Sunday, April 24, 2016
David Marchino, the guy who taught me jawn and green hair, bamboo and patience, the healing power of a boyhood friendship, taught me even more than that with his memoir, He Will be Remembered: A Father's Crowded Life. In these tight, proud, poeming pages, David recalls the father he loved, lost, and recovered, if only for now. The cemeteries where the dead appease the living. The religion of his parents' cocaine. The power of a recovered briefcase. The voices of plead and promise. David speaks through namesakes. He tunnels through memory. He comes out the other side, burnishing truth with myth—the opposite, too.
David has given me permission to share the opening pages of his memoir with you. I do that here, with deepest respect for the journey David has taken and the words he has produced. With the greatest possible sense of honor that he allowed me to stand on the sidelines and cheer him on.
David Marchino. Writer. True.
From the (near) beginning:
He is not hard to find. He may arrive when you speak his name, or when you curse it. A magician whose default state is disappeared. His greatest trick is presence. My father—eight years gone—now back. Ta-da.Tomorrow, the work of Nina Friend.
He looks worn, like he’s spent the last few years disappeared in a pothole. Like his body has finally exhausted its last expanses of youth. The man is tired. His arms, his legs, his skin. He’d been virile once, you could tell. I remembered how the skin tightened around his biceps, how he’d make the panther on his arm roar. He’d always been a little slight—not more than five-and-a-half feet—but now he looks unsteady.
“Hello, Sonny,” and I am fourteen again: his grip on the back of my neck, his prickly lip on mine. Love that said I have you.
When he hugs me, I want to say I feel that slip away. His blustery love, the years gone. But I only feel in my arms a man who has stagnated, and he, in his, a son he no longer knows.
He sits me on his couch. He lies to me. He paces the floor and sips beer after beer. “Only four a day now,” he says as his eyes grow rheumy and soft. Hustling is still a part of his to day-to-day, only now there is safety. He is a supplier, never out on the streets for more than fifteen minutes and raking in more cash than he’s ever seen. I don’t doubt this. For the past eight years, I’ve had no significant contact with my father, but he came sporadically every now and again. A phone call at two in the morning, a wet whiskey-rasped voice. The few times I heard my father cry. It was desperation. He’d been dealing and had cut someone short. Word got around. They’d put the gun in his mouth. They’d hit him with a bat. The shapeless, omnipotent they were on the hunt for him. He was going to die.
I’d cry with him during these calls—I’m not sure a son can do anything else in that situation. But, when he hung up and I was left with just the dial tone, I felt sure Dad would be okay. He wrote the story of his life, circumstances be damned. My father was legend, was myth, was Roman God. As long as someone believed in him, he could never be lost.
He asks about a lot, never sitting down with me. It’s as much interrogation as it is plea. Questions are fired off with no space given to answer them. They are formalities more than anything else. He does not want my answers. He prefers his own. He reads our reunion as permission to rewrite the past, prune the truth to his liking. It is the hand that gripped my neck as a child and directed me, as though it clutched the handles of a bicycle. It reaches out for the past eight years of my life.
It’s desperation, I realize. We fear the unknown—the late-night creaks that resound from the basement as we try to sink into bed, the voices we are certain we hear calling our name as we make our way through a soulless alley. That is true fear: incalculable, unreadable. As my father looks into my eyes after all these years, he sees it in me. I am a void wrapped in his orange-ish, freckled skin. I come to him a changeling, a severed connection he is frantically trying to reestablish. We fictionalize what we do not know—an admission of ignorance and an appeal for enlightenment. A construction meant to give shape to the unknown. The gentle blue of the sky draped over the endless, infinite, abyss of space. To fit my life into some predetermined mold is, for my father, a means to close the gap between us. He pretends to know his son. It is easier that way....