You're already fifteen minutes late to pick me up. I'm standing in the front hall in my baby-doll dress and prairie boots, pretending to inspect a photograph of my young grandmother releasing a seagull from her sandy hand, when Dad comes in from his office. He scans me up and down. " Boots? It's summer, doll."
I shrug, a shrug that simultaneously says You know nothing and Please rescue me.
"When's the chap due?" He pushes his glasses up on his nose and squeezes the last bit of liquid from his tea bag.
"The chap is fifteen minutes late," I say, like it's nothing, like I'm not convinced you forgot. Got high, fell asleep, had whatever kind of emergency auto mechanics/skate-park hangers-on have. You don't mean to fuck up, but you do, and ever since we met I've been making excuses for you.
"Well, that doesn't bode well," Dad says.
"He had to put his kid to bed," I say. Dad is weirdly OK with this. Your being 31, ten years older than I am. Your being a father. Your driving a refurbished '70s muscle car with a Grateful Dead bear painted on the passenger door. His biggest issue really is timeliness.
"Maybe he got scared?"
"Why would he be scared?" I ask, but I know what he's going to say.
"We live in a big house."
"Yeah, well, it's not like we're rich or anything."
He looks at me like I didn't raise no fool. "We may not be rich, but we look rich, kid. The weekend house, the pool. You're a city slicker, like it or not. So don't come in, rock his world, then disappear." He laughs at his own overblown language. He does that a lot, and my mom always shakes her head, mouth gritted in a half-smile: Well, at least you amuse yourself, Terry.
I know he's just trying to be funny, but I just don't feel very funny right now. I'm not sure where you are and I'm all dressed up like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan and if I have to wash this makeup off without ever leaving the house I'll feel shame for days, so hurry up and get here already. "This isn't Dirty Dancing, Dad," and with that, you honk your horn and I run toward the screen door.
"Suppose no one cares about shaking the father's hand anymore," Dad says.
"Nope! Nope, they don't." I blow him a kiss just as I turn to you, so it's like the kiss is for you both.
And you are in your long, low car, which I know you're proud of. I'm sort of proud of it too, and I would tell my friends about it but I don't have enough knowledge about automobiles to even begin to explain. It's orange. There's some kind of aggressive, shiny grate across the back.
You're smiling up at me — me, bathed in porch light, warm and a little pink because Dad is picky about which lightbulbs we choose ("Ya gotta set a mood"). Your hair, which is almost blonde during the day and at night the color of a field mouse, is flattened on one side like you've been napping, and I see the place where you taped your glasses back together after Mason hurled them on the ground last week because you wouldn't let him stay up to watch an MMA fight. I wonder if you're relieved to be out tonight. And then I know the answer, because I see that you've already got a beer parked between your knees.
I know it's technically an awful idea to drive with someone who has been, and is currently, drinking. But I can't help it: I trust you. The guys at school drink in secret, out of stupid vintage flasks, or they crush pills up and snort them and deny it even when they're bleeding out of their faces, but you, you pop open a can at the end of the day the way my father sips his tea. You worked hard at the shop, and then with Mason, and you deserve this.