Have you ever seen a man at the worst moment
in his life? At the moment, more than any other moment, that he would like to hide
from all others? I saw a man in that moment a few days ago. He was lying in a dark room
at 4:00 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon
. Outside, the air was heavy with the odor of fallen leaves. Families walked, not twenty yards from where this man was lying, brightly chatting
about pumpkins and harvests, wrapped in Woolrich
, walking dogs, their clean Dutch faces
pink from the western breeze that scattered brown-gold through the street.
But this man was mostly naked on a bare pallet. He was a drunk, smelled like a drunk, moved like a drunk. Thirty years of drinking had ravaged this man, and now he sat before his sons, back bowed, spindly arms placed gingerly over bony knees, beer belly bulging obscenely over a ratty pair of whitey-tighties. He was too drunk to lift his head, and often lost his spine too, crashing into the wall by his bed. His back was a patchwork of pock marks, acne scarred tapestries with booze seeping out abused pores. When you've been drinking for that long, terribly bad things happen to your body. This man is covered in his own urine and excrement. The excrement is mixed with blood, a common problem for your chronic boozer.
But this was still not the worst moment. After a few minutes of this man telling his sons to fuck off, he pukes all over himself. Even such a far gone vessel tries to fight back every now and then I suppose. Only so much poison can be tolerated. He looked then into his hands, covered in his own vomit, which also has blood in it. These hands were strong once, the hands of a carpenter, not pretty or refined, but solid and dependable. The man looked into those hands and started to weep, and then to sob.
Despite things you may have heard, men should not cry. If you even suspect a sniffle is coming out of you, call your best male friend, have him come to you and shoot you in the eye. This man always lived by that code, but bawled openly in this moment.
Relish it. This is the worst moment in this man's life. He may never have a lower moment than this, to have his sons, whose respect he craves, see him crying, naked, covered in waste. This is a moment of profound sincerity. You will not see this and walk away the same person.
Two days later and this man, my father, has slipped into a coma. He will probably wake up, but he will never be human again. He died on a beautiful Sunday afternoon with the sun streaming through rips in the wool blanket he had covering the window. The only death that counts anyway. I sit in an upscale coffee joint and sip Gate of Heaven tea from an impeccably white porcelain cup. The lees of the tea shift and sway like a flock of gulls as I think about this moment. I always laugh when I think about this moment.
Have you ever seen a man at the worst moment in his life?