They used to call me “the kid.” Now I call the kid, “the kid.” He ain’t exactly me, but like, it feels good to embrace him this way. We’re listening to the new Robyn. I tell him we should find the dudes who tour with Robyn and become the dudes who tour with Robyn. I tell him I wanna go someplace, like, someplace where I’m king. The kid laughs at me, ‘cept I’m not joking, even though the idea is funny. King Daryl.
Before any Daryl I knew was a Daryl to me I was my own Daryl, like a king Daryl. Daryl Hall. Daryl Oates. People used to walk up to me, and say, yo, you a real Daryl? I’d be like, yeah, who yous supposed to be?
Bayonne looks like the day after the after party, like some kid sister swept to the edges of a bigger dust pile. The city skyline looms over everything here, even if yous don’t see it. And the smokestacks puff like dad’s pipe did, day in and day out. I picture the old man’s legs spread out across the city streets, folded over each other, thin socks pulled up to just under the knees. And the pipe smoke sputtering out.
Pop called me “the kid.” He’d yell it into the kitchen, or towards the laundry, followed by, “is doing something.” He’d be yelling to my ma, to put out some fire I started, I don’t know. I remember if there was a full laundry basket, I’d hide inside, like a leaf pile, or a blanket pile, and wait for somebody to find me. Dad never found me, he’d just cross those legs if I was hiding, he’d light that pipe and spread the paper out in front of him. Once Pops said to me, after I yelled about living forever, “you won’t always be Daryl, kid.” He was behind a paper. “We all die someday, and then we’re not who we were.”
I was like, not who we were? I’d never thought about that. I’d killed some ants and smashed some roaches, but I never thought about not becoming something else. Makes me think of the salad I ordered the day that lady freaked. It was a pay-first situation. You give ‘em the money, your order, then they bring it to whatever booth you’re stuck in.
I was with Pops, he ordered a club sandwich. I ordered a house salad, but with Caesar dressing. Pop looked at me a little funny when I ordered it, but I told him, the house salad’s got more stuff. Then I smacked my hand against my own forehead, and dad looked at me, like, you’re a weird kid, kid. I circled back. I asked the big haired lady in the blue apron, “I would like to add grilled chicken on that salad.”
“Youwannado what?” she asked me back. Yo, her hair was like an orange cone behind the counter.
“I wanna add chicken to my salad.”
“Let me get this straight,” she said, looking over her black rimmed glasses. “You wanna put a chicken? On your salad?” At this point I just nod my head. “The house salad? With Caesar dressing?”
“Yeah, grilled chicken.”
“Sheila,” the waitress yells at some identical waitress. “This girl. She wants to put a chicken. On her salad.”
“I am real live boy, miss,” I say.
“She wantstodo what?” Sheila yells back.
“Wants to put chicken. On her salad.”
“The house salad? With Caesar dressing?”
“Yeah, you ever heard of it?”
“I never heard of it. Louie!” Sheila screams while slowly turning towards the chef in the order-up window. “This girl! She wantstoputtachicken on a salad. You ever heard of it?
“No I never heard of it,” says Louie.
“Well can you do it?” says the waitress.
“I could try,” says the chef from his window.
I lean over to the waitress, and tell her, “yo, I am a boy.” She just raises her eyebrows at me, like, sure, kid. When I get back to Pops his friggin’ legs are up on my part of the booth, the paper’s splayed out in front of him. I’m like, yo, lemme sit.
“That was weird dad,” I say.
“What?” says the paper.
“They had a real hard time figuring out I wanted chicken on my salad.”
“You wanted what?” I don’t respond to him behind the paper, ‘cause like, I’m pretty sure he ain’t listening to begin with.
Couple minutes later, Sheila brings over the salad, looking like any other salad with grilled strips of chicken on top. It looks just like it should, but she’s looking at me like I’m the crazy one. “We had to think about that one,” she says. She places the club sandwich in front of pops and walks away.
“Being difficult,” says Pop. “Nobody likes a difficult kid, kid.”
I knew I’d prolly have a kid someday. And I also knew, just then, I wouldn’t give the kid grief, ‘cause grief sucks. Yo, and then I found out something else too. There was another Daryl, some kind of kid robot, and that’s what everybody was asking when they were asking me if I was a real Daryl. I stayed Daryl, because Daryl is the only thing I ever knew how to be. And like, what else do you call a thing but what it is?