by Lisa Kwan
Written for: The Writer's Tower
Theme: Bridge (December)
A million tiny pins were poking me in the eyes and I just didn’t want to open them and risk…more tiny pins poking me in the eyes. But the doorbell wouldn’t stop ringing.
With much effort, I managed to sit up, eyes still shut. My head was pounding like the bass beat at the club last night playing Oppa Gangnam Style.
But it could also be the pounding on my door at the moment.
A muffled: “Dad? Daddddddd. Wake up, Dad!”
The nausea returned. Oh my god. What time was it?
I stood up too quickly and almost blacked out from the vertigo. When my vision stabilized, I realized my apartment looked like a hurricane had gone through it and left all the debris behind. I guess I’d gone a little too crazy with the boys last night after our clubbing and chicks-I-could-totally-bang session back at my place. Resigned, I went to get the door instead.
“Dad?” My ten-year-old son looked up at me, relief and annoyance mixed on his face. “Thought you were dead, or something,” he mumbled as he pushed past me towards the living room.
“I’m sorry, son. I…was sleeping.” Stars started playing hide-and-seek before my eyes. I tried to swallow the rancid stench of overnight alcohol and vomit from my breath. And at the same time, swallow that lump of shame and regret down with it.
“You were supposed to pick me up from school. You forgot,” my son accused, eyes glaring. He pushed aside some empty beer cans on the couch and cleared himself a seat.
I glanced at the small alarm clock perched atop an about-to-topple-over pile of clothes and groaned. I’d slept past two o’clock?! He’d probably had to use up his allowance for cab fare to get here, by himself. And I hated the fact that it wasn’t the first time.
My boy picked at a loose thread on the armrest of the couch, silent. I sat down contritely beside him. I felt something squish under my ass, but I didn’t care. I was really sorry.
“I’m sorry, buddy. It won’t happen again, I promise.”
He scooted further away from me, pulling harder at that loose thread. The foam underneath was already partially exposed, rotting and ugly. I had to fix it.
“Whadd’ya say we get a pizza for lunch? We’ll get anything you want, stuffed crust and all.” I nudged him with my shoulder and noticed his lips fighting the urge to smile. And I resisted the urge to do the same.
He sniffed. “You…won’t be forgiven that easily, Dad.” I pulled him into a hug, which he pretended to get out of. “I know.” I wasn’t a good enough dad; that much I knew, and that made me sick to my stomach. But it felt good to hold my son. We sat in a comfortable silence.
“I want Hawaiian Chicken with extra cheese and stuffed crust. And barbecue wings.” I laughed and got up to make the order.
“And don’t forget the onion rings!”
“So…did you have a good time?” I asked, hesitantly. I was always worried. Worried my son would one day lose those rose-tinted hero glasses through which he saw his father—and I would be left to try to put the pieces back together.
“It was fun. We had pizza.” “Oh, really?” “Yeah, with stuffed crust. Stuffed crust is the best. And chicken wings. And onion rings. Hey, that rhymes!”
“So it does!” I chuckled along with him.
“Tell me about school today.” “Ooh, Mum, today in Science we learned about frogs and did you know frogs started as tadpoles that look like little black fishies and then they grow legs? And then Mrs. Raj said…” He happily launched into his I-don’t-need-to-take-breaths telling of his school day, which I absolutely loved. Reminds of when he was little and he’d go all red in the face when he told his stories.
“Oh, yeah. Um, Mum…” “Yeah, hon?” “The new Archie comic is out.” “Uh-huh.” “I think I kinda need an advance on my allowance.”
I stopped at the traffic light and turned towards him. “Why? I thought I’d given you your allowance on Monday?” “Don’t be mad, Mum, but I…kinda already spent it.” “On what, exactly?” “I…don’t want to tell you.”
He refused to look at me, but started peeling bits of skin from the sides of his nails. My mind whirled with the possibilities that he wouldn’t tell me about. Toys? Sweets? Porn?
Or…something to do with his dad. Somehow, I knew I was right. And that made my blood boil. He’s been a jerk of a husband; that I can forgive. But not a jerk of a father to our son. I believe I’ve given him enough chances.
As the traffic light turned green again, I opened my mouth to say something about that no-good father of his. “You know wh—”
“I’m sorry, Mum. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
He looked genuinely sorry, as if he had committed the worst sin in the world. When I knew he hadn’t.
I sighed. “Tell me about your day with Dad.” He looked up then, delighted. Not even surprised by the change in topic. I stole glances at him as he regaled me with what other little misadventures he’d had with his dad that day, and I couldn’t deny how his eyes lit up. I couldn’t.
“And then Dad says, ‘But you left your head!’ and I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants, Mum, it was so funny Dad is always telling me funny jokes do you wanna hear another one, Mum? A rabbi walks into a bar…”
I looked straight ahead, comforted by the sound my son’s laughter and soothing voice as he talked on and on about his father. I guess I could give him one more chance. Just one more.