The phone is nestled into the pillow at the head of the bed and I’m shoulder to shoulder with John. I feel stupid for being excited, trying to talk myself out of the hopeful nerves that are tightening my stomach and causing me to curl a toe over the length of John’s calf. It’s strange- the morbid fascination I have with the relationship with my father. It’s like picking at an old scar just to watch it bleed. It stopped hurting a long time ago, but sometimes I just need to remind myself that there was something that hurt there once.
The Face time fails. The phone call that ensues is a raucous of voices with me solemnly identifying the background “Merry Christmas” as my Father’s voice. I strain to hear it again.
The phone call ends after seven minutes, the length of the call a dull set of numbers fading as my screen fades and I sigh. “That’s my relationship with my Dad in a nutshell.”
It’s dissembling and evasive as I suck my teeth and reach for another cigarette. I smoke more when I’m hurt. I can feel my lungs ache. It’s not nearly as hurtful as my embarrassment. The smoke not as damaging as the quiet that rings in the space between me and the rest of the world. I can only explain to people who understand the loneliness of missing a father that’s not actually gone. It’s something darker than blue but not as vibrant. It’s an old ache that kicks up with the weather and I brace for the coming storm, but that just leaves my back stiff and my muscles sore for something that never actually comes. A storm means that there would be a fight.
Sometime in my past I realized that I wasn’t the one worth fighting for and simply float watching the vastness of sky.
I have all these memories I keep in a cedar chest in my mind. I have all these pretty little baubles of my Father. I don’t talk about my parents. I don’t refer to them as a single family- it’s always one or the other separate and unequal. I have dancing with my Father in the small kitchen of my youth perfectly preserved because dancing with him at my wedding was as distant and unfeeling as a hand I slept on wrong. It tingles with the idea of feeling and the threat of movement, but it’s disconnected.
John frowns slightly and gives me a look that doesn’t really understand but wants to. “You okay?”
I shrug. It’s a defense. It’s a mannerism. “Yeah.” I exhale smoke and don’t quite look him in the eye. “I just miss my Dad.”