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Michael San Soucie

perception vs. reality

You know what being a kid is like. The questions. The wonder. How with every answer, you are a little more able to read and understand the clock that ticks away, counting the precious seconds left in your life.

I was a kid with a lot of questions – still am. One of those big mysteries that always escaped me as a six-year-old was what adults did all day when they said they went to work. Questions to my dad on the matter were met with stone-faced replies of, “Computers.”

I fancied my dad a battler of dragons, that he had a suit of armor in the backseat of his maroon, turbo-charged Volvo station wagon. I was sure that a sword lay hidden in the myriad folds and creases of his khakis, and his shield was concealed under the spare tire.

No joke, our parents are our heroes.

You can imagine my shock, then, when my father asked me to go to work with him one Sunday morning. My entire frame tingled, from my straight brown thin spaghetti hair to my Velcro Nike shoes that made a slight ripping sound whenever I walked.

I sat in the front seat of the car, silent. I was just waiting for my dad to pull out his Knight Identification Card, for him to tell me everything, and explain why he had to keep it from me. For the first time in my life, the leather under me felt awkward, almost sticky, with anticipation.

As the car started to roll, I wondered how many horses my dad had at the “office.” No self-respecting knight would ride into battle in the front seat of a Volvo, and I knew that with his armor on, the sword would get in the way of the stick shift.

We passed restaurants, boutiques, malls, trees, and everything else I had ever known. My eyes were so focused forward, thinking, hoping, wondering, questioning that I didn’t notice my dad’s speaking to me. What if he even got me a suit of armor? He might want me to leave school and help him conquer monsters – I don’t know if I can leave without telling my friends where I’m going.

“Michael? Are you there? Now, when we get there, don’t touch anything. We’ve been working on a special project lately. I just have to grab something I left there, and we’ll be out of here in no time. We can go grab some lunch after, just you and me.”

My eyes bulged. This is actually happening. I’m going to see the Dallas Roundtable. From this day forward, he won’t be keeping anything from me. My hands were clasped in between my legs, and my right index finger began to twitch. My throat dried up into the biggest lump I’ve ever known, and I felt my heartbeat in my ears, like the sound of Don Quixote’s feet beating against the ground on his march toward the windmills.

I looked over at my dad, nervously glancing all around as I pivoted my body in an awkward way that left me more uncomfortable in the seat.

“Dad, what it is you really do?” He smiled slyly, which I took as an indication that I was onto something.

“What do you mean, Michael? I work with computers. It’s nothing magical, if that’s what you’re asking.” You can tell me the truth, Dad. Please. I’m old enough, I thought as I looked down at my unclasped hands, mentally tallying six fingers, each one another reason for my father not to keep the truth from me. “We’re here already, Michael. Look.”

I looked forward to see the leaves of the trees gushing together in a rustling crescendo that parted for me to a see a large building, grey and modest in its concrete steadfastness. My neck jerked, and chills ran up my entire body, numbing my skin despite the fire in my belly.

The noise died from the radio, and the engine stopped purring as my father turned off the ignitiion. Never in my life was I so scared to open a door. My feet felt like puddles of jelly as I walked toward the building, my hands so clammy they slipped off the building’s front door when I first tried to grab it. Uncontrollable excitement coated my hands in a fine layer of sweat.

We entered the building, the cold of the air conditioning from the vent above me hitting my face and blowing my wispy hair to the side. The marble floor seemed normal. The plaster walls made of some rough material I couldn’t place seemed normal. So where’s the Roundtable? I could hardly breathe out of anticipation, out of being indoctrinated into the Dallas Knights.

My dad pressed the elevator call button, which dinged with a fitting finality, as if it were the knell to my infancy. We stepped inside, and I tightly clutched the handrail. What if the other knights don’t like me? What if they don’t want me to come battle dragons out of fear for my safety? I’ll have to convince them I’m a big kid, not some little punk. I’ll have to show them I belong here.

Up and up we went. Past Floor 1. Past Floor 2. Past Floor 3. Slowly and slowly, the elevator rose. I looked over at my dad, still leaning against the wall, still clutching the handrail. He smiled paternally because he feels proud to have me here, I thought. The sharp red LED display above my head flashed the number four, ringing with the noble shrillness of a knight’s trumpet, my personal call to battle. I grabbed the rail tighter, and my hands slid, wet with eagerness. My dad said, “Let’s go, Buddy,” as the doors opened to reveal a work floor, filled with cubicles, filled with computers.