Blackhumouristpress's Blog

July 9, 2010

Tightrope

Syed decided that if he was going to work for an American oil tanker transporter, he had better change his name to something that did not sound so terrorist sounding to American ears.  Syed became Sam and Sam came from Morocco and could speak perfect Arabic and French.  Through schooling in Paris, he learned to speak English nearly as well as his two native languages.

            Sam grew his hair extremely long and learned to strum chords on a guitar and before long, he was spitting out phrases in Spanish and American girls thought he was Spanish instead of a North African Arab.  Sam always did the same thing; he would walk around town with his acoustic guitar until he found a place that was friendly enough to let him bang away at Gypsy Kings sort of Spanish style music.  Before the end of most nights, he found himself in the bed of some woman in the town where the boat was docked. 

            Now this was no ordinary boat.  This boat was 1000 feet long and could hold 1billion gallons of oil.  It took quite a while for the boat to fill up and while the boat was filling, Sam went to town.  Sam signed up for a new route that took him from North Africa to Portland, Maine.  They would stop in the North Sea first and then off to Africa.  It took about a month of solid travel from Maine and during that time, Sam would sing and strum his guitar and watch old movies in English.  The idioms made no sense to him, but he was able to follow what was going on.

            It was Independence Day weekend in 2008 that Sam stumbled into town in hopes of playing his guitar and finding companionship for the evening or two.  Sam walked around the wharf area with his guitar slung over his back.  It was a warm summer day with a nice cool breeze.  Sam had forty eight hours to kill and he was determined to occupy as much time as he could in the arms of some woman.  Sam wasn’t picky.  He had women of every color and every shape in the past and did not care even if they were ugly.  They just had to be open-minded and passionate.

            Sam had little money but decided to sit down on the dock and strum away on his guitar.  People gathered around to hear the man with the nice voice, banging away on an acoustic guitar with his matted hair stuck to his face while he closed his eyes and became one with the music.  The manager of a nearby restaurant saw the people crowding around and offered Sam a job for the night playing his music in the foyer while people stood about holding drinks and waited thirty minutes or more for a table.

            Anna heard the unique music and watched the foreigner strum with fervor as his long sweaty hair stuck to his face.  She was working hard serving tables at the restaurant that was once a boat but was now a docked restaurant.  At the end of the night, the young man sat at the bar of the restaurant and could see his tanker’s lights across the harbor.  Sam was happy to have a job but really wanted to move to the United States and try to be a musician.  Anna was sitting at the other end of the bar, wrapping silverware in napkins.  She interrupted the daydreaming sailor.

            “Whaddya cawl that music?”  Asked Anna.

            “I don’t call the music anything…  It calls out to me and I answer,” said Sam with a smile.

            Anna had just decided to quit playing ice hockey on a Division I scholarship to the University of Maine and quit school in general.  Anna had taken up the guitar and learned enough chords to begin constructing her own songs.  Anna would attend open mic nights at coffee houses and bars around Portland and was posting her recorded tunes on Myspace and Facebook.  She had hoards of fans and friends but nobody was really buying her music.  It just so happened that later that night, Anna was going to be playing at a small bar off of High Street.  Anna played three songs and on the third, she asked Sam to accompany her.  Needless to say, Sam never made it back to the ship again.  Sam moved into an apartment with three other friends of friends of Anna’s who were mostly rich drug addicts that believed living did not entail working.  Working got in the way of life.  Sam had a few music gigs that he played at restaurants during the week but nothing that could sustain him on his own. 

One day while sitting on a bench at the wharf, waiting for Anna to get off of work, he noticed all the seagulls and the seagull shit that looked like splashed paint on the peaks of commercial buildings and condominiums.  Sam got the idea to go into business for himself and was able to land over a dozen accounts where by he would get on the roofs of the buildings and scrub and scrape the shit off the buildings.  It was a perilous job and one that commanded decent money.  Before long, Sam was making good money ridding the city buildings of Seagull shit, playing music and was dating Anna.  Life in America was great.

            Anna enjoyed her companionship with Sam and felt that she had a good lover and a great friend all rolled up into one.  Anna was quick to run away from things that did not make her happy and playing Division I ice hockey at University of Maine, made her unhappy and so she quit despite the fact that she knew it would break her father’s heart.

            Anna’s father, Bob, was a Lobsterman and had his own boat and made his own living working for himself.  Bob had won a settlement from the hospital that had accidentally killed Anna’s mother while she was in the hospital back when Anna was less than two years old.  Anna’s mother went in for tests and died of a punctured lung.  Bob was totally distressed over losing his childhood sweetheart and was forced to raise his daughter and only child alone. 

In the settlement, Bob received enough money to buy a two bedroom house in Cape Elizabeth, Maine which is some ten miles south of Portland and a boat with traps to catch lobster.

            When Bob wasn’t working, he was coaching ice hockey and playing it himself.  Bob coached all the teams his daughter ever played for which were teams of boys with Anna being the one girl.  Anna became very good and eventually was chosen as a national prospect by the USA Olympic committee to compete in a festival of prospects in Lake Placid, New York.  Those national camps helped to land a full ride scholarship for Anna at the University of Maine.  Bob was happy as hell to know that the only person that meant anything in his life was going to play ice hockey and live near home while going to school.

            Bob had dated a slew of women and had his share of one night stands but Anna was always the focus and women were not allowed to try and mother his Anna.  Anna grew up as her father’s little buddy.  Everywhere that Bob went, Anna would follow.  Sometimes on the boat on days off of school, the ice rink, restaurants, church and so on.  When the day came when Anna graduated from high school, the realization that a whole phase of Bob’s life was coming to an end, scared Bob.  Bob wondered what there would be beyond raising Anna.  Bob was surprised by the next phase.

            “You want that fucking swami living in ah gawd damn house…  Look, I don’t care how American he’s trying to fucking be, he’s one of them A-rabs and they’re Muslim and before you know it, your gonna be wearing a gawd damn head scaahf and bending over towards the east.  He’ll wind up taking you and your kids to Saudi Arabia and you’ll wind up like Sally Fields, trying to get the damn kids outtah the country.  You don’t think I know what these fucking guys do?  They try to blend in and then blammo!  They go to strip joints, drink baah and then crash fucking eh-planes into buildings.  Ask him if he owns a box cutter or ever wanted to fly a gawd damn plane…  Better yet, ask if he’s interested in landing one.”

            Anna became incensed by her father’s racism.  Now that Anna was a full fledged adult that was making her own money but still depending on her father to provide a home, pay her car insurance and her car note, Anna felt at ease to lay it on her dad and she did.

            “I love that so called swami… Okay?  He’s a good fucking man who isn’t like those idiots you drink with at the baah with aftah work.  You want me to marry a lawbstah man?  Is that it?  Well I know all them guys and they all fuck around and are fucking drunks.  I don’t want that for me.  This man understands me and I love him and I don’t give a fuck if he was born with a Ruby on his forehead.  You want me to move in with him somewheres else or can he stay with us?  You decide, pop…”

            It wasn’t long after that conversation that Sam was living with Anna and her father.  Bob bought a couch that had a bed in it and made it very clear that there would be no sleeping together in Anna’s room.

            “Ya gonna hafta forgive me Anwar…  I’m the old fashion type.  I couldn’t fall asleep at night thinking about my little girl fornicating with the sheik of Arabi.  Not shore what fornicating means? Look it up.  They talk bout it in the bible.”

            Bob hated the idea of having Sam live in his house with him and Anna but hated the idea of her moving out even more.  Sam would watch soccer on Portuguese language stations and strum his guitar at night.  Bob would wake up before dawn and make coffee and look over at the brownish man with long hair asleep in his living room and wonder what the hell the world was coming to. 

            Anna and Sam got along great for the most part but occasionally Anna wanted her space and this concept made Sam frantic.  Sam did not understand the necessity to be left alone now and then and took it as a schism in their relationship.  One day Sam confronted Anna on her moodiness.

            “What is going on?  I demand to know why you cannot look at me or talk to me?  Is it another man?”  Asked Sam.

            “You know what?  Fuck you and your demands.  I don’t work well with demands or commands.  I’ll talk when I’m ready.  If you don’t like it, get back on that ship and go back to Africa,” said Anna, knowing that she hurt Sam.

            Now Anna was torn suddenly.  She felt trapped by immersing her life into that of Sam’s so much so that when she came home, she felt like she had two fathers.  Anna felt a little trapped and bogged down by the commitment to live and be with Sam without any idea what direction they were really going.  For as open minded as Sam was, he was still a bit macho for a young woman who played ice hockey for most her life with boys.  Anna was not having it.

            A good looking young guy, who navigated his yacht around the world from Australia, happened to come to port in Portland and just happened to eat at the restaurant that Anna worked at and happened to take a liking to Anna.  This handsome, rich young man from Australia said all the right things and had piles of money to help his calm demeanor.  Tom had noticed that Anna was uncommonly beautiful, in good shape and yet oblivious to her physical attributes.  She was simple and plain in her conversation even though she was uncommonly pretty. 

            After several days of no eye contact, small pecks on the lips and short one word answers, Sam decided to snoop about.  What he found was Anna talking at the bar after hours with the rich yachtsman from Australia.  Sam wanted to come in from outside the window and confront Anna but he didn’t.  Sam knew that if he did that, he risked losing her.  Anna did not care for possessive behavior and would have cut Sam free most likely.  Instead Sam went back to Anna’s house, sat on the couch and began to drink beer while watching a soccer match.  Sam wasn’t really watching the game even though he was looking right at the screen.  Sam downed a six pack of Bob’s Belgian beer that was in the fridge.  Bob came staggering in at a little after eleven in the evening.  He had finished playing a pick up game of hockey, had a few drinks with the boys and headed home.  Bob was singing, Summertime by Sly and the Family Stone off key as he kicked off his shoes and greeted their Scottie dog who was ecstatic to see him.

            “Hot fun in the summertime…  Quiet ride in the country and everything is cool,” sang Bob.

            Bob noticed the drunken faux Spaniard with teary eyes and an empty six pack of his beer next to him, looking unblinkingly at the television in the dark.  Bob couldn’t think of what to say or ask.  Instead he went to the cupboard and got out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses.  Bob plopped down on the couch next to Sam and poured the two glasses half way up with rather expensive whiskey from Scotland.  He nudged Sam until Sam took the glass.  Ordinarily Bob and Sam stayed out of each other’s way as Bob hated the idea of Sam and Sam assumed it was racism that kept Bob from warming up to him.

            “You know…  I married the second girl I evah diddled…  Diddle is a polite way of saying the high haad one, the meat pistol and so on.  I was all of nineteen when I married Anna’s mum.  We stayed with her parents and her daad hated my ass.  It wasn’t til aftah Chelsea died that her old man understood that I really loved her…  You know what I’m say, Abdul?”

            Sam took offense to the nickname and had no inhibitions about telling Bob what was on his mind especially after so much liquor.

            “You think I’m some piece of shit from the Middle East, right?  Ride a fucking camel, snake charm, wear fucking robes and all that, right?  I speak three languages well enough to get a job in about forty countries and have two degrees.  I may be some sort of a let down to you but I know what I am and what I have going for me…”

            Bob put his arm around Sam and kissed him on the cheek while he poured more whiskey in his glass.  Sam was so stunned he didn’t know what to think or say.  Bob did the talking.

            “You evah see them guys who walk on a wire way up in the fucking air?  They call that thing a tight rope…  You wanna land my daughter completely, you gotta walk a tightrope.  That means you can’t act to tough or too wimpy.  You gotta take charge and occasionally let her take charge and you gotta know when to take ovah.  I know this stuff.  I been with hah since she was bahn.  I was there the moment she was bahn…  I don’t hate you, kid.  I wish you get a ha-cut and get a regular jwab but I know you’re a smaat kid thaat loves my daughter.  I can sense when someone wants just a piece of ass and when someone feels something…  That much I do know” said Bob, while taking another shot.

            Anna had come home and pulled in the circular drive and was about to open the door when she could hear her father and Sam talking to one another from the open living room window.  Anna decided to eaves drop.  She was shocked by what her father was saying and how he was trying to be a friend and father to someone he appeared to disdain.

            “I love Anna so much.  I want to marry her and have a life with her and kids and shit but I don’t wanna struggle…  You know what I mean?  I wanna be happy and have stuff,” said Sam.

            “I’m gonna give you some tips from an old man who knows a few things…  You will nevah have enough.  If you get a million, you’ll need two million.  Life will nevah be perfect and no matter how well you get along, you’re gonna piss each othah off from time to time.  That’s just life.  You two are young and you got your whole lives ahead of you as far as you know.  That’s the thing about life, you just nevah know when your last minute is coming and so you gotta live like you’re on borrowed time…  I suspect my daughtah thinks you’re just coasting and hanging on to her cause you ain’t got better options.  If you love haah, be fucking bold and do something that shows you got something between ya legs and in ya hawt…  Drink up, man.  This shit cost forty dollars a bottle and I know I’m gonna hate myself in about five hours and thaats just how it goes sometimes…” said Bob.  “Remember all I said.  You be the man when you need to be and sit in the back and listen occasionally an your gonna be fine.  Tightrope…  Learn to balance and you’ll be the king.”

            Bob eventually staggered off to bed and slept in all his clothes that smelled of sweat and seafood.  He didn’t mind and neither did the Scottie dog that snuggled up to him.  Anna came in a minute or so later and stood in the doorway crying.  Neither Sam nor Anna could say anything for a moment before clutching one another as if they would never see each other again.

            It was a little more than a year later that Sam and Anna sat on the grass of the Eastern Promenade Park in Portland, Maine, waiting for the night to come and the fireworks to begin on Independence Day.  An elderly couple walked by and stopped to appreciate the sight of a new life.  The couple both smiled and the elderly woman bent down and smiled as she held the hand of Sam and Abby’s baby girl.  An old knobby hand holding a tiny little hand and for a moment, the eyes of someone who had experienced so much in life and someone who was just beginning to live met.  Nothing was said just a smile from the old woman.  She noticed the blue eyes on a child belonging to two brown eyed parents.  The woman had to ask as many often did.

            “Who has such blue eyes in your families?”

            Sam answered before his wife had a chance to.

            “Our baby has my wife’s father’s eyes…  And his heart too.”

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