It was late July.
The summer mangoes had dropped from the trees and were lying rotting on the ground, ripped open by feasting bugs and birds. Their intoxicating, sweet smell mixed with the heaviness of the nightblooming jasmine. This languid perfume created a thick, rarefied atmosphere that at times made breathing difficult. In Miami nature is often a mix of colorful abundance and dark decay.
This evening I was walking home from a friend’s birthday party. We had listened to the new Rolling Stones album, Aftermath, then turned off the lights and pretended to make out with the nearest girl. Some party. But then, this was 1966, and I was only fourteen.
It was long after eleven o’clock. I should have been home hours ago but was having too much fun to leave the party. As I approached my father’s house, I realized that I had forgotten my keys. The porch lights were on, my father’s car was parked out front, but the house was completely dark. He must have gone to bed early.
Not wanting to startle him, I knocked somewhat timidly. A tornado of mosquitoes brought on by the summer rains swarmed around my head.
I knocked again, this time louder. “Pop, it’s me, open up.” No response. Not hearing any movement from inside, I became concerned that something was wrong. I decided to walk back to my friend’s house to use his phone to call my father. As I turned to leave, I heard the front door’s dead bolt click open. Relieved, I spun around ready to greet my father and apologize for coming home so late.
As I stood there, the front door remained closed. I was wondering if the sound I had heard was just a very loud cricket or a buffo toad looking for a mate. Then, ever so slowly, like in some black-and-white horror movie, the door creaked open. From the shadows emerged a tall man with grayish skin. I had never seen this guy before; he had the stature and demeanor of Lurch. Without any introduction, he looked at me with a cool stare and said in a flat, robotlike voice, “We are currently in communication with the master souls of the eleventh plane. Your father is deep in trance and cannot be disturbed.”
Lurch began to back away and close the door. He then paused and asked, “Why did you even bother to knock? After all, you are your father’s son. Haven’t you learned to walk through walls yet?”
The above is an excerpt from the book Walking Through Walls: A Memoir
by Philip Smith
Published by Atria Books; September 2008;$24.00US/$28.00CAN; 978-1-4165-4294-0
Copyright © 2008 Philip Smith
Philip Smith is the former managing editor of GQ and an artist whose works are in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, among many others. He lives in Miami.