The department store escalator was exceptionally long and slow and inevitable in is travel from the basement to the ground floor. The building itself had been there for a hundred years and had achieved landmark status as had in some ways the contents within. The reputation that it held despite several changes on management left it akin to some rich prize among the many conquered lands of mercantile excellence. The care with which it had been laid out bespoke an affinity with that of the city’s most prestigious museum. The different departments within carrying on traditions that had begun far back in the past before the current longest employee’s memory could recall. The current stocks of varied goods nervously uncomfortable of older previous brands within the creative displays that advanced that general spirit of needful desire within the store’s loyal customer base. And here he was exiting the foyer just past the candy department ascending slowing back into the hustle of the massive structure central atrium with a fast track lane to outside public transportation available through the men’s specialty department. He had taken this route from the bar down below in the corner adjacent to the subway’s pedestrian walkway. The city’s center serving as one big anonymous framework of commercial avenues that only those who had dedicated their lives to its care, maintenance and operation could feel any connection with. Its longstanding customers from childhood could only make absurd connections with the premises as a place where in childhood they might have been shopping with their folks? And of course in those old days before television and everything electronic, a destination where one would line up in the mystical white picket fenced court for the privilege of sitting upon the knee of some red faced Santa to disclose our inner yearnings for year’s end. Now one sat at the small sometimes overcrowded bar trying to make contact with someone half your age to give you a decent pour on your next round of drink.
There seemed to be a sense of terminal judgment that would descend upon him at unexpected times of the day and night that would question his continued presence in a place that held such potent memories both old and recent. This area had been the stomping ground of his father off and on many times since his earliest recollections as a child. The storehouse of memories with all its permutations of scenarios occasioning travel here with his tiny hand in that larger one were as much random as they were unique. From cradles to manhood there was me sort of scenario lived out that involved a particular mix of the necessity of work with the pursuit of pleasure. All manner of establishments from lush to seedy that could be recalled in some way having long ago been displaced by the incessant cycles of tireless physical rebirth of old to new. It was all stuffed in there within like hastily gathered clothing in a bulky old suitcase. This department store was no different in that sense from a few other places that still lingered on that those of his generation could still visit somewhat intact enough to relate to their treasure trove of bygone personal experiences. Though in this case the old painted lady had received some pretty competent facelifts that may have not left it passing for that corporate vacancy of new certainly did not betray the institution’s age as damned to elder ages past.
Every day it seemed he ran his ‘rat’ down the same ruts leading around its exterior exiting the elevated platform from points West only to race back late in the afternoon through a sympathetic internal route leading past the gauntlet of ladies’ perfumes and makeup accessories. A fast trot to make the train before the successive cattle cars were overfilled with other daily riders weary of another day’s participation in that indecipherable thing called society and desirous of arriving home to relax for a few hours before contemplating returning back the following day. One might have imagined an ebb and flow in concert with a water clock where humanity stood in for the liquid flowing about. The months that he had spent in this environment had been no different than the previous short span of eons in other nearby locations serving other organizations. Teaching downtown had a strange insular quality that only groups of mice long used to circuitous travel could fully appreciate when safely settled in their tasks in a remote location. The massive density of each of the many tightly fitted rows of commercial structures poised upon narrow causeways allowed for so many places to hide throughout the better parts of the day. One went through the motions attempting to ply their craft in a limbo of unearthly repetitive routine. Each day finding you in he exact space doing the exact same type of thing at nearly the exact same time. In his mind rested the only exceptions to this in so many infrequent expeditions with his father along for the ride in some way to fulfill all manner of tasks in memorable scenarios. He felt that he was endowed with not wanting to be with a power of X-ray eyes that could instantly cut through modern stone and steel to find the latent structures of what had once existed still being active in that receptive rhythm of this restless city. The same characters that had inhabited these confines indifferent to the fact that they had been demoted to mere phantoms in the temporal instantaneous nature of his recall. Despite so many detours to different holy stations of the cross of the many phases of his own life and that of his family portrayed here there was now the same transcendental notion that time and space were meaningless here. This place was located within the present tense of eternal. The cache of thoughts about his own father however posed another dilemma.
His had been an amazingly cohesive set of relations with those other two who even in adulthood seemed to loom over the course of his existence. Not that he was powerless or unforgiving of this influence but when by absence if finally evaporated, the void left by their passing brought forth a parallel ghost world. One that defiled the notion that there was anything else in his realm of experience to move on to. Had not his own failures with keeping confidences with the outside world come to naught after many decades he might have had both friends and family to fill that cavern? Instead it served as a lazy man’s emotional life preserver. Artifacts in patterns of arrangements untouched save for careful displacement to nudge away the mounting dust. This was the maze that in key places his barnacles attached to its overbearingly persistent reef. This blend of life its own argument for just chucking the lot to start recklessly fresh in another place completely reborn. Life was not that easy. It never was. It had after all been tried before.
The night had been restless and he found himself taken back to the previous decade when the last embers of his parent’s vigor were playing themselves out. The boundless energies of that eternally implacable will to not just survive but succeed now blunted by the final onset of the last stages of heart disease. All his armor and arms stripped from him by these ravages leaving an angry and aggressively violent shell of a man. The scenario having this lesser actor substituting for the weighty part of the man that had been there since the beginning of time. Now a hollow mean spirited angry shell that could only bully. The son caught within a back room within the same apartment that offered no doors for escape to another world outside. Just the weight of the burden of this raging juggernaut that threatened all within its midst with immediate destruction if its arbitrary demands were not met. The superficial agency of a doctor a passive indifferent player in a drama of unfolding violence. The ‘boy’ having to surprise the paternal effigy and attempt to restrain it from behind before it could do more harm to others and itself. The true element of horror being the possibility that this struggle to disarm the monster, currently unknowing of its own acts, before it brought a mortal conclusion to the life of its offspring. The only reason offered for this terrible transformation from ever beneficent all knowing entity to a forgetful relentless beast being in the final struggle of loss of all things earthly that death demands of everyone. The inability to surrender leaving that last unsullied reservoir of will to fight with the last ounce of strength anything and anyone to persist in the realm of those living. The other side of that impenetrable membrane of existence and nocturnal folly leaving the man exhausted by its realization but unmoved by its lingering terror. Convinced. The past was the past. It could never be anything else.