Taking the gloves off
January 30, 2014
He stood in the cemetery lost in thought until an object caught his attention.
On the polished granite top of a family headstone it was out of place.
At first glance he took it for a dried branch from the overhanging oak. But as he moved a few steps closer he realized it was a lone leather work glove. He surveyed the family plot, the graves of people unknown to him, until he spied the glove’s match lying on the ground near the red clay of a recent interment.
He imagined the genesis of the gloves, how, perhaps, a long lost son had made a pilgrimage to his father’s’ grave; how before he came to the spot, the child, no longer young, had slipped an old key into a workshop door and searched for the thing that contained his dad’s essence; how he had discarded the things that didn’t matter; how he had settled on the pair of gloves his father donned each evening when he came home from a roughneck day in the oil patch.
Maybe the son thought of his father’s work shop, the place he had labored into the night with those gloves on his hands, making parts for old cars or fashioning mahogany dining tables for the homes of the advantaged, and recalled the day his father and he had their fight.
In his mind’s eye, he saw that son as he approached the headstone and placed the gloves there.
“If you don’t get your education, you’ll end up like me.” His father’s words rang in his ears. And the son had brought the gloves to him, a sacrifice to the tomb, a token of reconciliation.
Another scenario popped into the interloper’s head.
Maybe it wasn’t a son. Maybe the old man’s life long friend, his partner on endless trips to the work floors of oil rigs, had worked his last day. When he clocked out, before he drove to his house to hibernate, he had come to the graveyard, sought out the final resting place of his dear friend. Maybe he had taken his own gloves off his hands and left them there.
“It won’t be long before I join you, old friend.”
Or perhaps the worker who tended the grave, on a hot day when the tree offered a slight shade, had laid his gloves on the tombstone while he leaned against it and smoked a Camel down to a nub that stained his fingers yellow as he thought of a girl, or a drink. And then he walked away from the granite monument, giving never so much as another thought to the gloves the city issued him.
As he considered the possibilities, the stranger saw a cemetery work crew in the distance. He moved to fetch the gloves, to take them to the workers, to inquire about how they came to be in that lonely place.
Then he stopped himself.
In that moment it struck him that the truth of the gloves didn’t matter.
They had told him their stories.