May 12th, 2008 16:54 EST
He sits opposite me, the jade green table between us, and on it two cups of coffee, black, one with sugar, and all over and around, dying anger, semi-sad amusement, the not so secret knowledge that I`m being a brat, and a whole lot of love. He gets bold, bolder than this Dorman`s table has ever seen him.
"Look at you! Who do you think you are fooling with that overused tomboy persona?"
I gasp. He laughs. I struggle but the little smile wins. I reach for my cup of coffee.
"Its gone cold," he warns. I take a slug sip anyway, and he laughs again when it slurps. I can see why mum might have found him attractive. He looks pretty good at 60 years of age, a rather stocky 6ft2, a head full of wavy very white hair and eyes that darken when I`m yelling childish hurt, and turn a sparkly hazel when I`m slurping at cold coffee. I think the old goon visits a spa! How can he have skin that looks better than mine?
"Are you going to write about me again?" he asks as he motions to a waiter.
I shrug, "You write about me too, Dad." It slips out before I can stop it. Dad. It has been a long time. I have called a whole lot of other father-figured that, some who dislike the title, some who don`t deserve it. A deliberate desecration of a diminutive that should be reserved for one held in affection. A father. And now, when I bestow it upon the rightful owner, I fasten my eyes to the jade green.
"It`s okay, you know. You can call me whatever you want. I may not deserve Dad right now."
The waiter takes away the cold coffee with an order for a Cappuccino and a cafe latte. I am not particularly enthusiastic for either. I am not anxious to differ with my father, though. I am tired of fighting.
"I want to do my hair in baby locks." I announce to get away from names and titles and to open other doors. His eyes widen, and then crinkle at the edges with laughter, "Well, my apartment has one extra room, but I doubt that your attitude would fit in there. Give me a little more time, I`ll find a bigger place. So when do you want your mother to kick you out anyway?"
We both howl out with laughter. The waiter places our Coffees on the table with a rather curious expression. We are familiar sight, every Tuesday mid-morning, just after my weekly hospital visit, when I`m crappy from waiting in line then having needles stuck into my arm, and he is grouchy because I refuse to let him help. I meet him, every Tuesday mid-morning hoping to find closure every time and only succeeding in making us both miserable.
Today, well maybe for the last few weeks, I have been rethinking it all. So I`m opening doors. I have spent 19 years resenting an absent Dad and doing everything I can to be who I want to be. It wasn`t until a few weeks ago when mum, tired of my silent anger, dumped a whole pile of print outs and cutouts of articles that my father had written, that I realized just how much like him I was. So, I`m losing the need to punish him. What`s the point anyway? It seems like I might have more fun getting to know him.
"Dad, I do not wear sagging jeans." I am referring to a description of me in one of his blog rants.
"Yes, you do."
"No, I do not. I may overuse the tomboy persona as you say, but I really prefer to keep my backside covered."
He laughs; I wonder if it would have been like this if he had stayed around to raise me. We would probably just be grunting at each other over discussions about something neither of us cared much about.
"I think the mental picture is rather funny. An otherwise beautiful young woman dressed like a teenage boy and expecting to be respected."
"Well, you are a chip off the old block, and I dare say I am pretty fly, no?"
I explode at the bold conceit, the little slang and the old negative positive he always uses, that makes him sound like a foreigner struggling with the language.
"People think I am crazy. I ask for something and they give it up fast so I can go away. Dad, I want people to respect my written opinion. That`s why I study hard, and read all that crap you refer me to."
You have used that `crap` several times in your articles. But I am not the only one moldings your opinion am I? What I meant was that sooner or later your spoken opinion will be required, too. It might help if you have the wardrobe to match the strength of your opinion."
"Well, I was not gunning for public speaker."
If there is one thing in which my father and I differ, it is the ease with which he talks. I think sometimes that he would do well as a politician. He could use his fluency in speech to run the glib equivocal orations and lose everyone in the words, yet win their votes. I pause, hesitate, lose coherence and give up.
That may be the reason I went for a career in Kindergarten teaching. I can communicate jst fine with snotty poopy diapered toddlers. The other option would be to go into bartending. I`d do great with incoherent jilted drunks. But I`m no good at mixing drinks.
"There`s a job ""
"I won`t work for you, Dad." Okay so I`m still being a stubborn silly brat.
His eyes flame, his jaw tightens and I think he`ll reach out and slap me, "You`ll work for that idiot but not me?" The idiot in question did not like it when I wrote about him, So I`ll keep his identity out of this one. But hey since you know who you are, and if you are still reading articles I write; my father thinks you are an idiot. My mother would like you to come over for lunch Sunday, though.
"It was just for a while."
"What not anymore? He fired you? How dare he? That idiot!"
That`s my cue to laugh? Ridiculous! Okay, I kinda like it. My father breaking the nose of the boy I dumped.
"No, I left. I didn`t think it would do my image good to stay in a job for more than 3 weeks."
"Come and work with me."
"No. I need a place to stay though. Mum will definitely kick me out if I don`t pay rent this month."
"Stay with your mother. Take the job. You can pay the rent with what you get."
"Huh...Let me guess, normal rates with a daddy allowance on top?"
He frowns. God knows I want to run into the shelter of his wings. I think I am close to desperate, but I am more terrified of not being able to survive should he disappear again. I think I need a lot of psychotherapy! If I could afford it. Besides, it is not exactly hip for a tough tomboy to be going for sort-my-head-out sessions. The weed used to do it just fine. What would he say if he knew? Maybe he did. So what did he think? I was not going to ask him.
"Tell me about him." Change of topic, fast.
"Who? The idiot? You know all there is to know. I wrote about it remember? And you have all your little spies filling you in, no?"
"I knew you wouldn`t get back with him when you wrote about him."
"I write about you, we seem to be getting along fine."
"Fine? Okay. Let`s see, the part you admitted to still wanting him, that`s the part you got over him, no?"
"He was my first love, Dad."
"Yes, Crap." He will not explain. Why does a four letter substitute for another four letter word for excrement sound really good?
"Okay. So he wasn`t my first love. You weren`t there but you know a lot about it, huh."
"That`s old now, kid. All that I-wasn`t-there stuff. I probably did you a favor. Look at you. Stubborn, difficult, coasting through life, little brat, and complaining about it all. You will survive."
"I-, okay, so you did me a favor. Messed me up a whole lot while you were at it, didn`t you?"
"He was a power trip. He figured you out, that`s all. And now its time you figured yourself out, too."
"So tell me about him. The new one. I saw you, you know."
"You are good at that. Seeing me. Where were you anyway? Let me guess, behind another beautiful vacuous too young for you babe."
Yes, I know someone should clip me in the ear at this point. Dad doesn`t think he should be the one to do so. He is being tolerant and he is tired of it.
"I don`t live like that anymore. You however, seem to enjoy the lifestyle. And shamless, too. Making out with a man like that out on the streets."
Would you rather it was a woman then, Dad?"
His eyes widen and he wags a finger, speechless, at last. I am enjoying the tug-of-war.
"Well, Dad, what if it was a woman? Would you still care for me?"
"Just for the sake of an argument? Yes, I would still care."
"But it would bother you?"
"Yes. I would try to understand, like everything else ""
"What else?" Duh, as if there is nothing about me that requires extra patience on my father`s part. If I were him, I would have walked away from me, again, a long time ago.
"Let`s finish one fight first. I may be liberal and tolerant, I hope you are, too. I have had a few wild days. I would definitely wouldn`t curse you if you chose an alternative lifestyle ""
"Being homosexual is a choice, Dad?"
"Life is a series of choices, kid. A heterosexual may chose to live a celibate life ""
"We are talking about homosexuals. Chose celibacy to avoid societal judgement. That, or live a double life. What about deep down inside?"
"It`s not just about society."
"No? Well, God, then. So why does he make them if he doesn`t like them?"
"Uh, here we go again." That sounds like the end of that argument. Dad will not defend his new best friend.
"How do you feel?" he asks instead. I feel great. I think I like my father. He is not perfect, and shockingly conservative when I least expect it, but hey, I`m just like him. Taking life on a roll, well, he might be a bit more responsible with his life and career than I have been, but he says, "You`ll be alright, kid."