Really, There is no End to Ambition
I was a son. My house was a son. The city I walked in, the school books, the unexpected enlistment in the United States Navy, my career as a technical writer, my life in the public eye. They were all sons fathered by other men. And then they were mine. At least, for a moment. But I was not to inherit a son. In the tradition of my family, that starts with a single line drawn the length of a hallway, there is one direction. And you never find out where it ends. I inherited a staircase. I carry it around. I wait at the bus stop on the top of my staircase. I go to the library where only staircases are allowed. I plan special evenings with my wife where I put the staircase right between us, so we can hardly see one another. “I’m looking straight at a staircase. Where are you?”
*When I was a boy, my Father gave up three of his fingers so he could inherit a son. He told the whole world he would make him a failure. For there is nothing more cruel than success. Success is like a sky that was never allowed any staircases. Where do you go, then? How long do you stay? And when you breathe in how do you know the sky going into you is the sky that was the meant for you sky, or at least the meant for that one part of you that could fit sky, like if it was the sky in your lungs. Most people call that sky wish or determination, or maybe they call it that one time in your life something good happened and you knew it was going to be the start of something real. The future, the sky in your chest was the future. I’d breathed it in. Then I inherited a staircase. I named it Ambition. And now I’m just a man who won’t inherit a son. Think of a home that was built a long time ago in a college town. They converted it into apartments a few years ago. And they built a staircase on the outside. What would the end be like for that home? How often does it feel embarrassed just to be standing? *How is it you’re supposed to raise a staircase in this day and age? When my staircase was young, I built it a nursery. I put a planet inside there. A planet that was just forming. Which can be dangerous. My wife told me I’d need to make the walls thicker. Thicker like thick concrete at the base of a tall building. A staircase can’t breathe. It doesn’t need to breathe. We kept being afraid when it didn’t breathe. We thought at least our staircase would breathe. We had built a nursery where nothing could breathe. That’s how you make a staircase feel right at home. You’ll grow up a straight line, staircase. You’ll always be a line in this family.