Fade Away Page 59

Life, Myron decided, was not that different from one of those depressing life insurance commercials.

Some neighborhood old-timers had managed to hang on. You could usually tell which houses belonged to them because—in spite of the fact that the children were grown—they had built additions and nice porches and kept their lawns well groomed. The Brauns and the Goldsteins were two who had done just that. And of course, Al and Ellen Bolitar.

Myron pulled his Ford Taurus into the driveway, his headlights sweeping across the front yard like searchlights during a prison break. He parked up on the blacktop not far from the basketball hoop. He turned off the ignition. For a moment he just stared at the basket. An image of his father lifting him so he could reach the basket appeared before him. If the image had come from memory or imagination, he could not say. Nor did it matter.

As he moved toward the house, outside lights came on via a motion detector. Though the detectors had been installed three years ago, they were still a source of unbridled awe for his parents, who considered this technological advance on a par with the discovery of fire. When the motion detectors were first put up, Mom and Dad spent blissful hours in disbelief testing the mechanism, seeing if they could duck under its eye or walk superslowly so that the detector would not sense them. Sometimes in life, it’s the simple pleasures.

His parents were sitting in the kitchen. When he entered, they both quickly pretended they were doing something.

“Hi,” he said.

They looked at him with tilted heads and too-concerned eyes. “Hi, sweetheart,” Mom said.

“Hi, Myron,” Dad said.

“You’re back from Europe early,” Myron said.

Both heads nodded like they were guilty of a crime. Mom said, “We wanted to see you play.” She said it gently, like she was walking on thin ice with a blowtorch.

“So how was your trip?” Myron asked.

“Wonderful,” Dad said.

“Marvelous,” Mom added. “The food they served was just terrific.”

“Small portions though,” Dad said.

“What do you mean, small portions?” Mom snapped.

“I’m just commenting, Ellen. The food was good, but the portions were small.”

“What, did you measure it or something? What do you mean small?”

“I know a small portion when I see one. These were small.”

“Small. Like he needs larger portions. The man eats like a horse. It wouldn’t kill you to lose ten pounds, Al.”

“Me? I’m not getting heavy.”

“Oh no? Your pants are getting so tight you’d think you were starring in a dance movie.”

Dad winked at her. “You didn’t seem to have any problem taking them off on the trip.”

“Al!” she shrieked, but there was a smile there too. “In front of your own child! What’s wrong with you?”

Dad looked at Myron, arms spread. “We were in Venice,” he said by way of explanation. “Rome.”

“Say no more,” Myron said. “Please.”

They laughed. When it died out his mother spoke in a hushed tone.

“You okay, sweetheart?”

“I’m fine,” he said.



“I thought you did some good things out there,” Dad said. “You hit TC for a couple of nice passes on the post. Real nice passes. You showed smarts.”

Count on Dad to find the silver lining. “I bit the big one,” Myron said.

Dad gave a staunch head shake and said, “You think I’m saying this just to make you feel good?”

“I know you’re saying this just to make me feel good.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dad said. “It never mattered. You know that.”

Myron nodded. He did know. He had witnessed pushy fathers all his life, men who tried to live hollow dreams through their offspring, forcing their sons to carry a burden they themselves could never carry. But not his father. Never his father. Al Bolitar had never needed to fill his son with grandiose stories of his athletic prowess. He never pushed him, possessing the wondrous ability to appear almost indifferent while making it clear he cared intensely. Yes, this was a direct contradiction—sort of a detached attachment—but somehow Dad pulled it off. Sadly, it was unusual for Myron’s generation to admit to such wonderment. His generation had remained undefined—shoehorned between the Beat Generation of Woodstock and the Generation X of MTV, too young when thirtysomething had ruled the airwaves, too old now for Beverly Hills, 90210, or Melrose Place. Mostly, it seemed to Myron, he was part of the Blame Generation, where life was a series of reactions and counterreactions. In the same way those pushy fathers put everything on their sons, the sons came right back and blamed their future failures on the fathers. His generation had been taught to look back and pinpoint exact moments when their parents had ruined their lives. Myron never did. If he looked back—if he studied his parents’ past feats—it was only to try to unravel their secret before he had children of his own.

“I know what it looked like tonight,” he said, “but I really don’t feel that bad.”

Mom sniffled. “We know.” Her eyes were red. She sniffled again.

“You’re not crying over—”

She shook her head. “You’ve grown up. I know that. But when you ran out on the court again like that, for the first time in so long …”

Her voice died out. Dad looked away. The three of them were all the same. They were drawn to nostalgia like starlets to paparazzi.

Myron waited until he was sure his voice would be clear. “Jessica wants me to move in with her,” he said.

He expected protests, at least from his mother. Mom had not forgiven Jessica for leaving the first time; Myron doubted that she ever would. Dad, as was his way, acted like a good news reporter—neutral, but you wondered what opinion he was making under those balanced questions.

Mom looked at Dad. Dad looked back and put a hand on her shoulder. Then Mom said, “You can always come back,” she said.

Myron almost asked for a clarification, but he stopped himself and simply nodded. The three of them gathered around the kitchen table and began to talk. Myron made himself a grilled cheese. Mom didn’t do it for him. Dogs were domesticated, she believed, not people. She never cooked anymore, which Myron took as a positive thing. Her doting was all verbal, and that was all right with him.

They told him about their trip. He briefly and very vaguely sketched out why he was playing pro basketball again. An hour later he headed into his room in the basement. He had lived here since he was sixteen, the year his sister had gone off to college. The basement was subdivided into two rooms—a sitting area he almost never used except for company and hence kept clean, and a bedroom that looked very much like a teenager’s. He crawled into bed and looked at the posters on the wall. Most had been up since his adolescence, the colors faded, the corners frayed near the thumbtacks.

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