I’m not religious, but every day I wear a gold cross that was given to me at my baptism.
It once belonged to my grandfather. It is the only thing, besides my ears, that he gave me.
It is part of a man I barely knew but love strongly to this day.
He was a lawyer who stands proud in photos, both hands in his pockets, hair slicked back. While I wait in the office, I trace a scar on my knee through khaki dress pants and count the dots on the popcorn ceiling. As a young boy my grandfather and I would make up stories about creatures drifting through stucco skies.
In the corner, a giraffe is playing hopscotch, its pimpled white legs struggling to make the next jump. My knee shakes more than the giraffe’s. A fluorescent bulb casts a halo that eases my nerves, but I can’t stop the sweat from staining the dress shirt.
A secretary behind the escarpment of a reception desk calls my name.
I can’t see her face, just the lacquered title of the law partners above her.
“Last door on the left, they’re ready to see you now.”
I stand up. I hate these shoes they click as I walk; they make me feel like a child. They were all I had for the interview. Plaques of success stories, pro bono work that had turned the partners into rich martyrs, guide me towards my future. The clippings are their way of balancing the scales of moral justice, showing interns that the sharks not only eat hearts but also have their own too.
Inside the room a woman and two older men sit behind their altar. The woman greets me, and instructs me to have a seat. There’s a photo of my grandfather with the three of them hanging on the wall above their heads. Only parts of their formers selves remain in front of me, a distorted rendering of their youth that took the right path, but somehow lost themselves along the way.
In a photo I’m shown in my entirety. I am complete: one head, ten toes, two feet. I am whole. I’m put together. Sure, you can break me down. Divide me up into pieces, to see where I fit in. You can call out my gender or whom I’ve been in.
Pick apart my clothes and decide for yourself what I’m trying to show.
Measure me and see.
Find out the exact colour balance of my skin: 72 percent red, 11 percent blue, and 17 percent green. Break me down. Distil me into a molecular mould. Why don’t you tell me what makes me whole? Where do I fit on that table of yours? I’m every atom from Adam, compounds from my own history no one knows.
Do you know why my teeth shine? What are the chemicals in this smile of mine? These teeth were cut on bone.
Draw me and see.
I’m a Venn diagram of dissonance.
Trace my actions and circle back again. Try and find where truth overlaps to suit your own need. In the middle is Me. What’s the formula for my soul? There’s an enigma in my heart I can’t balance myself. What makes you think you can make it work? I’m not a mathematician.
I failed physics. My equation doesn’t add up—but still I attract.
Ask and find out what makes me Me.
No one’s hands have ever held mine right. They’ve yet to find a gravitational pull of overwhelming magnetism. My hands, these two things with which I write, still long for a sensation that I’m not sure exists, not quite.
They still yearn to feel the calluses left from open wounds, of monuments I’ve yet to climb.
Author: Nicholas Makos
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Author’s Own