I walked over to the small box that was lying on the ground and I gave it a little kick. It tumbled over and I could see that it was empty. I thought about stepping on it and crushing it. It looked as though it was made out of cardboard, and it would have crushed easily under my shoe.
“So you thought better of it?” asked the voice as I walked away. I knew it was him again, but I didn’t want to acknowledge the voice in my head anymore. It was the same voice that had awakened me on the morning that my father died – about an hour before my phone rang and my brother told me that he was gone. “You’re such a loser,” it said to me that morning, “a complete and total loser – a slacker.” I hate that voice.
I decided to speak up and defend myself.
“I just decided to walk away. There was no moral weight to the decision, you bastard,” I said.
“You’re getting feisty. And you’re using rude language. If you were a child I could bend you over my knee and paddle your bottom.”
I tried to ignore the voice after that. I put my hands into my pockets and I shuffled down the avenue, but the voice wouldn’t shut up.
“He was never proud of you, you know that?” asked the voice. He sounded just a little feminine today – a little bit like Ethel Merman. I always hear her voice when I am feeling insecure.
“He never really knew me, so to say that he was not proud of me really makes no sense,” I said. “If he had really known me, he might have been proud of me.” My eyes burst out of my head and my heart ripped right in half with grief and fear and loneliness and pain and confusion and loss and the feeling like you might get if suddenly you were the only person on the earth. I turned around and walked back to the box and crushed it. I brought down my 10 ½ D black cap-toe oxford right upon that crappy little cardboard box and I crushed it. Crushed it flat.
The voice was strangely silent after I did that, and I continued down the avenue, in search of a shoe store that would sell me a pair of wingtips. I couldn’t find wingtips anymore, it seemed. The kind like my father had worn. The kind he had always worn. I would look down at the wingtips, brown on some days, black on some days, and then I would look up and smell his blue aftershave, and see his tie. I always loved how his ties looked.
He wasn’t wearing a tie the day he died. The voice had made sure that I was aware of that.