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The Man Without A Name

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He doesn’t have a name, not really. For as long as Michael can remember, he has been referred to mainly in the third person. His mother rarely mentioned him, but when she did it was “Your father” and “He,” and not “Aldo.”

Names are for people who deserve them, spoken to invoke or to remember. But their father is best forgotten.

What little Michael thinks he knows feels like scratchy whiskers at bedtime, with big hands and rough clothes. There’s no face in his memory, and only a single picture hidden in his grandmother’s passed-down Bible, because they don’t mourn him. They will not. He is not dead or lost or longed-for. He is the coward who abandoned them before Michael could talk.

Michael knows it was harder for Lincoln. His brother knew he was loved once (but not enough), and he had happy moments with their father that would not be repeated and that their mother didn’t much want to hear about. That’s what it is to be trapped between anger and sorrow, to be a wistful child raised by a parent who cannot forgive. There was always something like blame, or Why, or How could you stuck between Lincoln and their mother, and Michael couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

By the time an uneasy truce was reached, he’d already learned the rules: do not mention him, do not refer to him, let his mother say it if she chooses but never drive her to it. Never. Never. Don’t.

That man without a name might have looked like him, but Michael doesn’t care. He wants no part of that legacy, of anything like the weakness that let his father leave and later let his family drown. The poverty they went through, the strain of worries and unpaid rent, colored his childhood and nearly waylaid his future. They moved and moved, escaping bill collectors and trying to stretch out far enough to avoid the mistakes that can’t be overcome. Their mother got sick, and then died, and still he didn’t help them-- he didn’t come. Lincoln kept the two of them together with sweat and street-smarts and steely resolve, and that was all they had against the world.

The father that could have saved them didn’t. And that was a choice they don’t forget.

Michael knows his name, but he doesn’t think it. He doesn’t lend that recognition to the man who failed them all.

And when the chance came to liberate himself from his past, he discarded the last vestiges of that sorry excuse for a human being.

He is his mother’s son, and he survived by his brother’s iron will. That man can never touch him or label him or make him regret it.

 

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