Sunday, April 26, 2020

From Volume 40: "We Could've Gone to Minot" by William Snyder

We Could've Gone to Minot
by William Snyder

my father said, but he’d made his case
to the Air Force—seniority, specialty—for
Cape Canaveral. So we drove, in 1963,
from upper New York state, my father, two
brothers and me in the Olds, and finally,
Florida’s east coast, early morning,
and the bridges across the Indian River,
the Banana—drawbridges then. Florida
damp and flat and shimmer, and three boys
and a man alone from Plattsburg
in the blue and yellow light, the water
like rippled mercury beneath the bridges.
My father, a Major, on the business end of
missile into space—how he
felt then, arriving with three boys—he’d
been in Florida alone for months away from
home, away from kids, away from wife—
my mother—my mother who stayed in
Plattsburg with a lover, with a job—her first—
nightshift waitress at a roadhouse.

We boys quiet as we rolled across
those bridges, down this morning,
no boats sailing, sunlight shifting onto
wave-face and trough—it hurt my eyes—lidless
they seemed. Me, seventeen, who would
discover Dylan soon—an LP
in a record bin in the air base store—
me, who knew Baez already, who knew
much much more about my mother, more
than my father knew himself, my father
who I hated for it all. He hadn’t had
an inkling of what she’d say when he returned.
Goodbye, she’d said. And in that car, as we
turned south on A1A, beach and sea
on our eastern horizon. I didn’t think about
him—who he could have talked to,
explained to, confessed to after his trip to
claim us, after he heard my mother.
And how his heart might’ve broken even
more there, in Florida, with just the slightest
extra flex—a drop of rain, a slow flat tire,
a son who would never ask his father’s heart.