Contest #43 winner 🏆

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Here's something I can tell you: he never really knew how to talk to me. Sometimes I picture him, back when I was the kid he couldn’t muster the guts to comprehend. I would sit very focused and important, surrounded by an assortment of odd, lifeless objects, and I would proceed to talk to them about serious business. I was their professor, at five years old, and I was teaching them how to read a book, and eventually I would slap them with a plastic ruler and scold them for being such terrible students and tell them that they were giving me a headache and that they would have to copy down a sentence five hundred times on their notebooks until their hands hurt and rot. Back then, he would observe me from above the edge of his thin reading glasses - not the right type, not the type prescribed by a doctor, but a random pair he would have picked up from a pharmacy counter - and I would realize that he was about to say something, something crucial and life-changing, except he never did. He would then exhale almost inaudibly and shake off his puzzlement with a cigarette and walk away and I would go on teaching pots and plush toys and soda cans in the most unorthodox of ways and that was it. He did rehearse a question once, he almost let it out, I felt like I could hear him struggle to let it out, and the question died away unasked. But that came later.

Except this is not how it really happened. How it did happen is something that I can’t tell you, or don’t know how. We never really understood a lot about each other, not enough to account for inaudible exhaling and pent-up puzzlement. Not at five years old anyways. Not then. Not now.

Here’s something I can tell you: at seven years old, I saw him shave his thick beard in front of our bathroom mirror. I saw him stroke his face with little precision, his glasses sitting sadly on his forehead, I saw him work through layer after layer of shaving cream, and I saw a tiny pool of blood forming on the formica sink, dripping from a deep cut underneath his chin. I saw him tap the faucet and soak a towel with cold water and gently dab the cut with it till the bleeding subsided. I saw him inspect the result in the mirror and I saw him stare at himself so hard I thought the mirror would crack from side to side. I want to say that I feared he would get seven years bad luck if that happened, but I was never that kind of fool, and he was never really accursed for anything. Except of course my knock on his door on a winter night. But that came later.

I see now it was not at himself he was staring. He was staring at someone else inside the mirror. Was he scared, was that a shadow I saw go through his eyes while he was standing there, holding a razor and his breath? Was it doubt, subtle recognition? He slowly came back from his trance, looked at me sideways, and said that I too would have a beard when I grew up. Except I didn’t want to have a beard. I wanted to go with a clean-shaven face. I wanted my skin out in the open, unabashed, a bit defiant. I didn’t want any cuts on it, I didn’t want any of his marks on it. I knew that well enough at seven. I ended up having a beard though. But that came later.

 I clearly remember getting lost once. I must have been ten. He didn’t see me wander away, he was too self-absorbed. I didn’t walk away on him on purpose. It was a busy street in a big city and he was not holding my hand tight enough while he tried to shoulder our way through the crowd. It was a split second and he was gone, and for a moment I thought I was drowning in a sea of legs. A split second, and all I could see was adult legs closing in on me, and skyscrapers piercing the cloudless sky. I thought of crying, then thought better of it. I just let go for a second, I let the adult legs push and pull me on all directions like a football, like medieval chariots pulling a body till the members ripped. All of a sudden he was back, he was yelling at me not to let go of his hand anymore. Then he hugged me with love, except it was a kind of violent transfixion. No: he simply looked me dead in the eye and silently recognized something that I myself never did.

By then he and I were used to our silent rituals. We avoided each other as best as possible, which was hard to accomplish in a small house with white walls and pillows on the couch and dust on the pillows. Once we crossed paths on the corridor: it was night, and I was on my way to an unknown corner of the house, and he was on his way back from hell. We crossed paths in the semi-darkness and we crossed eyes and his lips stretched a little as if he was trying to contain a smile. Except it was not a smile, it was laughter, high-pitched, of the maniac kind. Or perhaps it was retching, I can never tell them apart. Or perhaps it wasn’t anything - the lights were off, and so was he. We faced off for less than a second and went our separate ways.

Here’s something I can tell you: at fourteen I broke a leg in a bike accident in front of our house. I could see the clouds move fast, as they do in films, and I heard the door open when he came outside. The driver had run away and left me behind with a crushed leg and my old bike so crumpled it looked like a piece of art nouveau. I remember he touched my face and told me to stay with him, and I remember he looked scared, he knew I was going off, and he trembled before I passed out. I remember the smell of aloe from the shaving cream, I remember seeing the cut on his chin fade into a scarred blur. The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital after undergoing surgery, my leg swollen as a balloon and hanging from a sling hooked onto the aseptic wall. He was standing beside the bed, carefully combing the hair on my forehead, so damped with sweat it looked like a blood-soaked towel. I had to undergo physical therapy for months and months and he was there with me for every session and he would pat my leg gently and encourage me to stand up and walk up to him and hug me when I finally managed to do it.

It didn’t happen that way, though. Here’s how it really went down: he went back inside and called an ambulance and I passed out from the pain. I learned later that the paramedics reanimated me on my way to the hospital, that they gave me a shot of adrenaline so I would wake up, and that my leg wasn’t crushed that bad. And he was indeed there for every session of physical therapy, but he would just stare at me as if he could make me walk out of the sheer command of his eyes. 

Here’s something I can tell you. I had sex for the first time at age eighteen. It was awkward sex. I came back home that night and I knew he knew it. I wonder if he smelled it on me. He would look at me with more respect from then on, or perhaps it was less respect. Or perhaps it wasn’t respect at all, but just a kind of quiet acquiescence. He never talked to me about that. But then he never talked to me about anything else.

Except, none of it happened that way. 

Here's something I can tell you. At twenty something, I rode my bike up to his house on a winter night. I had the address down on a notebook, copied down over and over a thousand times, so I would not forget. I knocked on his door. He opened it. He had glasses on, and a cigarette, and I had a backpack, and a memory of the last day I really saw him. How old was I then, five? Ten? Fourteen? Did I make up that memory? Had I ever even seen him at all? He stared at me as if he saw me through a looking glass. Was it doubt that I saw, was it recognition? Was he afraid? Did he know who I was the moment he saw my beard? Did he smell it on me? Did he want to run over me, drive away in a frenzy and never look back? We faced off for a minute, less than a minute really, under the badly-lit porticum. He didn’t spread his arms and asked me to come in right then. He just stared and stared and I just stared and thought of crying, then thought better of it. He exhaled inaudibly and ran his fingers through his thick beard and through the thin hair on his forehead. He wanted to ask me something, but the question died away unasked. I wanted to tell him I wanted him to rot, and ask him why he had let go of my hand, and tell him of my first time, and slap him across the face, but I never really learned how to talk to him at all, I never understood. I never meant him any harm, I just wanted his every bone crushed. I wanted him paralyzed, I wanted him puzzled. I wanted to walk away on him, I wanted to back off and pick up my bike and ride away, but right then the only thing I did was suppress a laughter. High-pitched. Maniac. Mad. Or maybe I retched. I could never tell them apart.

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164 comments

18:11 Jun 11, 2020

Good story. It makes me want to know more!

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Grace Jarvis
18:08 Jun 10, 2020

This is awesome! It's just breathtaking. Side note: Could you provide me with feedback?

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Aiswarya Praveen
18:25 Jun 17, 2020

Thats a great idea!

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Peeker Jones
15:36 Jun 10, 2020

When the veil is still being lifted from the face to the place of goood and feelings of inspiration and acceptance of being scared to death of letting others who are still cared for greatly by the same energy as the beginning. When isn't something that is lost, the company that was shared with the other person was the one and only thing I was given and it will be the same thing that I want till I find out what love is to you. The story is breathing oxygen and courage for me and I will get the best part from the littlest thing involving the p...

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Scott Smock
14:26 Jun 10, 2020

An interesting take on the father/son dynamic. Especially when the son's unsure and the father's unaware.

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Monserrat Soto
09:02 Jun 10, 2020

Nice narration, I feel like the main character had a distinct voice. Also the passing of time was done seamlessly, it all flowed together really well.

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Lori Colt
21:38 Jun 09, 2020

Excellent job on this. I like how you moved the story forward and kept inserting so many unanswered memories.

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Cari Vess
17:36 Jun 09, 2020

This reads as if an actual experience prompted your story. Very intriguing story, thanks for sharing!

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Sarah Greenwood
02:08 Jun 09, 2020

Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. What a mix of emotions this invokes. Brilliant. Thank you

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Heissell Ramirez
15:13 Jun 08, 2020

Congratulations on the win. I really enjoyed the twists and turns of your narration.

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Anna Vahn
13:38 Jun 08, 2020

This was incredibly well written! The imagery and how you weaved the story was perfect. At the end, I felt all the emotions that the character felt. Well done! I look forward to reading lore of your work :)

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12:11 Jun 08, 2020

It leaves me with so many questions, but then the best literature always does!

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13:47 Jun 07, 2020

Congratulations Guilherme🌠👍 Your story was very well-written. You expertly captured the difficult relationship between father and son. My take-away from it was that the father wanted a different life; he perhaps pictured who he could have been (when he stared in the mirror while shaving). While the son wanted his love, but never received it. A well-deserved win and I look forward to your next story!🌟

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Guilherme Copati
18:41 Jun 07, 2020

Wow, I love your insights. It's a beautiful interpretation of what the father has seen in the mirror. Really interesting! Thanks a lot for reading!

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Hope Wells
11:49 Jun 07, 2020

What an amazing story. Totally unpredictable. i especially like the way you tease the reader with the not the way it happened lines. Really original and refreshingly real, Totally deserved win.

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Guilherme Copati
18:43 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it! It is a good tease, isn't it? lol I guess this is my favorite type of writing. Thanks again!

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Hope Wells
21:12 Jun 07, 2020

I look forward to reading more of your excellent writing!

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09:00 Jun 07, 2020

Excellent use of first person narrative.

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Guilherme Copati
18:43 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it!

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03:10 Jun 07, 2020

What an incredible story. I truly enjoyed the journey.

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Guilherme Copati
18:44 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it!

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Yageen Faiz
20:22 Jun 06, 2020

can you read one of my stories?

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Yageen Faiz
20:21 Jun 06, 2020

wow! its really great! i love the idea!

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Guilherme Copati
18:27 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it. I'll sure read one of your stories. Any favorites I should start with?

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Yageen Faiz
19:16 Jun 07, 2020

choose any, thank you!

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Alka Sharma
17:54 Jun 06, 2020

Mind blowing

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Guilherme Copati
18:27 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it!

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Joan Maguire
13:35 Jun 06, 2020

A most interesting read full of mystery, intrigue and pathos. Well done!

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Guilherme Copati
18:30 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it!

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Arthur Sheridan
13:14 Jun 06, 2020

brillaint story. tells part of my life. real father and son moments.

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Guilherme Copati
18:31 Jun 07, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to read it! :)

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