February 7, 2002

Pool Hall

I ran into my grandfather last week in the pool hall at Mott and Houston. I was just passing by and got the urge to play. My grandfather’s been dead over a decade now. He was alone at one of the tables in back.

He looked the same as always and was smoking the same brand of cigars. I recognized the smell immediately; that’s what made me look.

Funny thing: it was my other grandfather, Abbie, who played pool. This one, Max… I never saw him play a game of any kind, not even a card game. Aren’t grandfathers supposed to play card games? All this man ever did was sit in his recliner and smoke cigars.

When I saw him I thought maybe I was wrong about him being dead. This is not as crazy as it seems, since I don’t have much contact with my father’s side of the family. It goes back to my father, who calls me once a year to say he wants to have a relationship with me. Except he doesn’t say it like that. Instead he talks in this weird lingo he picked up from The Forum, saying things like, “I want to acknowledge your willingness to put yourself out there and share your authentic truth.” I try to be nice about it – my father has feelings, the same as anyone – but it’s hard to get around the fact that my authentic truth, when it comes to him, is fuck off.

My sister is the one who keeps in touch with him, so it must have been through her that I learned that Max had died. It’s strange, though, because I don’t remember her telling me this. Or maybe it’s not so strange given that my memory is not the greatest and I hardly knew Max.

It was Abbie I knew. We were close. In fact he was the one who taught me to play pool. We’d go to a place in Roosevelt Mall and play for hours at a time.

Because of this it was confusing to see the wrong grandfather at the pool hall. And then to top it off, I had the awful feeling of wanting him to be Abbie. Because Max… Well, I don’t really know for sure, but my sister says he used to beat my father with a board or something. I don’t know how she claims to know this, but he certainly never hit me. In fact he rarely ever sat up in his recliner. Still, my sister usually knows what she’s talking about, so I suppose it probably happened.

Then I remembered something else my sister told me. Actually this was the first thing I remembered. She said that my father used to hit me as well. Just not with a board. Honestly I don’t remember what he hit me with. Anyway I can’t say for sure that it happened, except that my sister is pretty insistent about it.

So when I saw Max again, I thought about him hitting my dad and my dad hitting me, and the whole thing just put me in a shitty mood. Perhaps I overreacted, but after that I decided to leave the pool hall.

On the way out I had this crazy thought that I was going to see Abbie coming down the street. In fact I constructed this entire cornball fantasy where I run up and embrace him and tell him how much I’ve missed him. It was all so vivid that I started to sort of cry (in the pool hall, I mean), and the guy at the counter said, “You alright?” and I said, “Sure, I’m fine,” and then I got the hell out of there.

Naturally Abbie wasn’t coming down the street. I didn’t have to look to know this, but I looked anyway. He wasn’t coming.