I knew a man once, he owned a set of drums. A nice set of drums, one you would dream of when you were a 10 year old boy. And he had two sons, but no wife. His sons were just a bit younger than I was and we were friends. This man, he was a hero, I think. He was a hero because of his drums and his sons and his old Volkswagon bus and because he was a man. I never met my father, I only knew my mother who raised me, single and alone.
I owned a drum, a single drum. It was a Christmas gift when I was six or seven, and I would bang on my drum any chance I could. I would stare at it other times. I would stare at its beauty and its potential, and I would admire that it could make such noise. I wondered if I would ever know how to use this drum the right way.
I hoped for a man, one who would stay and teach me how to be a man. I did not hope for a man who would marry my mom, because I did not believe my mom needed anyone else. She was a hero on her own. I hoped for a man, solely so he could teach me how to be a man. I wondered if the man with the drums could be this man. He was the manager of a fast food restaurant in my hometown. A restaurant that has long since been replaced with a Starbucks and an AT&T store. A Starbucks so surreal, it hurts to go in. There used to be an aquarium here, and a soda fountain there and a mirror on that wall. That is the where the booth my mom told me to stop eating with my mouth open was, and the menu was up there, right next to the clock where I always looked to see if it was before four o’clock so I could have dark soda. We would walk from the other side of town on these streets that I later walked from my aunts house to the hospital my mom stayed at while listening to Metallica on my headphones.
This is why I cannot return to the town I grew up. So many places that were once one thing, so many places that had so much meaning and now they are another thing, now they have other meanings for other people and those people, they are not me.
This man, he was going to teach me how to play the drums, we listened to jazz in the car when he drove me home after lessons. We sat and he told me about the music, and looked up at the stars, what few we could see outside my apartment.
One time he came to pick me up and he called when he had arrived. “How can you be outside right now if you are on the phone with me?” I asked. “Come outside and see,” he said. He was the first person I knew who owned a cell phone.
He gave me lessons, maybe four or five at first. I could never practice, I did not have the discipline, the focus, the time to take away from my books, and he would not teach me if I would not practice. So our lessons grew fewer and fewer. And as his sons got older, he spent more time with them. Then he met a lady-friend, and then he sold his Volkswagen for a mini-van, and then he sold his drums, and then he moved to a house. And now I know of him, now I remember him. When I think of drums, I think of the man who owned a set of drums, the selling of which was when I knew I lost him as the man in my life.
That was when I knew I would lose almost every man in my life.
I would learn how to be a man without a man, and what kind of man is that? A flawed reflection of a half-shell.
I guess I have done pretty well.