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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

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05.22.03, thursday night

Biking, whee!, through Oaklandís Chinatown, I pass many men I could mistake for my father. Sometimes I look again and wonder, Dad? Isnít he in San Diego? Does he have my new phone number? Did I remember to give it to him?

What is about these men that render them my fatherís doppelgangers? What is it that makes me want to bump into them, gently, with the front wheel of my copper Schwinn, just to watch his phantom start, as startled as I already am by the nature of our encounter?

Maybe their smallness reminds me of him, a smallness that would be considered lithe if their bellies didnít swell so gently underneath their meticulously pressed poly/cotton blend long-sleeved shirts from JC Penny.

Maybe it is the plastic flip-flops they wear, even with pressed slacks and their pressed shirts, falling so soft, you canít hear their feet kiss the ground.

Maybe their hair coruscates, sunlit, exactly like my fatherís salted modest afro, crinkly hard-to-tame hair that lies on the pate like a halo of dark fleecy light.

Yet perhaps they are most like my father in the brownness of their skin, a kind of brownness that shifts in memory, a brownness that changes with the light and the seasons, as hard beetlebrowed years season the skin to a melancholy that wavers between tawny to dried persimmon to night, when night is not overpoweringly black, but peach-swept, mute and suggestive of the tenderness of a father who sees his children typically when it is dark--earliest morning, right before he closes the door behind him, or late evening, just when daughter and son are hungry, tired and speechless, who wonít put words to the fleetingness of their youth, and the youth of their parents, until years and years later when they have finally found the words that fit just right.






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