J.A. Tyler

The Mountain Lion

from The Zoo, a Going (forthcoming from Dzanc Books, fall 2013)

He showed me this picture, my dad, when it was in the newspaper. A picture I wish I hadn’t seen or looked at. That picture I want to erase from my head. Always there, the images I want to clean up, to turn back out of my head once they are there, these remembrances.

My dad, his back to me, his arms at the grill, his face unseen. Looking, looking, and never seeing him, his face, always his back and never his eyes or his mouth or his nose. That dream, that time I had that dream, where my dad was faceless, where I couldn’t find him through all the father skin.

And my mom, crying as she was then on the stoop, on the stair down from our garage to our backyard, a cigarette in her fingers and crying. It was her back too, like my dad’s, but I didn’t try to see her face. Her hair pulled up and the way her shoulders hunched and moved, it was a good enough look, enough to see she was crying, her face sad, reddish nose and cheeks.

In the mirror, the look of my face or head when I open the three-mirrored doors of our cabinets, the way I can see past myself or my own face, me going on into forever, moving my head and seeing this kid in the mirror move with me. This is how people see me, the square part of my head, my cheeks puffing out, my eyes looking at my eyes looking at the back of a head. That picture, of me going on and not looking like how I thought I looked, looking more alone even than the nights when it is dark and there is no lighted moon.

The newspaper picture that my dad showed me, my cereal in the bowl, it was a boy and his mom standing on a dirt road surrounded by the mountains that are our mountains, pine trees and grasses, brush. But his finger, my dad’s, the nail greased under and thick, pointed to it, the mountain lion’s head and ears and eyes above the grass, a mountain lion looking at the son, the mother, them standing there posing for a picture in this road, unknowing, this road in mountains like ours.

See? he asks me, and I do.

Things are hidden, that’s what I see. Even when I want to forget.

I don’t want to look at the mountain lion today. Today, I want to walk past some animals without looking.