She smiled, sending warmth to my heart. “I remember when you were born,” she said, “and your father could cradle you in one arm. He would stand in the back of the church, rocking you to sleep. And you just slept there like that.”
He lifted me up over his head, feeding my legs through the holes between his ears and elbows. Up there, I could see everything- the hot dogs, the signs, the grass, and all the people. He held my hands as I gazed around, visions of fellowship mixing with the smells of cooked meats. They laughed. They pointed. They yelled and cheered as cars drove by. Sometimes they would honk back.
Someone was in charge, and that someone called them to action. He lifted me up and over, trading me in for a sign. I looked up to him, jealous and proud. He smiled, and handed me a matching picket. I grinned and marched along with him, the sun beating down, the breeze egging us on in circle after circle, chant after chant.
You might not think golf is loud, but it is. When the T.V. is up full blast, it’s a deafening white noise of wind and monotony. It helped him focus, get in the zone with his bag of pretzels and Budweiser.
“Who’s the best, Emmy?” he would ask me.
“Freddy Couples!” I knew.
At first, we didn’t hear her. We were sunk in, stuck skin-to-skin on the leather couches. Then she opened the door and was louder. Not as loud as him or Freddy, but still pretty loud.
I stood there, straddling my bike, feet planted on the concrete, gazing at the edge that was so far off. I smiled, eyes narrowing. I’ll be there before he can blink. The parking lot was massive, home to semi-trucks bedding down for the night. They came in and out all day long- but after sun down, this was our turf.
I hopped back and slammed my foot down, squeaking my tires to life. I pulled myself up, peddling as fast as a could. I could feel the wind rushing past me, trying to stop me- but I was unstoppable.
My bike was so much better than his. It had thick tires, gears and hand breaks. His was old and skinny- skinny body, skinny tires, and curly handles that couldn’t have been practical. I knew he could never catch me.
I grabbed his hand before they wheeled him away. I grabbed it again when it was all over. I walked into his room, trying not to vomit from how sterile everything smelled. He smiled at me, eyes all watery.
“Hi, Dad,” I choked out. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
I squeezed his hand and bent down to hug him. I felt our tears soak into each other. I never brought it up again until years later. He told me he didn’t remember any of it, from the drugs.