Conscious Imperatives – Part I
A snowy road at night.
Slowly falling flakes glide across the bright beams meagerly disappearing into the night. My eyelids keep drooping, my head lolling against the seatbelt as if it were a pillow. Only the soft crackle of unplowed snow and the slight lurch of gently stopping at the gas station counteract the constant whoosh of the wipers lulling me to sleep.
I crawl from the passenger door, the cold and sudden movement waking me slightly. My feet drag designs in the heavy snow as I play my way across to the station store. I can hear the beeping of the machine and the mechanical sounds of the pump as my father begins to fill the tank.
A chime sounds its two-toned call as I slip into the fluorescent warmth and drip worldly across the tile. A woman in her mid-twenties looks up from behind the counter, turning away from the tiny TV tucked beside the register.
“Hi,” I say, greeting her with grin.
“Hi there,” she smiles back.
I slide through the aisles, my eyes darting between brightly colored bags of snack foods and candies. My hand grips the door to a refrigerated case and I pause for a second while I contemplate my choices. I snatch a juice from the rack and it instantaneously begins to sweat in the artificial heat of the store. My finger scrawls my name in the fog just before the door slurps shut. I can hear the clerk snicker along with a laugh track as I approach the counter. Through the window, I can see my dad replace the nozzle and begin carefully wending his way across the parking lot.
“Is that Monty Python?” I ask, my elbows pushing me up on the counter as I crane to see the minute screen.
“Sure is, honey,” the woman replies, a slight note of surprise in her voice. “Are you a fan?”
“Yeah!” I say excitedly, my eyes glued to the otherworldly animation splayed on the tiny television. “They don’t really show it on TV where I live, but I’ve seen a bunch of tapes of it.”
“How old are you?” she asks intrigued.
“Twelve.” I’m matter of fact, but even at that age, I know why I’m being asked. “I don’t always get all the political stuff,” I admit, offering her an answer to her unspoken question, “but the rest of their stuff is hilarious.”
The door chimes behind me as my father comes in. I don’t turn to watch him retreat for a drink like I did.
“Yeah,” she laughs, “I don’t get all of it either.”
“Oh! I love this sketch!” I cry, recognizing the dead parrot and the pat shop instantaneously.
“Is this one yours?” the woman asks as my father approaches. I let their brief conversation fade into the background, concentrating on the brilliance of absurdist humor. As the cash register clinks shut, I glance at my dad.
“I’ll see you in the car in a minute,” he says.
“Ok,” I reply, trying hard not to interrupt the show. As the general enters the store and breaks the fourth wall, I turn back to the clerk. “I don’t know why they don’t show more great old shows on TV anymore. I mean, nothing I’ve seen that’s new is as good as Monty Python.”
“I know, right?” she says.
“Well, have a good night,” I say, turning back toward the snowy drive ahead.
“You too. Stay warm,” she calls as I slip out the door.
I try to step in my dad’s footprints as I make my way back through the snow. My shoes are just a little too wide and the heavy tread of my sneakers mar the simplicity of his dress shoes. The wipers are going and heat is blowing as I slide into the passenger seat once more.
“Where’d you learn that?” my dad asks as we creak back toward the highway.
“What? You showed me Monty Python.” My brow is furrowed and I roll my eyes at his poor memory.
“Not the show. Where’d you learn to flirt like that?”
“I wasn’t flirting,” I snap, surprised.
“Yes, you were.”
“I was not! Besides, she was like thirty!”
“If you say so,” he relents with a knowing smirk, “but it sure looked like flirting to me.”
The snow continues to fall gently, our tires slowly churning the fresh layer as we cruise over it. I stare out the window, wondering if my dad was right, wondering if life is really so obscured that I don’t even know my own actions. I’m too naïve and uneducated to connect the age-old debate of ends and means, intent and outcome, but these are the issues my growing consciousness struggles with as we drive homeward.
“I wasn’t flirting,” I mumble, trying to put the issue to rest, more for myself than him.
“Sure,” my dad replies. But I’m not.
Continued in Conscious Imperatives – Part II.