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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fairytale, Nikki Dolson

We met the night he lost his father.
     At a stoplight, this man, Michael, gestured for me to roll down my window. He spoke quickly and there was an edge to his voice. He told me he just moved to town and he was trying to find the police station. His father had gone out the bedroom window and someone matching his description was at this particular station, if only it could be found. In the light from passing cars, I looked into his wide, tanned face and liked him instantly. The lines around Michael's mouth were etched deep with the fear he'd been living with for months. Now that fear was realized. He father was gone on his watch. He was the one designated to care of him. It couldn't be his older sister, the put upon one who had a family of her own now and definitely not the youngest sibling, the brother who couldn't be bothered with petty family shit. It had to be him, the one in the middle. Still stuck between them all. One day long after we were married, Michael told me that in that dark part of his heart, he’d hoped they'd wouldn't find his father because Michael wanted out, away from that responsibility.
     That night, I began to tell him the way to go but the cars behind us honked and we looked up to see the red light had turned green. I said follow me and he did. Half a mile later, I figured out I was driving to the old police station, not the new one. So I pulled over into a left turn lane and hopped out to talk to him. Together we looked over a map on my phone and I told him the way to get there, the sign to look for when Dixie Highway jogged left instead of continuing straight and as I was gesturing and explaining, the expression on his face confused me.
     At first, I thought he was irritated with me so I talked faster then I noticed the shimmer of tears in his eyes and I said, how about I take you there? Michael gripped the steering wheel and shook his head no but his mouth said yes. He followed me again and I led him to the right place. He was thanking me before I was even out of my truck, his face a mask of self-control. I asked if he’d be okay and Michael nodded his head yes but his mouth said no.
     I went into the police station with him and waited in a chair while he spoke to an officer. A radio was playing eighties songs. It sounded like the Brat Pack's greatest hits: St Elmo’s Fire, Don’t You Forget About Me and as Michael reappeared with an older man who had to be his father, the Bangles began singing Hazy Shade of Winter. Michael looked over at me but didn’t stop walking his father toward the door. I noticed how his hand hovered just over the small of his back but didn’t actually touch him. His father shuffled alongside him, his eyes glassy, a tremor to his hands and his gray hair stuck about at odd angles. I pushed open the door for them both, his father looked at my shoes, and Michael said thank you in the softest of whispers and I knew I wanted to see him again.
     On our first date, we drank coffee at a table in the sun and he told me about his father’s dementia and how it broke his heart to see him this way. Old. Diminished. His eyes filled with tears again. Michael laughed at himself. He told me he had to be home by six. His daddy-sitter couldn’t stay late, he joked.
     I invited him back to my place and we watched Godzilla tear up Tokyo then I put in Pretty in Pink. I kissed him and we made out while the movie played. I said, Poor ducky is never going to get his girl. Michael lifted my hand to his mouth, kissed my palm and sighed. I’d forgotten what happiness felt like it, he said into the curve of my hand. And I looked at him as his tongue slipped past his lips to touch my thumb and I thought how before that afternoon with him I hadn’t realized I’d never been happy. Not really. Not this weightless kind of happiness. And I kissed him and he kissed me and we were happy for as long as such things last.

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