by Armin Tolentino


You can't learn fishing from a book. Or fighting from a class.  You need a father to teach you those things.  It's true.  Paul Latcher told me this five days before he passed on, and at the time I didn't think twice about it.  Like most things he said, it was just sound to fill the silence.  That silence (and worse yet, the understanding that silence is out there constantly waiting for you) is so terrible for some that they'll keep on talking just to distract themselves from remembering there is such a thing as tomorrow.  Don't fool yourself, tomorrow will always come; it will fall upon you like a bulky scavenger bird whether you are ready for it or not.  And for some of us, guys like Paul and me especially; it'll be ghastly with that silence.

But sometimes you'll remember things you never even knew you heard before; the brain is limitless and can hold all varieties of things.  My aunt, a very forgetful woman, always said that our guardian angels would drop these memories on us when we most needed them.  For her it was usually the memory of where she left the car keys.  But maybe it's true that something invisible and winged hitchhiking on my shoulder crawled in my ear to drop these words on me at the moment I needed it most.


"You know, you can't learn fishing from a book, Kevin.  Or fighting from a class, for that matter", he said on May 22nd, my seventeenth birthday, as we sat on the docks in Annapolis watching the sun drown in the enormity of the bay like a yolk in a bowl, its membranes splitting and dripping color all over the surface of the water.  Sails of rich men's ships were falling into shadows like gigantic shark fins.

"You need a father to teach you those things," he explained further, took a pull from our bottle of Cuervo and passed it off to me.  My feet dangled over the edge and I wished it were high tide so my feet could be sunk in that water.  For some reason, something in me always follows the water; my body aches for it.  Maybe once I was a dolphin or a whale or something graceful like that in the ocean, but this life, I was a skinny teenager, stupid and vapid.  And though I wanted very much to return to something I might have been before, stubborn youth was keeping me along the same course.


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