Daddy. He is my first thought as I pull out of the parking lot of the hotel. I need my daddy. He will make it alright. He will soothe the hollow ache in my heart. I make a right turn and head toward the home where I grew up. Where our story began.
Rick and Daddy went to school together and later taught at the same college. They have been best friends and colleagues for as long as I can remember. Along with his wife Becca, he often joined our family for poolside barbeques and birthday parties at the house.
Daddy has always been so serious. As head of his department, he was so focused on work and office politics, it seemed he hardly had time for us kids. But although Rick was also a teacher, he was totally different. Rick liked to have fun.
“Don, why can’t you leave your work at work?” he used to chuckle out of the side of his mouth where his Parliament cigarette dangled as he changed the record on Daddy’s turntable.
“Easy for you to say, Pal.” Daddy mumbled, handing him a Bloody Mary while peering over his black-rimmed reading glasses still resting on the bridge of his nose.
Rick would jump in the pool with us kids after lunch and sometimes he would let me and my little brother Randy take turns riding on his back. This is what I wished Daddy would have been like. But instead, Daddy would spend the rest of the afternoon in his study with his reading glasses on, grading papers or going over budgets or lesson plans.
Accessible. I guess, with my grownup vocabulary is how I would define Rick. Where Daddy seemed detached. Indifferent. But I can’t tell Daddy about what happened last night with Rick. And that makes me suffer all the more. For a moment I felt complete and utter connection, basking in the glow of his attention. Now it is ripped away I feel suddenly raw, lost and vulnerable and the world seems colder than before.
Now it just seems like a fantasy. Did it really happen at all? How could he leave so easily? I feel like being close to Daddy now will make me feel somehow closer to Rick.
I don’t know what I’m thinking. I drank way too much last night and my head feels like it is split open. I feel frantic. Like a lost child wandering the streets looking for a place to hide.
I drive past the house once. It’s not too early. But, they will think something is up. It is out of character for me to just show up like this. I’m afraid they will see it on my face–the longing, the sadness–my heart cracked open wide. Fragile.
No, it’s not like their self-assured, well-adjusted daughter at all. Mom will start fussing over me, her face tight with alarm. No, I just can’t.
I go home to the empty echo of my apartment and take a shower. Only then do I check my phone overflowing with messages from Jeremy.
“Yes.” I message back.
“Lunch sounds good.”
To be continued…