by Kevin Winchester
Ye Olde Rules: Once you’ve been tagged by someone else on Facebook, you write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged.
1. When I first see a stranger, I imagine what they’ll look like dead.
2. I’m sixty-two years old, retired from my University position two years ago, and have not returned since.
3. The theme from the TV show M.A.S.H is my favorite song.
4. My book, Post-Modern Aesthetics: Suicide as Art, sold thirty-four copies. I glued the remaining copies, all 966 of them, to my basement floor and covered them with compliant beige carpet.
5. I don’t play golf, but I joined the Old Cypress Country Club. I spend Wednesday afternoons in the clubhouse, playing poker with a pharmaceutical sales rep, an economics professor from Tulane, a real estate attorney, and Ira Shuler, my oncologist. All low-stakes, ironically — nickel, dime, quarter.
6. I’ve never owned a dog, don’t understand the appeal. Who takes care of them when you’re gone?
7. At seven, when the doctors removed my appendix they discovered I had no gall bladder. They wanted to do more tests, but my mother wouldn’t allow it — no practicing medicine on her son.
8. My second wife left for good the night of our third anniversary. Some mornings when I get out of the shower, I’ll turn just so and study the purpled scar running diagonally along my shoulder blade in the mirror, remember that evening and think fondly of her.
9. I opposed the Vietnam War but during college, I could never bring myself to protest and even avoided dorm room discussions of the subject, the movement, the politics. My guilt arrived with the first casualty from Iraq.
10. Cooking is my favorite form of therapy. My signature meal is eggplant parmesan with veal-stuffed mushrooms and grilled asparagus. I preface that with a simple Cobb salad and complete the culinary excursion with apple-cinnamon dumplings. While I admit the preparation serves as therapy, eating in solitude can be counter-productive.
11. It’s been twelve years since I’ve had sex without paying for it.
12. I’ve never had a job outside of academia, never rode a motorcycle, never skydived, don’t know how to swim. Don’t know what compels me to mention these particular things now.
13. When my first wife gave birth to our son, I was in room 209 of the Park Plaza Drive Holiday Inn in Shreveport, Louisiana, with my TA, an unread draft of a story she’d written, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark. The name of the TA escapes me, but I do remember she was a redhead. Never read her story.
14. Some days I’m unequivocally convinced there are answers, most days I’m not.
15. In general, I take my religious cues from Nietzsche — god is dead and all; but recently, tempering them with Pascal’s Wager seems more prudent.
16. The only printed material I have read during the last six months is the local newspaper. For my time, traditional “book” publications are archaic and out-dated upon release. The Web is immediate — no future, no past.
17. I did not attend my daughter’s high school or college graduations or her wedding. She comes by the second Friday of every month. She arrives promptly at 11:45, toting a medium pepperoni pizza and garlic bread sticks with marinara sauce for dipping while we watch the noonday news. Her first glance at the clock occurs at 12:20 and continues until exactly one. I make the obligatory inquiries about her brother and her responses are sufficiently ambiguous. Her lips brush my left check ever so faintly as she rises — her standing, the kiss, her leaving one fluid motion as if each individual act is a component of an intricate ballet only appreciated as a whole.
18. I only have one mirror in my entire house. Their one-dimensional lies became unrecognizable.
19. I was engaged to Nancy Carrollton for thirteen months, nine days. We met at LSU during freshman orientation and I proposed on Valentine’s Day of our junior year. The wedding was planned for May 5th, the week after our graduation. Nancy and I returned to my hometown for Spring break our senior year and on a cloudless Wednesday afternoon, as she and my mother returned from a meeting with the caterers, Jim Ross ran the red light at Sycamore and Washington, killing Nancy and my mother. Seems like yesterday.
20. I don’t like pepperoni pizza. Actually, I don’t like any pizza.
21. I no longer own a cell phone.
22. I was an only child.
23. I bought my first firearm, a nice little Baretta 9mm, a few weeks ago. It’s anodized, with checkered grips for better handling.
24. For a little over a year now, I occasionally lose moments. I’ll find myself standing in the middle of an Appalachian bald. The rhododendrons are just beginning to bloom and the air is scented thick and heavy as if it just rained, but the sky gleams between azure and aquamarine, unblemished by even a wisp of cloud. A doe steps from the trees beyond the bald, followed by two speckled fawns. Naturally, they’re timid at first, wary, but the mother soon drops her tail and her babies relax. They seem unaware of my presence. I’m uphill from them and want to move closer, a photograph maybe, but I’m afraid the slightest flinch will spook them and I remain still. Beyond the deer, below me, fold after fold of blue hills roll away to the east. The slightest breeze lifts, carrying the primal salt smell of the ocean to me and then beyond. I turn and face the crest of the bald, my eyes tracing after the scent, but I don’t know why, don’t know what I expect to see. When I turn around again, the deer are gone, and with them, my moment.
25. I’ve realized I don’t actually know the person who tagged me.