My Dad and Shel Silverstein

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I force myself from my warm home into the bitter morning air, the kind of atmosphere that stings your face on contact. No one else was outside. Probably sleeping the few beneficial extra hours not offered to high school students. I sprint across the street as if I could outrun the cold. My neighbor and friend since the age of five, Abby, regularly drives a carpool to school for the other girls in the ward. A typical carpool would alternate drivers, but she insists. We back out of her icy driveway. Abby and I usually start our mornings gossiping about the girls we have yet to pick up or one-upping each other on an inside joke. This morning wasn’t usual. I didn’t have the words or energy to banter. My eyes were stuck to the passenger side view, and my lips were sealed as we picked up the peppy neighborhood girls.

Nobody loves me,

Nobody cares,

Nobody picks me peaches and pears.

We always arrive at school ten minutes early. Abby and I break off from the previous group to sit in the commons and wait for the school bell to ring. With red sniffling noses, we remove our winter coats to adjust to the slightly heated school. As I defrost, my eyes puddle as well. There wasn’t an obvious trigger for the tears. I don’t understand the consuming fear and melancholy that has suddenly overtaken me. I subtly wipe my eyes while Abby drones on about the “crazy” dream she had the other night. I add the occasional “uh-huh” or “Oh, that’s weird,” as I pull my phone out to divert my eyes to anything.

Nobody offers me candy and Cokes,

Nobody listens and laughs at my jokes.

This paranoia doesn’t leave as the seconds’ pass. My skin is crawling. I sneak a peak to the world outside my phone screen. Abby is still describing her night, not noticing my rapid breaths and the tears that have broken the surface tension. Nobody notices. Why do I feel like someone is watching? I turn attention back to my phone. I don’t think I can bear another minute here. I hastily type a message to my life-line. “I’m having menstrual cramps. Could you pick me up?” Sending. Sent to A Dad. Before I get a response, a loud, high-pitched bell rings. Time to drag my body to my first period.

Nobody helps when I get in a fight,

Nobody does all my homework at night.

Lights are out. The front of the classroom is illuminated by a 1980’s projector. It reads Chemistry. I slip inside. Head down to avoid eye contact, I make a beeline to the back corner chair unnoticed. My heart is in my throat. My face is wet. With my head down on the desk waiting for class to start, a short vibration comes from my jean pocket. My phone. “That’s all I need to know. Coming.” Sent from A Dad. My heart slides back to the healthy location. I’m saved.

Nobody misses me,

Nobody cries,

Nobody thinks I’m a wonderful guy.

I still have to wait for a note from the office to excuse me. My left leg is bouncing uncontrollably. My nails are jagged from gnawing. My fingers are tapping a rapid pattern. I focus on the clock’s second hand. The teacher could have the vocabulary of an adult from a Charlie Brown comic, and I wouldn’t notice. My many nervous ticks come to a halt when I see an office aid student enter the room. I can tell by the obnoxious aura of apathy that seems to be attached to her. The whole class and teacher turn their attention to the annoyed girl. She reads aloud, with her eyes attached to a yellow post-it note. “Lucy Dearden? You’ve been checked out.” I assume the second sentence was a statement, but her slacked speech seems questioning. Tears streaming down my face, I exit the classroom with my backpack hastily slung over my shoulder. I receive a second text as I speed towards an escape from this prison. A followup message from my dad, “Meet me out front.” My gait widens.

So if you ask me who’s my best friend, in a whiz,

I’ll stand up and tell you that Nobody is.

The swing of the school’s front door brings a gust of wind to my face. The once bitter cold air is now a relieving remedy. I don’t revel in the sensation long. A blunt honk sounds from the pick-up zone on the high school grounds. I race down the steps to my dad’s idling dirt-coated silver FJ. I yank the heavy passenger door. My dad’s body is contorted as he moves various items to the backseat to clear a spot for me. As he quickly twists and turns, he mutters, “Thanks for meeting me. I gotta get moving. Crazy day at the office…” His rumblings turn silent when his gaze falls on my mascara-stained cheeks.

But yesterday night I got quite a scare,

I woke up and Nobody just wasn’t there.

Avoiding eye contact, I hoist myself up to the newly-opened seat and slam the large car door in one swift motion. “I’m sorry Dad,” I whisper to my feet. I hug the backpack, my makeshift teddy bear, close to my chest.

“Don’t worry about it, Monkey. What’s wrong?” he says softly.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just really tired.” I mumble under my breath.

We silently sit in the parked truck (he insists the FJ is a truck) for what feels like a minute or two. He slips the car into drive and heads West. Our house is East. My head snaps in his direction. With evident confusion in my voice, I say, “I thought you were taking me home?”

I called out and reached out for Nobody’s hand,

In the darkness where Nobody usually stands.

He answers my question with a question, “have you had breakfast yet?”

Trying not to inconvenience him more, “I guess I can get something at home. You don’t have to — ”

“I need a large Diet Coke, maybe an Egg McMuffin too. You only eat the Hotcakes, right?” He nonchalantly adds.

I whimper, “With orange juice, but yeah. It’s the only thing they have without eggs.” I have a hint of what was happening, but now, I’m confident as we turn left at the intersection. Two bright golden arches come closer in sight. My dad enters the drive-thru.

“Will that be all today, sir?” A young man’s voice rings through the intercom.

“Could I actually make the large drink 1/4 Coke and 3/4 Diet Coke?” Dad meticulously ordered.

The employee responds with an overenthusiastic, “No problem! Pull up to the next window, please.”

My dad edges forward to pay as I hide my face from strangers I will never see again. After payment, he passes the food to me which I quickly grab to cover my face to obstruct any unwanted views. Dad drives through the parking lot and peels out to the residential road. Since it was just the two of us again, I spoke up. “So, the princess drink? I wonder how many employees have spit in your ‘special’ drink before. Notice I didn’t say ‘if.’”

“Good to know you still manage to tease me when you’re down in the dumps,” he says with a smile.

Feeling more myself, I add, “You’re bald.”

“Yep. There she is.” He laughs as he pulls on to our street.

I can’t help but crack a little smile as well. Even though my face is a mess, the tears have dried. Breathing is normal. I feel drained after my brief mental breakdown, but nothing that can’t be fixed by rest.

Then I poked through the house, in each cranny and nook,

But I found somebody each place that I looked.

Dad’s cherished car creeps onto our shoveled driveway. Once again, we sit in park. Before I escape for the warm house, he turns in his seat towards me. With a solemn expression, he leaves me with wise words. “Do you have a key?” I offer a slight nod. “Ok, good. Go inside. Change into sweats. Eat your warm, sugary, filling breakfast and take a nap. We will talk about this tonight, and if you’re willing, I would like to give you a Father’s blessing. Sounds good?”

“Yep.” I quietly respond. I feel my emotions inching back to the surface.

“Love you, Honey.” We join in an awkward, but much needed hug over the vehicle’s console.

“Love you too, Dad,” I whisper in his warm arms.

After a few pats on my back, his secure hold recedes. I grab my fast food then exit with a careful drop, a foot or two onto the cold pavement. I saunter towards my sweet home’s entrance. As soon as I reach the door. I hear a familiar yell.

“Soos! (a nickname I don’t know the origins of)

I turn around to respond.

“Yeah, Dad?”

“Don’t tell Mom!”

I searched till I’m tired, and now with the dawn,

There’s no doubt about it-

Nobody’s gone!

Poem: “Nobody” by Shel Silverstein

I mix words together in a certain order — sometimes it’s fiction, sometimes it’s non-fiction — sometimes good, sometimes not as good.

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