Belatedly, by Internet Standard Time, I take a picture of The Smirk and strike matches, one x one, off its corners. I feel nothing for Mitt Romney, whether he is running for president or curling from the edges inward as a heliotropic fire burns him immensely. But every now & then, I get a glimpse of him in the news and I swear I see, just for a second, my own father. Which sucks.
My father was born in 1951, the year Mitt Romney would like to return the country to. America, tacitly, peaked when Mitt Romney was four years old. When he was six years old (1957), my dad fell out of a climbed tree and broke his left arm in all (then-48) states. The (way rural) surgeon who initially splinted it and then performed the restorative surgery was verifiably drunk for both (not historical fiction); the arm in question was put through a butcher’s dozen procedures grafting skin from his thigh and other unsavories which left him (miraculously, under the circs.) with 65 percent mobility and an extremity which to this day is permanently curved and gripped and withered to within an inch of Geek Love. Which didn’t prevent my father, pre-ADA, from being the proverbial first in his family to graduate from college and become a teacher and then change careers about a dozen times, from security guard (Wackenhut) to fishing-supply intake surveyor (Bass Pro Shops) to fixtures clerk (Oklahoma Fixtures) to systems analyst (California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs). He balanced himself and his family through economic mini-cyclones by occupying multi-job hallways like they were Wall Street. Now he tutors cons toward their GEDs, on the State of California’s dime; four years younger than Mitt Romney, he says he’s got the best job he ever had. Mitt ought to sign his yearbook.
These two men could talk, if they ever met, about growing up in the fifties; about the joys and spoils of Andy Griffith; about never getting a joke in their respective lives; and could easily Venn each other into oblivion. My dad is even in the beta mode of the JJ Jameson/Paulie Gualtieri white wingtips Romney has, over the last half-decade, accentuated way past the positive. My dad is Mitt Romney. The only difference is he actually worked for something besides a name and a face.
The reason I recognize The Smirk is because it’s not actually that. My dad perfected that expression decades ago and he wouldn’t know a smirk if it gave him an MRI. It’s the look he gets when he’s just ducked someone he knows but doesn’t want to talk to in the checkout line. It’s how he reacts to successfully avoiding any confrontation, large or small, the adrenaline-rush both palpable and visible. It’s not a smirk, it’s a V for Victory, relief burning through each tine. And it’s a tremulous attack against panic, which to both of them no doubt registers as the tinniest of tremors, way deep in the mineshafts of their impossibly shared masculinity.
Romney is the most pathological avoider to ever get so close to a seat of power. Which is the reason I would never vote for my dad for president. He, my dad, doesn’t like talking to people who are predisposed to dislike him. He, Romney, did it anyway (at long last) and thought he got away with something. And he did, but not for long.
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