by Andrea Duran.
Dad drove in silence, the yellow and orange headlights of passing cars flashing by like melted crayons smeared across a black canvas. A few cars decorated the charcoal colored lanes of the freeway. Dad drove a safe speed limit in the fourth lane, fifty miles per hour, provoking impatient drivers to cut him off after tailgating for so long. It was eleven on a Saturday night and the warm buzz cooking in the pit of my stomach calmly dissolved as he drove down East. He must have been a bit more drunk than I because he had several Long Island iced teas while I had three at Dave and Busters. We had a great time, shared a few laughs, and spent most of our money on game credit and alcohol. Abruptly, the easygoing carefree day transformed into a somber Saturday night. After a few drinks, he began sighing every few minutes and wore a pitiful mask of sorrow. This felt pathetic and I announced that I wanted to leave.
Dad and I often spent weekend nights together. Talking, drinking, and sighing. We were both lonely, in search of connection and companionship. He is a nice intelligent man in his fifties, filling the void in his marriage with family, friends, and alcohol because he is unhappy with his wife. Instead of admitting it, he calls everyone on his contact list, including me, and politely asks to go out for dinner and a movie. My stepmother did not enjoy movies and she certainly did not enjoy eating. Her pants size proved it.
I, on the other hand, am a lonely person in general. There is a strong fiery fear of intimacy and abandonment, which I despise but cannot control. Never allowing people to become close, I go into a relationship with body armor and a belief that the man is not worth it, and the relationship will soon demolish. Sometimes, I wish I could be a psychopath who lacks emotion so I would not be so afraid. It is this apprehension that alienates me from a real connection. Thus, I feel alone.
“You know sometimes I wished she’d just call me,” Dad said interrupting my thoughts. He was checking his voicemail for the third time, while glancing at the road every minute. “Although she knows I’m hanging out with you, it would be nice if she checked up on me every few hours. We’ve been hanging out since eleven this morning and Kelly hasn’t called. Not once. That’s twelve hours! No phone call, text, or voicemail.”
“Well, it’s because she trusts you.” I shrugged oddly feeling guilty for not coming up with a better answer.
Again, he sighed. Sighing has become a hobby for him.
“Yeah, but does she have to be so cold? All I want is some love and affection. Don’t I deserve that much?”
Is there a real answer to that question? Everyone deserves love and affection. Unfortunately, I am not so great at distributing any kind of love. In some ways, I relate more to his cold-hearted wife than to him. Yet, it is this trait that has placed me on an island of desolation. This fact makes it difficult to give my father advice, let alone marriage advice. I am not married and can barely function in a normal healthy relationship.
“Marriage counseling?” I suggested weakly after a few moments of silence.
“I’ve tried, she’s just not willing.”
I flipped through his folder of old CD’s and found one by Smash mouth, a band we used to listen to every weekend when he picked up my brother and me from school. I popped in the CD and “I’m A Believer” came on. Dad did not seem to recognize the song because he kept going on and on about his marital issues.
“Does she even want to be with you?” I asked in an attempt to end the aimless conversation.
He shrugged. “I mean she hasn’t asked for a separation so I guess so. Nonetheless, I think I’m going to see other people.”
My heart dropped, from my chest to the soles of my feet. I searched my father’s face, looking for a hint of humor or sarcasm. “You mean you want to ask her for a divorce or something?”
He shook his head. “Andrea, divorce is against the bible. Moreover, I’m too old for a divorce, you know? Imagine a fifty year old divorcee on one of those dating social networks, it’s sad.”
“So then how are you going to see other people?”
He smiled, and kept his eyes on the road. He exited off Sierra Avenue and pulled his car into the Chevron gas station at pump six. “Well, I just want to talk to others first, it’ll help me keep my mind off and sort everything out. After all, I can’t be the only person going through this type of thing, right?”
Confused is too light of a word for what I was feeling at that moment. It was more of an afflicted, anguished, perplexed shame I felt for my father and myself.
“What about her?”
He took in a deep breath, hung his head over the steering wheel, and stared at his feet. “I’m tired of being lonely, and unhappy. Do you know what it’s like feeling lonely in a marriage? It’s like being stuck, slowly drowning with no possibility of escaping.”
Dad looked at me for a moment before getting out of his car and swiping his credit card at the pump. He had thought about this for a while. He must have thought about it hard because I have never heard him use any kind of simile in a casual conversation. Father must have been thinking about this for weeks now.
In spite of some unstable logic to his reasons for deception, I felt bad for my stepmother. I felt angry at my father. And I felt conflicted at the difference between right in wrong. This only worsened the anxiety I have held onto for a number of years over the idea of romantic relationships. His confession brought me back to when I was five years old. All I wanted to do is kick, scream, and cry. I wanted to punch him for abandoning my brother and me at five years old. Now, I wanted to leave, walk away from the car in the middle of the night, and not turn back because he wanted to leave yet another family. He was supposed to be my role model, my superhero. Still, here he is making the same mistakes seventeen years later. But I am afraid of losing him. So, instead I tried to act as nonchalant as humanly possible.
“So, do you have anyone specific in mind?” I asked when he started the car.
“Not yet, soon though.”
“Well… what if she finds out?”
He shrugs. “At this point I don’t know if she would really care. She never calls me, and hates going out on the weekends. I really don’t know how she would find out. It’s like I’m already single.”
When he said the last sentence, his voice cracked, and the smile on his face disappeared. The grin he wore molded into a frown. The man was hurting and did not want to admit it. At that moment, I don’t believe he wanted to cheat, he was just becoming unbearably lonely. Gradually, I let go of my personal problems and suggested we go to Rubidoux Mountain in Riverside for a late night walk. Dad was still a late night adventurer, a trait I’ve inherited from him. We drove down to City Liquor, purchased a couple mini bottles of wine, and drank the bottles before embarking on our trek. We walked up the mountain a little past midnight, and watched the beautiful stars dance at night, filling in the gap we feel in our own lives.
My father and I were extremely close. He saw me as a friend, a companion, a great listener, and even a great drinking buddy. We are biologically related and it says so on my birth certificate. But no matter what I am to him or how hard I try, he will never ever treat me like his child.