Hi Daniel and Paul,
Thanks for the pics, and for thinking of me. But I'm not quite sure why you sent them. I guess you guys were bored or whatever, and needed a bit of excitement.
"Pop doesn't sound too thrilled," I remarked as I read his email.
"He's pissed off, if you ask me. Big time."
"Beats me. He's an old dude. Old dudes get pissed off 'cause they get grumpy. Are you working on his yard again today?"
"Yeah. You got any jobs?"
"A couple. You want me to rock over to Pop's for lunch? I'm not doing anything between 12 and 2."
"Yeah. Rock over."
After Pop had opened the front door, I bladed down the hall to the kitchen. "White and one?"
"I'm working on a story. I'll leave you to do your thing out back."
When I checked the hall again, Pop had disappeared, and his door was closed. Whoa! He really was mad at me. "Pop?" No answer. I bladed back up the hall, and knocked on his door. "Pop?"
Ignoring his unfriendly, almost hostile, comment, I opened the door a few inches, and poked my head in. He had his back to me, and was staring at the comp screen. "You mad at me?"
"Daniel, how the fuck am I supposed to concentrate on writing a story if you're going to continually pester me?"
"There's nothing on the screen."
I opened the door fully, and entered the room. "Bullshit, Pop. You're mad at me. Is it 'cause of the pics Paul emailed? We figured you'd like them. Hey, I posed just for you!"
"OK, white and one… in the kitchen."
After I'd placed Pop's steaming cup of coffee on the table, then sat opposite him, I watched him take a sip, and waited for him to speak.
"No, I'm not mad at you… or Paul," he mumbled eventually. "I guess I'm mad at myself."
"When I saw those pics of you… not that they were any great revelation… I've seen you in the flesh often enough… I realized just how ineffectual I am. How on earth can I compete with you?"
"You're in your prime, Daniel," he said as he fiddled with his cup, and stirred the coffee for the umpteenth time. "I can't compete with that."
"Who's asking you to? Paul and I didn't send those pics 'cause we wanted to make you feel bad."
"I know that, Daniel."
"So what’s the prob?"
"The prob? Look at me? Use your eyes for God's sake! That's the prob. You're looking at it."
"Did you delete the pics?"
"So you liked them?"
"Yes. Actually, I printed them. They're in a frame on the dresser. You didn't notice."
"So you're not mad at me?"
"Not even for pissing in your sink or whatever?"
"Pop, will you look at me when I'm talking to you?"
"Sorry," he said as his eyes met mine.
"I don't get this compete thingy. What the fuck are we supposed to do? Swap roles? Huh? I sit at the comp and write a story while you fix the garden? Is that it? Pop, I can't be you. I can only be me. You think 'cause I tease you and stuff that I think I'm better? No way, man. I tease you 'cause I can, and you write 'cause you can. Am I making sense here?"
Pop let out a long, loud sigh before speaking. "Perhaps."
"What's this fucking 'perhaps' shit? You think I'm gonna be a teen forever? Hey, my dad died when I was five, so I didn't really know him, and it's difficult for me to see in my mind's eye what I'm gonna be like when I'm a man. Hey, you know who I wanna be like?"
"Don't say me, for God's sake."
"Daniel, listen up, and pay attention. I'm an eccentric who dresses in a towel. I spend my time writing stories about… about things that could have been. I'm a dreamer. A fantasizer. You don't wanna be like me. I remember my mother telling me that my teachers said I was bright, but that I was always daydreaming, and that I'd never get anywhere."
"Oh? OK, so who am I gonna be like? Huh? The President? Bill Gates? Tom Cruise? Larry, Curly or Moe?"
"You'll be like Daniel."
"Yeah, I'll be like Daniel. And you know what that means? That means I'll be like you."
"Daniel. Sometimes I forget that you're a teen who just doesn't comprehend certain realities." Pop started to move from his chair. "Let's forget this convo. I've got work to do."
"I'm not finished yet. OK? So sit down, and listen up. OK, so you're dressed in a towel. You know why? 'Cause you wanna be. That's why. And you know why else? 'Cause you don't let anybody push you around. You're you, and you don't let anybody fuck with you. That's what you're teaching me. And that's why I'm gonna be like you… maybe not in a fucking towel or whatever, but that's beside the fucking point. And what the fuck's so fucking funny? What the fuck are you giggling about?"
"You," he cracked. "You get so damn mad."
"Yeah, well sometimes you make me so damn mad. You and all this bullshit about competition. Hell, Pop, I could never compete with you! No fucking way, man!"
"Nor I with you."
"So what's with all the bullshit?"
"I dunno. When I saw your pics, and all that awesome physical perfection, I felt… inadequate, I suppose. There you were, displaying all your magificence and… well... being just so damn proud. I felt… inferior."
"Jeez, Pop. That's not why we sent the pics! We did it for fun!"
"I know, Daniel. I know. But try to see it from my point of view. How was I supposed to respond? What could I give you in return? Think about it. If I told you what I really thought…"
"What do you really think?"
"Stop interrupting. If I reacted like some Daniel groupy, you'd think I was a dirty old man."
"But I already do."
We both cracked big time for at least a minute, by which time Pop had lost the plot. "Where was I?"
"You were being a dirty old man."
"Oh, yes. Well, that's what worries me. I want to admire you, I want to compliment you, and I do, but…"
"That's the thousandth time you've stirred your coffee, Pop. You're gonna wear the fucking spoon out."
"You're not understanding where I'm coming from, Daniel."
"I think it's the other way around. Do you honestly think I'd tease you and goof off the way I do if I thought you were gonna hit on me or whatever? Huh? Gimme a break, Pop, they talk about teens having probs with self-esteem. What the fuck's the matter with you?"
"Good question, and I'm not sure I know the answer."
"I do. You're afraid… not of me, but of yourself. You're afraid to let yourself go. What did you think of the pics?"
"I printed and framed them. They're on the dresser."
"Did you jack off?"
"My coffee's gone cold."
"OK," I laughed as I read the look of guilt on his face. "So you jacked off. What's the biggie?"
"Nothing… if you happen to be a teen."
"Oh? So when I'm like 20 or something, it's all over? Huh?"
"No. It's just that adults don't… well, they're not quite so blatant about it."
"It's not dignified."
"I don't get it, Pop. What the fuck's dignified got to do with anything?"
"I don't suppose you could make me another coffee."
"I'm supposed to be working in your yard."
"Who’s the boss?"
"So make me another coffee."
"OK," I said as I went to the kitchen bench, and filled the jug. "So what's all this shit about being dignified?"
"Teens have a way of getting away with things that adults can't. You can roller-blade over here half naked. No prob. But if I were to roller-blade over to your house, I'd be bundled into a van by a couple of guys in white coats before I got ten yards down the street. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't make it that far. How do you kids stay upright on those damn things?"
"So whose fault is that?" I asked as the water boiled. "Yours or the guys in the white coats?"
"I'd like to think it was the fault of the white-coat brigade. Do you speak to Nancy like this?"
"I can't. I don’t cuss in front of mom, either. There's a whole bunch of stuff I can do with you that I can't do with mom or other adults… like teachers and stuff. It's totally neat being with you. It's not that I don't respect you… I do. It's hard to explain."
"Thanks… and thanks for the coffee as well. Mmmm. Just how I like it."
"Pop," I said as I sat at the table opposite him, "I think I know what you mean about old… Oops! I mean, mature guys like you not being the same as teens… like you've gotta act different and everything. And it's like I can't act like you do, 'cause I'm a teen. But we're both human, right? Jeez, Pop! What the fuck are you chuckling about now?"
"Sorry, Daniel. It's just that you make me laugh. You're quite a character. And I've just spilled my coffee, dammit."
"What did I say that was so damn funny?"
"You're a very intense young man… eager to know things… curious… analytical… you want to make sense of everything. I'm not being critical. I think you have a wonderful mind. It's just that the intensity of your curiosity becomes humorous, sometimes. But you're right… we're both human… we belong to the same race… but I think that's about all we have in common."
"So how come I trust you?"
"I'm not sure, Daniel. Why does anybody trust anybody? Maybe it's an instinct thing. Y'know, like a dog sniffing your hand before it decides whether or not to trust you. In any case, I have no idea why you trust me. It's not as if I've done anything special to deserve it."
"Yes, you have. You've been honest. You blush big time. When I do rad stuff, you freak. That is just sooo damn cool, Pop. So damn cool. Besides, it cracks me up when you get all bug-eyed."
"You have a wonderful smile, Daniel." Pop took a few moments to study my face, and was obviously entranced. "Anyway, I'd better get back to work."
"What about your writer's block thingy?"
"What about it?" he grinned.
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Diary Part 162