I'm 28 years old in the flesh but in a mirror all I can see is a boy after his first crew cut, five years old and wondering what happened to his hair, disbelieving it would ever grow back, as the barber and his grandfather promised, while he wept, silently, trembling air through his lips, pointing at his hair strewn across a tiled floor. My grandfather unwrapped sour balls for both of us, and, leaving his Falcon behind, walked with me to the woods. These woods, he said, are yours. They were mine, but I give them to you. I am old, and it is only right they should now belong to you. I have lived most of my life in the absence of that gentle voice, and those woods of mine were clear-cut years ago, but my hair, I wear it long in honor of him.
Is that vintage? they ask. It was my father’s, I say and think of a man for whom that word meant only a crack about drink— Gimme a tall one of your finest vintage! I found it among tie pins and cufflinks in his top drawer, filched it years before I knew the word, knew only that I wanted something I could take from him who knew work and the bar better than home, something I would have never called beautiful and ruined. Crystal scratched, leather dry and stitching frayed. He never noticed it was gone, or else he never said. From his dresser to the carved wooden box I buried inside my hand-me-down chest, until the no more of him sent me rooting for some relic I could hold. Glass polished and gears set right, new band strapped around my wrist. Vintage? It’s beautiful, they say. It was my father’s, and I let them assume, inheritance or gift, that he was a man of taste, who shared it with his son.