The little boy asked his father what the drawing on the restroom wall was; his pointing at the graphic center, or core, of the drawing could have been called ironic.  The father responded that there was no drawing on the wall.  Had the little boy looked up at his father, he would have seen that his eyes were following the drawing’s outline.  The way the father’s head was tilted to one side conveyed a perplexity not of what the drawing depicted but of the manner in which it was represented.  It did not occur to the little boy that there could have been a reason why his father was denying the existence of the drawing apart from him not seeing it.  He was five years old.  That he would one day no longer be able to count how old he was on one hand troubled him, though he could not explain why.  He wore corrective glasses with an elastic strap that kept them from falling off a face whose shape could rightly be described as ellipsoidal.  Whenever other children called him four-eyes, he would explain that the use of that term was technically improper given that his glasses’ lenses were not eyes; he was deeply suspicious of colloquialisms, and had had his glasses stomped on just one time, by a smaller but more impulsive boy who found in his explanation a condescension that was wholly unintended.  Retribution was a concept in which he professed a personal disinterest; he had a vague understanding that believing certain things to be immutable was not the same as them actually being immutable. 

The little boy removed his glasses and handed them to his father who held them up to his face without putting them on and shook his head and repeated that there was nothing on the wall.  That the little boy could not see the drawing without his glasses did not appear to occur to the father; likewise the practical effect the father’s not returning the glasses would have had on what looked to be an impasse.  The little boy accepted his father’s proffer of the glasses and put them back on and pointed to the wall with uncharacteristic insistence, which was when the sound of someone clearing his throat came from the stall.  It was the kind of interruptive noise made from doorways and other peripheral locations to announce one’s presence, a noise, then, whose functionality was fundamentally dictated by an ulteriority.  The stall door had a stainless steel slide latch whose resistance to even a moderate degree of force was completely illusory; the door was metal and was painted the same shade of white as the walls and was covered in writing done with a felt-tip pen.

When he was older, the little boy would tell the story of the drawing on the restroom wall in a way that made it sound as if he were talking about two people who were not the little boy and his father, and he would persist in maintaining this fiction until someone asked him, in a way that was more a saying than an asking, if the (self-referential) story was really about him and his father. Looking majorly pleased/relieved, as if he had been waiting a real long time for someone to ask him that, he replied that it was. 

(N.B.  The person who asked him was not his father, whose memory by then was so shot full of holes he could hear the wind whistling through it.)

Salvatore Zoida has worked as a writer in former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's press office and an attorney.  He recently finished writing his first novel, *Bucolic Apologia*, and is currently at work on a collection of short stories.  His writing has appeared in Writers' Bloc and The Catalonian Review.

I was thinking of the dynamics between fathers and sons, and, in particular, of a father's nightmarish consciousness of his inadequacies, inabilities, and inhibitions, as a parent.  The setting -- a public restroom -- actually preceded the story; the characters organically grew into the sensorially assaultive space.  The piece is fundamentally a horror show of psychic self-pugilism.




Copyright 2009