west night train.
he drinks all he can get in his body. he sniffs, smokes, shoots, swallows, and smiles in advance. the high will be so high. so high, there will be no black men getting arrested by the cops for being black. so high, there will be no mother comparing him to a no-good daddy. so high, there will be no feelings about failing. so high, there will be no one else with him. he won’t even exist. and that’s the safest place to be. nowhere.
he rolls over, vomit dried on his skin. it is three days later. his high, gone. his body full of aches. his eyes almost glued shut. the smell of piss reaching his nose before the wetness reaches his awareness. he groans.
the sound of a young child is near. loud. happy. in response to his groan. he sits up, quicker than he should. he closes and locks the door. dammit! that was close. little knocks at the door drums him back into the sleep of the dead. he sighs.
he gets dressed. wears his sunday best on a saturday night. somebody will feed her. she’ll be cool. all these women around. she always finds food. he tops off his look with his vintage over-sized purple newsboy cap.
he listens by the door. he listens for her. he doesn’t hear her. he cracks the door open to see if she is near. if she sees him, she’ll never let him go. he doesn’t hear her or see her. he steps out.
“she’s going to wake you in the morning. and i’m going to help her if you’re here.” he hears a female voice buzz near his ear. he doesn’t respond. he questions if he heard it at all. or is it his guilt? she’ll be fine. I’ll see her in the morning. yeah, I’ll get up in the morning to have breakfast together and read the paper.
he returns home, a week later. the party was never ending. he stays high. he stays not feeling. he stays going west on the night train even though he’s never moving. he keeps going west. breaking through the clouds. speeding out of time zones. touching the moon. flying over the stars. he drinks all he can get in his body. he ceases to be human. consumes whatever he can to escape the limitations of humanity
she has aged. he walks through the front door. she remains on the couch watching tv. she averts her eyes to look at him when he walks in. she looks back at the tv, choosing not to greet him. “sitting there looking just like her mama. how is that possible, my baby look at me like she do?”
he showers, changes and eat dinner. he comes to her surprised there hasn’t been one knock at his door in two hours. he goes to her, still sitting on the couch stuck in the tv.
“you wanna read together?”
“me and grandma already read the paper.”
“you wanna watch our movie together?”
“it came on last night. it’s not coming on tonight.”
“what you wanna do tonight?”
“just watch tv.” she looks back at the screen.
did i break her?
he goes and sits on his bed. motown music from the 60's playing. she usually loves this music.
“gone on in there with your daddy, baby girl.” that female voice says to his child.
“okay.” his baby girl responds.
seconds later she’s at the door. “come in. sit with me.”
she sits on the other bed instead of beside me.
“i’m sorry. i don’t really know how to be a daddy.”
“i know. it’s okay.”
“i’ma do better.”
“okay.” she looks away from him.
that’s the same look mama get when she don’t believe him.
“sometimes, i look at you and you look so much like your mama.”
“everybody say, i look like you.”
“you look like her. she didn’t love me.”
“i love you.”
“i like when we talk about movies and music. when we read the paper sometimes.”
“you know i love you right?”
“if one day i’m not here. remember that i told you, i love you.”
“where you going.”
“i might die one day.”
“daddy, you drink too much. can you die from drinking?”
“you should stop drinking.”
“i want to die. i want to drink myself to death.”
she looks at him with tears in her eyes. she stands up, tall for a ten year old. she doesn’t speak. she leaves the room.
he pushes the door close and slides the bottom drawer out. he pulls out a bottle to drink from.
years later, she sits on that other bed instead of beside him. at sixteen, he is missing her life. he’s drunk. she loves me more than a daughter should. i want her to not listen. to stay away. but i want her near. he can’t let her go. she doesn’t want to go. she sits there looking like her mama. almost no difference. almost.
he wakes up and she looks disturbed. scared. sleepy. she didn’t sleep. the expression on her face is older than her years.
“what? what’s wrong?”
“you don’t remember last night?” she asks like she’s accusing him of a crime. he sits up. last night was a blur. i don’t remember her being around me last night at all. i remember her mother. dammit! what did i do?
“you think i’m her. i’m not her. you talked to me like i was her. i’m not her. it’s not fair. she left you. and you keep bringing her back. i keep coming back. and you only see her. i don’t see her. she’s never been my mother. i’m not your wife. why can’t i just be your daughter? it’s not fair. it’s never been fair. you will drink yourself to death for her. you won’t live for me.”
“i didn’t do nothing? i was just talking?”
“i gotta go.”
“where you going?”
“to school. i’m in the middle of midterms. i’m in college. i can’t keep coming here to be your wife. i’m tired. you slept through my childhood. except to talk to her. i’m my own person. and none of this is fair.”
“i know. you don’t know how to be a daddy. i know that. and that you are fine with telling me you want to drink yourself into death. i know.”
she looks just like her.
“and i wish i didn’t know. you can be a father to your son but not to your daughter because you only see your daughter as an extension of your wife. you don’t know how to be a daddy to me. so, i know.”
“you’re mad. you should be. i’m sorry.”
“i don’t hate you. don’t get upset about it. i just thought we could do something and we didn’t do anything. and it’s okay. i have to get back to studying. i won’t be back until after the semester. you can call or come visit.”
she leaves me just like her mother did. he turns up the 60's motown music. and slides open that bottom drawer. i gotta get high. so high, i’m invisible. the west night train never stops.