He turns up the volume
“Who sings this song? Do you remember who sings this song? Your mother used to love it”. He drives slowly when he’s playing music for me. It’s always 80’s music, mid-90’s. It’s always something with a bass line that shows it’s at least 25 years old.
“It’s Hall and Oates. Play me something a little harder to guess”. “Maneater” plays in the background while my father drives. I look at him and don’t see much of him in myself. Except maybe his long fingers and his small eyes.
He changes the song. I’m having a hard time recognizing this one. It’s a sad song. “Do you know this song?” he asks. “I don’t know this one”. He seems disappointed. “At Seventeen, by Janis Ian”. We listen to the sad song in silence while he drives me home.
My father left home when I was seven years old. He left my mother for one of his employees. A young girl with tight and short skirts. Basic as fuck. He left at the start of my mother’s health decline. I can almost pinpoint the exact moment I realized he wasn’t coming back.
My mother turned 30 and we celebrated with some of her friends at an italian restaurant. She was dating a man named Aref. A Swedish man who just moved into town. His presence and my father’s absence made it clear to me.
His absence during the months my mother went through an experimental treatment in Dallas reassured me he was never coming back. In this country, men don’t take care of children. I was a child in the custody of my mother’s friends while she attempted to save her failing kidneys.
I’m in US History class. We’re going through the Vietnam war. I’m reading deep into the Vietnamese forest when one of the pages from the office hands me a pink slip. Mr. McGrath, the Principal, wants to see me. I take my time putting my books away. I excuse myself from class and go to see him. My father had stood him up for the second time. I’m failing every class and my case is now a top priority, since I’m clearly failing because of my depression and not because of my lack of intellect. I am failing on purpose and that infuriated my teachers.
My teenage rebellion consisted upon failing every class to get my father to pay attention. He couldn’t be bothered to show up to the meetings with the Principal.
I’m lying on the bathroom floor of my apartment. Unable to get up. Tears have stopped falling from my eyes, I’m just sobbing. I’ve been there for the past 5 hours. My father walks in, throws a towel at me. Later, he takes me to visit my aunt.
“I can’t believe someone as strong as you is this shaken up after a breakup. I expected more from you”, he says.
“Do you really think they’re going to let him serve the whole four years?” he asks me about Trump. We talk about a possible impeachment as we share a meal. We walk to his car. “Do you know who sings this song?” while a cover version of “You Belong To Me” by Carly Simon plays. “No Dad, who is it?” He kisses me and says “take care of yourself”.