Friday, March 30, 2007

Previous Chapters: 1, 2, 3


My father was a killer for the CIA.

He was involved in the Deep Shit, the type of vitally important national security matters that necessitated his total and unequivocal silence. It has only been through the painstaking and laborious process of investigation that I have been able to piece together the fragments of his life.

The twentieth century was not kind to the African continent. The aftermath to hundreds of years of colonial repression was decades of war – both civil and external. My father was a mercenary in darkest Africa for the greater part of the 60’s and 70’s – fighting in the Congo and Angola and Zambia, killing on the side of those remaining white colonial governments who were being secretly supported by the United States through the CIA.

Throughout my childhood and early adolescence there’s the recurring presence of a One-Eyed Man, a tall and swarthy individual who would sometimes make himself visible to me when I was at the playground or playing soccer or shopping with mother. He would appear and I would look at him and he would acknowledge me, just long enough for the mutual recognition to register, and he would be gone.

I knew without having to ask, without having to say anything, that he had been sent by my father to watch over me, to keep an eye (one eye, at least) on me and ensure I was safe. I am certain that my father made many enemies during his tenure with the agency, enemies who would have liked nothing better than to strike out at my absent father through his vulnerable family – but he was always there to protect us, even when he wasn’t.

The One-Eyed Man stopped coming sometime after I hit junior high. Perhaps the people who had threatened my father were finally dead, or perhaps, as I secretly feared, the One-Eyed Man had finally been eliminated. All I knew was that the final link to my father’s secret life and career had been severed.

I never told my mother about the one-eyed man. She lived in a state of forced ignorance in regard to my father’s activities – I suspect she knew more than she admitted, and had perhaps been in some way complicit in my father's death - but her sanity depended on keeping these disparate parts of her life compartmentalized.

My newfound drunken companion and I were released from police custody around sunrise. Trevor, as I later learned his name to be, had slept through the entire altercation, waking only after the body and the murderer in question had both been carried away.

He was holding his head and squinting in the crisp winter morning. Apparently the events which had led to his arrest involved drinking contests and video games – more than that he refused to remember. For the immediate future he was concerned mainly with finding coffee and shelter.

The campus police station was situated on the far end of the school from where my apartment and Trevor’s fraternity house were both located. It was a Saturday morning and the school was quiet.

It turned out that I had indeed met Trevor before, although I would not have remembered this if he had not been the one to mention that we shared the same chemistry section during our freshman year. On a campus filled with tens of thousands of unfamiliar faces it was almost a miracle to find recognition in a stranger.

Trevor was wearing a simple white T-shirt. He had been sweating throughout the night and now he was very cold. There was a pancake restaurant off the main boulevard as you rose up through the campus buildings. We decided to stop in and have breakfast together.

We were certainly a sight. I hadn’t slept all night and there were spatters of blood from the murder all over my shirt and coat, droplets which had inexplicably flown across the cell to land on me. Trevor looked like he felt, horribly hung-over. His skin was coated in grease and his eyes were crimson.

The restaurant was empty. The waitress led us to a booth towards the front of the restaurant and filled our coffee cups. She was a student at the school, dully attractive in a soft and unfocused manner, although her breasts were recognizably pert through her starched uniform.

I ordered a plate of pancakes and a glass of orange juice. Trevor nibbled on an English muffin with some strawberry jam smeared clumsily across the face. After he downed two cups of coffee, he opened his eyes wider and engaged me in tentative conversation. He asked me why I had been in the jail. I told him the truth: that I had been walking around campus late at night and had had the misfortune to witness a shooting.

I explained roughly what had occurred last night from the time I spotted the two men arguing near the entrance of the Life Sciences building. I omitted mention of my air rifle.

The same officer who had collared Trevor had apprehended me. We met in the back of his cruiser, which Trevor did not remember. He didn’t remember much from around the time he was doing tequila shots with Arthur Magnusen from Delta Kai to the time he woke up cold and throbbing in the cell next to where a brutal murder had recently occurred (a murder which he also did not remember).

He mentioned in passing that the police had arrested him after pissing in a mailbox on Warring Street. He didn’t remember doing it but that’s why he had been booked.

All throughout our conversation he was drinking coffee at a furious rate. In hindsight it seems perfectly sane – drinking copious amounts of coffee enables his body to flush the system of toxins. I wasn’t dealing with an amateur, apparently Trevor knew his way around the world of extreme inebriation.

And as we chatted quietly and as Trevor continued the slow and awkward process of working through his hangover, I looked over his shoulder towards the opposite side of the restaurant and saw a familiar face staring back at me across the sterile café. It was the One-Eyed Man, ten years older and none the worse for wear, unmistakable.

The One-Eyed Man was staring directly at me with a look of inconsolable melancholy writ passionless on his face. Whatever had brought him here, ten years in the future from the last time I had seen him, set down directly into my life and my world again, from out of the dim recesses of my ancestral past, was obviously a grim chore.

Suddenly I wished that I had discussed the man with my mother. I wished I had been able to overcome my natural reluctance to communicate with her and explored this mystery further because I found myself inexplicably unable to deal with the sudden numbing possibilities which his presence reopened in my near future.

Trevor had stopped speaking. He had lifted his head and was looking right at me. I snapped back to our conversation but I didn’t have the slightest notion what we had been discussing.

When I looked again the One-Eyed Man had gone, paid his check and left the restaurant. But I knew I was going to see him again, and soon

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