Men in Ties


The man sat on the arm of the chair, the one that Sally used to curl up on before she was taken away too. He sat in that way, my father had surely thought. I could tell my father had noticed because of the way he moved his eyes, the way that all fathers move their eyes. It was an unforgiving rolling motion which betrayed his mind’s eye and the unfortunate foresight within. Those eyes revealed that secret knowledge to me, but before I could grasp it they grew cold and recoiled behind the word father.

Almost immediately he dragged himself forward on his own armchair readying himself for the conclusion of what was to be an inevitably brief visit. It was an interruptive perch.

“Tea? Or coffee?” My father attempted to stall. But that’s all it was, an attempt. My father knew of the seriousness that permeated through the flesh of our situation, but he also knew that we lived in a world where people were skin and bones. They’ll eat you up out there was what my father always used to say. Ever since he stopped being my Dad, the Dad who brought home milkshakes and hugs, and became my father, the father labelled on brown envelopes and on the tongues of men who wore ties.

“Mr. Robinson. Sam. The matter has been discussed,” the man said. My father’s jaw switched flank with his patience. I knew he always hated when the men in ties used his first name. He thought that it was them thinking they knew you and that they owned you.

“Just say it, mate. I don’t want your bureaucratic nonsense. I get enough of that at the Post Office. These are my kids. Just say what you’ve come here to say.”

“I’m sorry, Sam. We’ve got to take her.”

I’d been watching through the crack in the door. A crack was all they gave me. I’d become accustomed to the smell of the hinge on my living room door. For the past few years my life had been in the smell of that hinge and in the crack above it. That smell was who I had been, who I was, who I was going to be, and it reeked.

“You can’t take her,” my father spoke adamant of a plastic solidarity that held us together. The man in the tie had already prepared an answer for that. The men in ties were always three steps ahead; they knew what was and what was going to be. Like when my sister and I played Battleships once and she had strategically placed a mirror to my right before we began. When I found out I kicked the game over and the pieces went everywhere. I found a piece years later, soon after she’d been taken, underneath my wardrobe. It was an aircraft carrier, but then it became my sister. Sunk and untraceable.

“We have to,” said the mouth above the tie.

I said goodbye to my father at the front door. It was then that he became my dad again, crying in his slippers. He was no longer the name on my birth certificate. He was the freckles on my shoulders, the blue in my eyes, the blood in my veins. In that crimson moment I remember my dad, the man who lost me to the men in ties.