Can the Working Class Speak?

Maximillian Alvarez in Current Affairs:

I regret never really getting to know my dad until after the world broke him. And it’s not like I didn’t know him well before—I did. But not in the way I know him now. I wish I had known him better before everything went to hell, before the Recession hit, before we lost just about everything, so that he didn’t have to go through it all feeling like I didn’t, and couldn’t, know what he was going through. To be perfectly honest, though, I don’t think he really knew either.

Pops was never that much of a chatterbox. So, we all had to learn how to mine his brief words for hidden meaning. My siblings and I could decipher in a quick, throwaway suggestion that we watch a certain movie with him sometime a clear message that he really wanted to watch it with us now. We could discern many fine layers of disappointment in the way he said “Mmm …” We could read his laughs like practiced fortune-tellers reading tea-leaves. And then there were his silences: The angry silence was obvious and terrifying; the smirking silence usually meant that he was still laughing inside at his own joke; the pensive silences when certain songs were playing usually corresponded to memories we had heard about enough times that we could practically see them playing out in his head.

But then, around Christmas, something changes. I see my dad sitting like a shadow. The familiar emotional cues I had once known how to read now seem lost in static, shershing and flashing on a channel we don’t get, faint, ghostly shapes swimming somewhere under the surface. Suddenly, my dad has become illegible.

It’s clear that Christmas that my parents are hiding something from us.

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