythology. He wore an undershirt that was ripped in places and stained yellow under the arms and across the chest from years of sweat. His gray hair was thin and unkempt and rose out of his skull like the wiry bristles on a boar’s back. His skin was pale and wrinkled like that of a featherless chicken. “This is my father,” I recall Magda saying as The Old Man put his cigarette between his lips and extended an arm covered in black splotches that must, at one time, have been tattoos.
Though he disgusted me, without him I would be left out in the cold.
Over time I began to gain an affinity for the old man. He would let me drink his cans of beer even though I wasn't of age. Although, I quickly realized that it was only because he wanted me to get him fresh cans of beer as well.
Though he was an immigrant, his favorite music was the Blues. He discovered it, he said, when he bought a box of old records at what he called a “rummy zale.” But the music I listened to was a blend of pop harmonies, good hooks and great guitar riffs that was mixed and remixed until it was good enough to get air play. With the Blues there was no catchy melody, no snappy rhythm that made me want to dance and sing along. Stripped of any ornamentation and anything pleasant to listen to, there was nothing good about the Blues I thought. The Blues was nothing but a collection of guttural mutterings and unmelodious moanings as far as I was concerned.
But, over the months that I lived there, as I listened to the old man tell me how he was tortured by the Communists in Hungary and how he eventually escaped after escaping death in a machine gun massacre. I began to think differently about the old man and his music.
Lol, tastes in music varies with people, so I guess classicals would sound like noise to a pop 'n' rock-er's ears. People do stuff like drinking to hide their pain sometimes. I think deep down, he's still a nice guy. Did you regret your choice to seek out whom your true father is?
Tough question. Each life has it's purpose and, sometimes, the purpose is not easy or attractive. But, it is essential to being who you are truly meant to be. My life has not been the one of liesure and luxury I initally thought it would be. It has been one of difficulty and frustration at times. But, it has been my life, not someone else's. It has not been a life that I lived because someone told me to or because that is what everybody else was doing. It has not been a life lived at the lowest common denominator.
And what have you learned on your journey through life?
Ah, so here we come to the point of my story and, perhaps, the meaning of my life itself. To be a single atom in this universe, a single happy atom is to be blessed beyond all belief. Those same atoms that combine to make a flower, a fish or a star shining in the firmament are the same atoms of which you and I are made. We are woven together in a seamless fabric of existence, an interconnected and organic whole, a perfectly balanced tapestry of life and death.
Wow, that's some deep stuff. Haha, anyway, thanks for answering my questions and for stopping by today!
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