The trees were long bare, and the cool days of fall had morphed into the bitter cold of winter. Meredith had been walking alone, making quick time down the few blocks between the beauty school and her apartment. She barely registered him at first, standing there at the newsstand. As she passed, she heard him say, “Do you have the Journal?” and that was all it took to identify him.
When you have a father who rarely speaks, you take note of his voice. You memorize the sound, the cadence of his words, the tiny tics that make it his. Every word that came from his lips seemed to say to Meredith – Listen! In the years since he’d left, Meredith had replayed the few conversations they’d had, his voice on a constant loop in her head. She willed herself not to forget it. When she heard it that day, she was surprised that the voice did not come from within her head, but from Father himself. After so much time without him, she found herself face to face with the man who’d abandoned their family. She couldn’t think of anything to say, but – “Dad?”
His eyes widened and, for a moment, held the panicked look of an animal that’s given to run. But then they settled, and he looked at her square.
What developed wasn’t really a relationship, certainly not one between a father and a daughter. It was more a cautious dance. They spent an hour once a week over coffee, engaged in small talk. She talked about her roommate and beauty college; he talked about his accounting job and movies. The uncomfortable silences were too many to number.
She hadn’t told her mother that she was seeing him, and months went by before she dared broach the subject with Dan.
“Why on earth would you want to see him?” Dan had been predictably angry, and terribly confused. “What could he possibly do for you now?”
“It’s not a matter of what he can do for me,” she sighed. “Don’t you want to know that part of you?”
“He is no part of me.” Dan’s mouth turned down at the corners, a telltale signal that he was done with the conversation. Meredith wouldn’t doubt if no one went into the making of Dan. He seemed to spring forth, fully formed, with his hair carefully combed and his sensible shoes tightly tied. Meredith was certain she’d never be that self assured.