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Twenty - One Years Excerpts: Father

It was midday yet there was many men in the bar as I walked in. The air was dead from cigarette smoke with nicotine coating everything and everybody in the place. The homeless rubbed shoulders with the soon to be ones sharing fugitive looks that hinted at their shame. The pub was a halfway house from the barely surviving to skid row. I looked towards the barman as he served two winos cheap wine. One of them started heading towards the men’s room. His face was turned away from me, but his walk kindled a primitive recognition and I quickly felt that this might be my father. Holding an old photo that my brother had given me to confirm any doubts, I walked up to the other wino.
“Is that man, your friend that is with you, named Michael Clifford”, I asked. He answered with suspicion, “Yes, and why do you want to know”
“I’ll tell you in a few minutes”, as I ordered a beer and shared an awkward silence while waiting with my eyes fixed firmly on the mens room. The wait was not long as my father returned from the toilets and headed back up to the bar, not giving a second glance in my direction as our eyes met for the first time since I was five years old. He now stood with his back to me and started to pick up where he had left off with his friend. Becoming quickly distracted as the other man kept looking in my direction, my father turned at last to face me while still not sure whether I was friend or foe and asked, “who are you?”.
“I am supposed to be your son”, I said firmly without meaning to be. The same awkward silence was now shared by three people as my father moved slowly but cautiously several feet way from me making friendly with the exit door. His friend, with mouth open savouring every second of what was happening, was enjoying the show. I recognized my fathers fear even though a little puzzled by it and sought to reassure him. He face turned a little more pale as I said quitely, “It’s okay Michael, I just wanted to meet you”, as I went to put my arm on his shoulder. His face tightened and waited for the blow that did not come, then relaxed a little as I stepped back. That face, over exposed to the elements and self abuse, still showed reminders of how handsome he once was and how wasted he would soon look. He was now clinging desperately to the last remnants of his dignity as he put out his shaking right hand to greet mine. I shook it warmly.
In those next few minutes a lot would be said with so little words and I’m sure we were 
both relieved. Reliving our past would have changed the mood too quickly and be mentally exhausting as well, so we just danced around it. Besides, it was a beautiful day outside and I was in a very forgiving mood. I ordered three pints of Guinness to break bread with my father and his friend and savour some of the best hours we would ever spend together. We drank, sung songs, and threw some lies and half truths at each other. He told me I was very good looking, which was true, and I told him that he looked great, which was false. Talk was little enough about my mother for we both marvelled at these moments of time almost afraid to let them go; caution crept into our words to make sure we did not. He seemed filled with a new pride as I sat beside him and looked hopeful at the other customers that they might see us too. At evenings end neither of us were visibly drunk, the excitement of it all killing the alcohol buzz in us. Eventually and unwillingly we parted company, promising each other to meet again. I left him my address for he had none, and he promised to get word to my mother that I was in town.

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