Your Shadow, by Benjamin Inn
by Benjamin Imamovic
Being the emotional chemical disaster that I was after being dumped by what was at the time the girl of my dreams, I thought it a good idea to take up my dad on his offer to get the big fuck out of Denton for a weekend. In the airport, I was reading Juno Diaz’s Drown for a class, which I found I sorta enjoyed. It exemplified how I felt about some things, like white girls and the way immigrants are treated in America.
The plane ride over was peaceful and nigh-empty. I was probably one of about six people on board. It was a night flight and I was trying to read when the lights went out. Annoyed, I looked up to find the light. I guess I was really desperate for some kind of pathos, or truth, or some witty little zen snippet or something that I could use to tide my festering psyche over until I got over whatever bullshit I was feeling at that moment, because when I looked up at the light and saw that it said “PRESS HERE FOR LIGHT” I was sorta moved. I guess I took it in a sort of metaphysical way or something, because the thought that ran through my head at that time involved being amazed at having a physical location one could go press for light, for truth to shine down upon you. I smiled and said it out loud “press here for light.” Glad no flight attendants were sitting nearby. They probably would have thought “fuck, that guy’s really a fucking emotional chemical disaster. What a fuckup.”
Upon arriving in San Francisco, it was, of course, still night. I’d been there a couple times before when I was a wee lad, so I didn’t really remember the layout of the area. There were lights up on some hill though, in a weird formation, and I couldn’t quite tell what they were. My imagination made up all manner of interesting things, like part of a gargantuan football statue, some sort of geomantic experiment, some giant and half-finished display of the Earth’s orbit, on and on until they were finally out of sight.
The point of the trip was to visit my grandfather, who was staying at a rest home in Petaluma, paid for by his daughter, Gale. I, however, would be staying with Margie. My dad’s the only male of several females in his family, and they’re all clawed bitches. I love them all, except Gale, but they all have very fierce attitudes. Somehow my dad came out mild-mannered. Anyhow, there’s a lot of family politics involved here that I won’t get into, not because I don’t want to tell them, but because it would be a novel unto itself. Let’s just make note of the fact that Gale verbally abused the shit out of my grandmother, her mother, while she was in the hospital. To this day, some of her own sisters claim that she killed her own mother with words. I guess to make up for it she thought paying for my grandfather’s rest home would sort of balance the scales or something.
My grandfather had always wanted to die in Hawaii, in the house he’d lived in for some 30 or 40 years. He tended orchids there like you wouldn’t believe. People from all over the island would come to see them. 3 or 4 times a day, he’d walk down to the beach and go swimming. He was already pretty tan, but all this exposure to the sun made him almost black. It was weird seeing this really really dark-skinned asian guy and know I was related to him. When my grandmother died, he was sort of all alone in the house, and after having numerous people try to take care of him, I guess they just relocated him to San Francisco. Being that he lived in Hawaii, I didn’t get to see him much. I think it had been about 5 years since I’d last seen him, and that was for my grandmother’s funeral. My dad and I thought it would be a good idea for me to see him at least one more time before he died. My mom and dad have endless tales about how good friends we used to be when I was a wee lad. I remember some of them, but damn if that was so long ago…
My dad and I did a lot of driving around San Francisco and the surrounding area. He, being the car-freak that he is, talked a lot about the roads and how good they were, how different cars handle on roads, etc. Being an “almost pilot” he also talked at length about weather patterns, cloud formations, etc. He’s a crazy complete library on some matters. I think he did most of the talking because he knew I was too fucked-up to really know what the fuck was going on in my life. Or maybe he didn’t realize what was going on in my life and was just talkative since he’d been away from Texas and my mom for about a month. Hell, with my dad, nobody ever knows what the fuck is going on inside his head, and I love that shit. He also warned me that my grandfather had problems with memory sometimes, and that he might not remember who I was, and to just be prepared for that to happen. The next day when we went to Petaluma to visit my grandfather, they wheeled him in and there was a long silence. “Oh fuck,” I thought “he doesn’t remember who I am.” He just looked at me for a while, my dad kept smiling and asking “you know who that is, dad?” Granddad nodded and made some noise indicating he did. “Your shadow.” he said to my dad.
I didn’t exactly know how to take that, though in a lot of ways, I think if all I am is a shadow of my dad, well shit, then I think I’ve done something very right with my life. There are a handful of people in the world who I am truly honored to know and say in turn that they know me. I think he tops the list.
My grandfather also noticed that I’d cut my hair, which I thought was a good sign. He told us stories about killing eels and swimming and wanting to go back to Hawaii, even going so far as to say “ok, I’m ready to go. Let’s go.” I think we could have gotten away with it, but Hawaii ain’t a real easy place to hide, being as small as it is.
That was the last time I saw him.
The flight home was packed to the gills with people. It was during the hot day and there was no writing on the lights above that eloquently spoke to me about truth. I stepped out of the airport and looked down at my shadow.
Benjamin Inn was born in Hawaii in 1974 but has lived most of his life in Northeastern Texas. After spending several years studying creative writing, poetry, philosophy, and religion, he graduated from the University of North Texas and began taking writing more seriously. He enjoys setting the kitchen on fire, getting lost in empty parking lots, and tumultuous love affairs with women more radiant than the sun.