Hurrying up the sidewalk I slam into a wide man wearing a starched shirt with red and grey stripes, on the phone silently facing the peripheral roadway. My body check startles him and as I continue onward through the crowd, I hear my name from a voice that can only be my fathers voice. I spin around smirking defensively and flip the man off, who as it turns out has my fathers face. He’s there in his starched shirt tucked into a hideous pair of slacks floating above an oxblood loafer. He raises up, his eyes sad and buried into deep black sockets, staring eagerly and meekly towards me. We face each other. I drop my fingers and run to hug him and call him dad. My son, he says, stinking like red meat and sleeping pills. I hold him there for a moment, squished into his widening flesh covered in shirt and offer absent love drowned in wilted distance.
I carry with me a square tray made of iron with two shallow flat surfaces, covered in yellow grime. He gave it to me to clean. It smells like his breath and feels like soap dipped in oil. I walk up a hill between rows of black fences in an arid landscape. The fences separate me from cages, each cage holding tall, strong men that glint like chrome. They are shirtless and muscular, men of every culture and history imprisoned behind the cages, they halt to notice me as I walk diligently past. I come to a long perpendicular line of black fence, and settle myself down with the iron tray balanced on my knees. There, I polish the tray with a stained rag and steel wool, removing first the caked layers of grime and oil from the tray, then the bits of black that lingered along the grooves and piping. It takes some time but soon it is cleared enough and even shines a bit when hoisted up. The sun bears down overhead, and I am to bring the tray back to my father.
I hear him still as I wake, calling my name, and that face he made like a beaten dog. The tray never made it back to him in the dream. He waits, no doubt, until then.