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While You're Away
reflecting on fatherhood
Once more the storm is howling, so says Yeats. He prayed for his daughter, yet I’ve never met a prayer, only hope.
The second you leave, I haunt your space in the living room—or you do—I never can tell. I wander around traces of you and am eventually drawn to the handprinted windows where dolls meet for tea on sills. I look beyond the rooftops and name clouds over the distant treeline. The sky changes like a mood ring. Street noises mimic violin strings and carry the sounds of Bach’s Chaconne. How I feel reminds me of coming down from so many chemicals. No amount of forethought prepares me for your departures, let alone your absences. So I cling to your tumbler and admire it as one might an urn on a mantle.
While you’re away, I reflect on mistakes that I’ve made and coddle the guilt I’ve both contrived and earned. Sometimes I sleep. Anxious thoughts knot my stomach because you’re close to your teenage years, already wearing makeup, a sip and a hiccup away from being entrapped by my genes. The present propels you into the future, nearer to my death. You continue to outgrow my imagination and alter what I believe. Still, your tumbler remains unchanged, safe on the table, where I visit when the laptop refuses to open, and words seem as distant and fable-like as you.
While you’re away, every day feels like an ending, despite my knowing you will soon be here to remind me: We are The Inseparables. Which I will echo, ignoring the fact that time moves fast through our laughter, and we will separate again.
Whenever my life ends and ‘again’ loses its meaning, will you remember my missteps and shortcomings, my inability to give you anything but fart jokes and hugs, or will the countless I-love-yous be enough for you to forget the material world I couldn’t afford and barely bothered to for reasons I hope you’ll one day learn?
While you’re away, I turn wishes into worries and stare at your tumbler, waiting for it to move.
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