Being a rockstar doesn’t exactly pay the bills. I mean, really, what does these days, right? Or if it does pay the bills, it pays all of them at once. But that’s a pipe dream and Jasper Llywelyn had given up smoking.
He had a daughter now, I had a niece. He had to take care of her. Mom had a new baby of her own on the way by the time they left high school. She could only help so much, and especially after Jasper made the (ironically) educated decision not to go to college, to go to work instead, the pressure was on him from all sides to actually get a job, to get a trade, some certification that could turn skills into money, or at least skills that could turn said certification into a solid credit report.
When he finally found something, he wouldn’t tell us what it was, exactly. I knew it wasn’t anything sketchy (at least not in the legal sense), some kind of steel mill forty miles out of town. Nine to five, he woke up at seven and didn’t get back till after six, holding up dinner. Two hours a day, if that, barely, with his kid, to make ends meet, no wonder fathers are so cold. They never get the warmth of family.
Do I remember how much time our father spent with me?
Do I even remember who he was, by now?
It was some kind of steel mill. Heavy machinery, lots of moving parts, factory work, too fast in my visions for my eyes to track, and he never talked about it. Sometimes I would catch him using terms, we’d be talking about something unrelated, he’d draw a parallel. But then he’d realize and he’d shut down. “No, go on,” we’d say.
“Nah,” he said, “I don’t even wanna think about that.”
Because of course, he was miserable. If he’d still had a wife, if Ellen hadn’t died in childbirth, maybe things would have been different. Someone to come home to who wasn’t related. Someone to help blow off steam. I’d like to thnk she’d have been more to him, I’m just not sure what. He still had so much driving him. So much passion. So much obsession.
Every day, he’d have two hours in the car to listen to music. Other people’s music. He’d whack the steering wheel in time to the beat, sing along, even change it up a bit like was singing a cover, make it more interesting to himself.
He never talked about anybody that he worked with. Made me wonder if he talked to anyone. My brother, the chatterbox. What did he do? Was he really that miserable?
After a few months, he got a raise. A little while after that, it was some kind of promotion.
“Sweetie, why didn’t you tell me?” But I already knew ‘cause of how he looked. He looked worse. He looked more depressed. Any praise he got, any form of recognition, only drew him further into that world and it was a world he didn’t want to be in, a world that wasn’t him.
But his world didn’t want him. There was no room for him there. So he made his bed every morning and his little girl got up and played on it.