Saturday, March 2, 2013

Who would you like to chat with?

I wonder what it would be like to chat with my dad. I'm not sure I will ever know. He's 84 and I'm 58. Why can't I chat with my dad? Is it me? Or him? Or us?

I'm not sure what I would chat about. Dad's a bit of an egghead, not that his intelligence isn't appreciated. I'm kind of an egghead, too. But do eggheads chat? Is chatting logical? Does it serve a purpose? Is it a reasonable use of time and energy?

Would a scholarly discussion about chatting count as a chat? Could we chat about chatting?

I looked up chat: “to talk in a friendly and informal way.”
I looked up the etymology: “late Middle English;  short for chatter”
I looked up chatter: “to talk rapidly in a foolish or purposeless way; jabber”

This isn't looking good.

Maybe I don't want to chat with my dad...

- James Seamarsh, just chatting

What did you steal?

It's hard to believe I was only nine years old. But I know it's true, because the fire was that same summer, and that summer I drove with my family from Pittsburgh to Seattle, and I saw the Seattle Word's Fair. We didn't go in 1962, the official year of the World's Fair, but the summer after. So it was definitely the summer of 1963, which meant I was a nine.

The summer of 1963 was also the beginning of the end of my age of innocence.

By November 22nd, President Kennedy would be assassinated, forever changing my perception of life's certainty. By June of the next year we would have moved to southern California, a long way from Pennsylvania, to a beach town with ocean views instead of trees, a world where innocence seemed to end earlier, a world where I spent fifth grade learning about four-square, pecking orders, and going steady, a world where I sat by the fence with a dictionary at recess as my brother and I searched for all the swear and cuss words our classmates used.

My age of innocence may have ended in southern California in 1964, but it was well on its way to being over in Pennsylvania. It was the summer of 1963 that I stole cigarettes from the A&P grocery store while shopping with my mother.

- James Seamarsh, rediscovering his innocence after all these years


I know my eyes are closed. Why don't I remember opening them? It was late, the movie was boring, I was tired, the couch was comfortable, the pillows soft...

How can I know my eyes are closed and not be able to open them?

Then there are the dreams...

I am sitting at the top of a snow-covered ridge, in a gondola ski lift. The lift starts down, picks up speed, is dropping faster and faster, now skidding down the cable, skimming the trees and rocks just below...

I know it is a dream., that it is not real, but how?

I am sitting in a playroom, full of toys. There is a dog, about the same size as I am. The dog is talking about how we are going to fix the car. I get angry because the dog doesn't know anything about fixing cars. My face swells. Suddenly spikes pop out of my head, my neck, my cheeks, like a blow fish. Except I am made of flexible rubber, like an old-fashioned eyes-pop-out doll...

On and on, dream after dream, some covering days, others mere moments. But they all share the surreal, the incredible, the unbelievable. And I know they are dreams exactly because I do not find them unusual.


I want to yell, try to yell, tried to yell, uncertain if I succeeded.

I slip away into another dream, this time in a car, traveling with my brother, and we are both in a hurry to get to San Francisco. It is a convertible. The top is down. It is warm and sunny. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car...

I have a headache. This is not a dream. This is real. My brain is being split in half, torn apart, the same way my mother used to shove her thumbs into a head of iceberg lettuce and rip it in half. There is pounding. It hurts, from the inside out. There are blurry shadows, but it is too bright. I shut my eyes to block out the stabbing light. My eyes were open! I lift my eyelids again and a spike pierces my head.

“Johhhnnn... Jooohhhhhhnnnnnn...”

I hear it, a muffled voice, unclear and indistinct in the distance. I focus, shift my attention from somewhere to somewhere else, somewhere... closer to the surface.

“John? Kanoorme?”

The flurry of sounds passes by, too quickly, before I can make sense of them, sounds, not words, as if spoken in a foreign language. Something pokes at my eyes, stretches open my eyelids. I flinch.

“He's awake! He's come back! He's back!”

I hear the voice, high and tinny, screeching like tires spinning on asphalt. Then a low and quiet voice speaks very slowly, slowly enough for me to connect the sounds to words to understanding. I struggle to find my senses, searching for familiar feelings, but can't seem to.

“Yes...,” he says in a reassuring rumble, “but it's been six months. We won't know the extent of damage for some time.”

I drift off to sleep, which means I must have been awake! I feel happy. I wonder if I am smiling.

- James Seamarsh, wondering if he is just in a coma JS annotation code