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Creative Nonfiction

August 4th

10: 27 PM

It all happened a few minutes ago. I was sitting at my desk when he came into the room. He knocked on the open door, letting me know he was coming in and leaned his shoulder on the door frame. His gut was bulging out of his shirt as he bent at an angle. Dangling in his hand was a glass of old par and ginger ale, but it was mostly watered down at that point. His eyes looked tired and he kept staring at the window behind me. I was sure that wasn’t his first drink.

“What’s up, Dad?”, I said

He pushed himself off the doorframe, getting ready to speak but slumped back into his old position.

He looked into his drink, contemplating a life affirming matter, and decided to finish the watered-down whiskey, clinking his teeth against the glass. He lifted the glass up to the light above him, inspecting it, making sure there was nothing left.

“Everything alright, dad?”

“Oh… Yeah, son. Everything’s fine. I just… was thinking about”, he stopped, his face turned sullen, and heavy.

There was a look he had seldom seen on his father’s face. It was a troubled look, like a child standing in front of his class ready to give a presentation but forgetting all the words at the last minute.

“I’m kinda busy here, dad. Can we talk tomorrow before I leave?”

“Oh. Yeah, son, absolutely. Have a goodnight, buddy”

His turn was sluggish. He managed a half smile before I heard his staggering steps echoing through the hallway. I felt my stomach drop and the guilt started to set in. I let him take a few steps until I jumped out of my chair.

“Dad, wait up” I ran into the hallway.

There, my dad had his back against the wall, the left side of his profile illuminated, revealing the ageing skin, the scars and wrinkles prominent under the scrutinizing light – a sobering reminder of what the future held in store for me. His chin melded with his neck and I couldn’t help but picture an old solemn turtle sitting against a wall, too tired to go on. His legs spread out onto the floor haphazardly and his head kept dropping in a desperate attempt to keep himself conscious.

His speech slurred but he kept pouring out incoherent words,

“I am... sorry…

Don’t… like this…

Need to…”

“Alright, dad. Come on, let’s get you to bed”

I dropped my shoulder into his armpit, reached my arms around him and lifted him onto his feet.

“I’m gonna need your help here, alright?”

“Sure, man.. you’re just the…” stopping himself again, he looked away, ashamed, spurning himself.

I felt like a conjoined twin except my other half was wildly drunk and I had to steer for the both of us. We crashed into the wall a few times and his legs gave out on occasion. When we got to the kitchen, he looked at the fifth of Old Parr left on the table, but I picked up the pace to avoid temptation. It wasn’t easy to get him to his room which was on the opposite side of the house but what else was I supposed to do? Leave him on the floor in the hallway?

I led him to the edge of the bed, into the dark room, and he collapsed onto the mattress, face down. I was always jealous of his ability to fall asleep on command, but his method was never too appealing.

I turned him over and lifted his legs, so he could lay comfortably on the mattress. I thought about undressing him and putting on some sleeping clothes for him, but I think we were beyond that stage.

I was about to flip off the dim light of the nightstand when I saw the mess in his room. There were hundreds of papers scattered on the floor, unlabeled boxes on his desk, and crushed beer cans littered about.

This was a place I tended to avoid. There was hardly ever any reason to come in anyways. Still, I couldn’t help but feel curious about why the room had been such a disaster. I walked past the room plenty of times, when the door was ajar, and everything always looked neat and organized, where it belonged.

The room had a simple layout; it was made up of the king-sized bed and the disheveled comforter, two wooden night stands on either side of the bed, and the desk in the corner, next to the door. The only decoration there, besides his work, was a photograph of us shoulder to shoulder under baring sun. I was sporting my red polo shirt and the disheartened face of a ten-year-old boy on a golf course; he was flashing a sincere wide smile, a man content to spend time with his son.

My legs carried me to the picture like a warm magnet, as I remembered that day. I was never as good a golfer as him and I got frustrated easily. There were plenty of times I swung the club and the ball went straight into the trees or submerged in the lakes spattered about the course. You preached patience and somehow, we got 2nd place in the father-son tournament. I remember we skipped the award ceremony and went out to lunch - just the two of us. That was years ago though…

I heard a loud cough and turned around, remembering where I was, and started for the door. I didn’t like snooping around my dad’s room but as I reached for the door my eye caught the box almost falling off the edge of the desk. Inside the box were old photographs of comforting memories – reminders of days long past. There was the picture of time we stayed at a cabin during the winter, all of us huddled by the embers of the chimney, the sweet aroma of crackling firewood, opening presents under the brilliant Christmas tree. All of us were smiling, even my dad, I guess there was more to smile about in those days. Then there was the picture of father and son, sitting on an old fishing boat. I faced east with my fishing rod; he was facing west and the setting sun. I got to the last picture and there was a baby laying fast asleep on my dad’s bare chest, and the look of a man that exuded affection and warmth; the watchful, protective embrace of a man’s posterity. When was the last time I saw that look? When had I last seen my father’s eyes melt into anything but an apoplectic or indifferent gaze, when his met mine?

I saw the papers on the floor, they were old school reports, essays, assignments from over a decade of school. By the bed, another box was full of yellow lined note taking paper, which I recognized immediately. Back when my dad still worked, he spent a lot of time at the office, so in the morning I would leave little notes on the coffee machine or next to his keys for him to read before work. There were even letters I had written to Santa Claus, thanking him for the present he got me that year. He kept them all.

I went back to the desk and sat down sifting through the sensitive documents. There was another letter, at the top with my dad's handwriting, labeled “last letter” and it went like this:

“Hey dad!

You promised we would watch a movie tonight. I know you’re always VERY tired from work so I understand if you don’t want to tonight, but you PROMISED!

And you said promises are something you ALWAYS keep.

Hope you have a great day at work.

I’ll always love you, dad. Never forget that!”

Underneath the letter was his calendar and the only thing marked was the 5th of August, tomorrow, the day I was meant to be driving to the airport to go away to college. A reminder was sketched recklessly under the date, “tell son you love him”.

End of Entry

The next day, in the afternoon, where the birds were chirping their songs, in merry spirit, the sun was blasting it’s sweltering rays of heat, the car was packed, ready to go, and the departure of the son from his lifelong home had come.

The father apologized for how much he drank the night before, saying that he never usually got like that, and that he stopped remembering anything after his sixth drink.

The son asked if there was anything he wanted to say before he left.

“Nope, just good luck, and give ‘em hell”

The son looked deeply into his father’s eyes and saw no resolve, the man he saw through the old photographs, the letters kept, were just that - old memories of a time long past.

“Alright, dad. See you”

He stepped into the car, staring at the rearview mirror, and drove off, first slowly, then faster, and faster, until his father, his home, was completely out of view. 

August 07, 2020 19:47

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3 comments

Deepti Kumari
14:17 Aug 17, 2020

Amazing story. I loved it.

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James Alcivar
23:52 Aug 17, 2020

thanks friend!

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Deepti Kumari
01:52 Aug 18, 2020

My pleasure.

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