The smoke billows up in black, peppery clouds of noxious stench.
It’s a reminder of how bleak today is supposed to be.
You don’t care.
You feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest. An odd sense
of relief washes over you.
A father should feel guilt and regret when leaving his family.
Your small, brown suitcase is worn with overuse. Its small, black handle provides some form of comfort to your trembling hands.
Being kicked out by her is the worst feeling in the world.
“Marco, you horrible, useless, bastard!”
“I wish you were dead.”
“You don’t deserve to be around the twins! You gave up that right
when you quit your job.”
The job…how long ago was that?
Four years. Four years ago, you were an entirely different person.
You used to come home with double chocolate chip cookies for the girls, who’d rush to the door as soon as they heard the grr-grr of the opening garage door.
Unlike the two overeager spawn, she would lean against the counter, wait for their frenzy to die down, then land a soft peck on your cheek and help you with the bags.
Gods, that seems too long ago.
Sunday movie nights and Scrabble battles and putting the girls to
bed with her.
Baking adventures and early morning walks and writing songs for her.
Folding clothes and cleaning the toy room and vacuuming with her.
Even the most mundane of things press at the back of your mind in bouts of steaming nostalgia.
But like she used to say, you don’t deserve to be around the twins.
They need a father who won’t drink away his days. They need a father who’ll help them with history homework and practice with them for basketball tryouts. They need a father who’ll be ready to confront the parents of anyone who hurts them.
That’s not you, and you damn well know that.
After the job left, everything else seemed to go downhill, too.
Money became short, and she grew tired of working late nights.
She’d yell till her voice broke into hoarse sobs, till your glass became empty.
Till the twins came downstairs, asking, “Mama? Why are you yelling at Papá?”
That was the only time of the day where both of you would be working in unison.
She would hastily usher them back to their room while you’d clean up the mess of spilled drink and overturned glasses.
She would promise them nothing was wrong while you’d tuck them in snugly.
She would softly sing them bedtime stories while you’d stagger off to the master bedroom, washing out the reek of alcohol with sink water.
And then, you’d both go to sleep, albeit on opposite ends of the bed.
In those four years after the job, life hadn’t been perfect. But it had been good.
There were those scattered moments in the mess of your life, moments where she’d remember the passion in who they used to be.
Like dancing in the rain and racing to the minivan after a grocery run.
Like piggybacking the girls and swinging them round and round on lazy Saturday afternoons.
Like the occasional date night where you said something she found hilarious, and couldn’t stop from exploding in hyena-like laughter.
Gods, the way she wouldn’t care when the entire restaurant would turn to look at her.
You’d like nothing more than to slink back into her arms and fall asleep there.
But alas, today was the last straw.
You were supposed to show up for the twins’ science fair. They had been working for months on a hydraulic arm. Their teacher had been impressed, saying most sixth-graders wouldn’t even know what “hydraulic” meant. You had come home with beaming, buoyant girls who wouldn’t stop chattering on the ride back.
When the day finally came, you didn’t come. You didn’t record them with the new camera she’d gotten you.
Instead, you were holed up in the garage, drinking the last of the tequila, breaking the bottle soon after.
She didn’t know—which was precisely why you chose to do it.
But when she came back with sobbing girls that afternoon, when she saw the wreckage on the garage floor, she swiftly sent them to their rooms and unleashed a verbal torrent of rage on you.
“How dare you?”
“You know how much this meant to them.”
“You’re done. Get out before I call the cops,” and “Out!” when you stood there, a gaping fool.
You barely had enough time to back the remnants of your life into the suitcase.
Now, you look down.
It’s the only thing that’s remained constant in your life.
The previous two times she kicked you out, you had it with you.
This time is no different.
Only that you know that you’re not coming back.
She won’t let you.
You know you failed her as a husband and your girls as a father.
That’s in the past.
What comes next? The train station is the only exciting prospect that lies ahead.
Forcing a smile, you hustle towards the entrance of the vehicle.
It’s a while until they let you in.
Perhaps many fellow disgraced fathers are amongst you.
Perhaps you’re not the only one who’s failed in your duty.
Perhaps hope still lies ahead for your wretched soul.
The smoking train doesn’t promise any new beginnings, only an end.
The suitcase grows heavier and warmer beneath your sweating
It drags its weight across the carpet.
The soft screeching earns you a few dirty looks from the elderly couple behind you, but you turn your head the other way.
The suitcase feels the same way you do.
It doesn’t want to leave. The wheels stick and grumble while turning, trying to hold on to some vestige of your past life.
It knows there are so many more things to say.
It knows there are so many more things to do.
And it also knows that now, forever and always, it is inevitably late.