Jonathan at home

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Louis, Jonathan's dad, was 13 when he saw Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night, and that was it; right there in that theater his path to manhood was set forever. Not content just to be an ice-King, he's an ice emperor. A lawyer. Precise, ordered, thoroughly controlled.

Kids try on their parents' moral garments and attitudes like trying on clothes, modeling them in the dark and obscure mirrors of their parents' eyes. In this way, Jonathan's taken on his father's sense of order. Say whatever you want - and he'll goad you to it - you can't say he's not disciplined. But he joys in fashion's chaos, in the precise and lawful way it can make confetti of other rules.

It is possible that Jonathan's life, as himself, began at a New Year's party thrown by one of his father's law firm partners. The guy's new wife was a socialite, bent on impressing everyone with brilliant NYC cred. The marriage didn't last the year; would it help her to know her stylish leather footprints are still tracking up J's soul? The things people did at that party! Things to boggle a shy, frightened 8 year old's little well-behaved mind. People yelled with happiness! There was a race in stocking feet across a vast chessboard marble floor. Most unbelievable of all, his father's face. Louis hadn't just kept silent, hadn't just maintained that chill equanimitous mask in front of which other people might do anything - he'd smiled. He'd joined in, taking off his own shoes, toting J on his back for one brief race.

It was as though the fancy-dress occasion was a neighboring country, a magic border on the quiet, careful world Jonathan had previously known. Getting there wasn't easy, but in its way that was good; protected by recognized treaties, bound - however grudgingly - by honored laws. Jonathan, who'd never felt at home with his father, seized the opportunity. He slipped the border, and, since he was just a lonely child, found himself in an empty country. He assumed its throne.

That's been, more or less, his relation with his father since. Johnson and Castro, Kennedy and Khruschev. His father, he thinks, would set the CIA on him if he could. But he can't. And the more fun country always wins, in the end. Nikita traveled a long way to meet Marilyn Monroe.

Created: Jul 13, 2012


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