His right arm felt stiff and cold, numb from the elbow down and hurting like hell from there and upward, crushed under the weight of his comatose body. What felt like an early shaft of sunrise blossomed behind his closed eyelids like a nuclear mushroom. His thoughts swam and glided in the distance. He tried to set his arms free. He knew where he was, he thought to himself, as a trace of sobriety pierced the space between his eyes. The heel of his boot was wedged in the corrugated sheet of his pick up truck, where he’d spent the night splayed on the floor. It took all his might to kick himself free.
She rose from her bed, sighed, yawned and moaned softly. She looked at her self in the dresser’s mirror and stretched, her elegant figure dropping a long shadow on a clean carpet. She turned and walked over to the expansive window, slid it open and inhaled. Fresh coffee was brewing downstairs.
He eventually willed him self to sit upright, and squinted scornfully at the horizon. He reached absentmindedly for the flask, felt around the empty box of the pick up truck for it, but found nothing. At that moment, his shoulders sagged as it hit him in the stomach; the realization of what he'd wanted to do this morning. The enormity and the gravity of it.
She showered and then dressed casually, in jeans and a light shirt. Walked down to the kitchen and sat across the table from her silent mother. Smiles and nods were exchanged before the two of them got busy having their breakfast. She soon pushed back her chair, stood up, strapped the backpack on her young shoulders and walked out of the house with a bounce in her step.
He was pushing fifty years of age, a man of no talent and no discernible assets. He lived out of his truck, ate scarcely and showered even less. As he shuffled along the side walk, arthritis and hangover keeping his stride clumsy and precarious, his thoughts shifted to her. He’ll see her soon, but he still had no idea how she’d react to seeing him. As he approached the school premises, he became more and more anxious. Yes, he was dirty and homeless, but he wasn’t stupid. He was totally aware of his deteriorating position on the social scale. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a school for middle class kids who, quite frankly, dreaded the sight of him.
She got on the bus and threw the customary greetings to the driver and her classmates. She drew the usual stares from the boys as she walked down the aisle. She was, quite frankly, the most gorgeous girl in town. And, judging by the incessant smile on her face, her seventeen years of life have certainly been full of happiness and domestic bliss. But looks are deceptive, and as she sat and stared out of the window, a wave of grief washed over her. She swallowed hard and blinked twice but did not see tears.
He finally stationed himself across the street from the school gates. The view was almost blocked by the sizable cars of parents dropping off their children. He began rocking on his feet, trying to keep warm, avoiding eye contact with the parents. He tried to look invisible, tried to hide his shame and his uneasiness; although he very much wanted to see her, he couldn’t bring himself to deal with her rejection - if she rejected him. But even then, who could blame her? The furtive glances of disgust emanating from the young and the grown-ups across the road told him no one would blame her. He grimaced and cocked his head, in time to see a yellow object moving closer.
The yellow bus came to a halt and the doors swung open. In a peculiar mix of laziness and energetic chaos, the kids began to disembark. She stood up and pushed slowly along as her friends giggled and pinched each other and moved at their own pace. She stepped down on the cement tiles and turned to move in the general direction of the school. She was thinking of dropping her backpack on the floor (for a final inspection of the books) when she thought she heard someone calling her name. It was almost a whisper, a whimper from times bygone. She stopped, thumb hooked under the strap of her backpack, and there it was again: her name intoned by a voice she was quite familiar with, albeit more hoarse that she remembered. She turned on her heel and finally dropped her bag with a thud, book inspection the last thing on her mind.
She cried as she dashed across the street and into his arms. Yes, he was a useless alcoholic who couldn’t keep a job. Yes, he was filthy and his clothes didn’t see the Laundromat in years. Yes, he’d failed her and left her under the care of her struggling, mute mother. Yes, his absence from her life was a major source of melancholy to her and something that her mean classmates thought was worthy of derision and ridicule.
And yet at that moment, at that very moment, it was as if history and its momentous burdens were suspended just so he could enjoy seeing his daughter and revel in her youth and innocence.
At that moment, nothing else mattered.