Mom hasn’t been coming. Dad won’t say why. There’s a woman who shows up with him sometimes.
“Where’s the woman?”
“I can’t understand what you’re saying,” he says.
Then why is he smiling?
“Do you wanna go for a stroll outside before dinner? It’s a nice day.”
He’s making big gestures at the window.
The doors slide open to a glare.
It’s a little chilly. Dad doesn’t seem to mind. Hard to move in this chair all the time. Did something happen to mom? He just sits there in the sun.
He used to have a couple of children or cats or something. None of them are here. Some of the people look familiar. Friends from work? They’re all waiting for the train. Dad is avoiding their eyes.
He never was much of a person person. Wait, that’s not right. People person? Still sounds wrong. Feels strange on the lips. Purple person. No. Poets have that sort of phonic flex, they say… phonetic… frame… frail… afr…
“Are you uncomfortable? Do you wanna go back inside?”
Why is he smiling?
“I think they’re almost ready with dinner.”
“People… Where are the people?”
What is the meaning of this? A bib? Nothing smells right.
“No… Dad, wait… Dad… I’m just putting this on you so you can… Dad, please… Um, miss? Excuse me? Can you give me a hand here, please?”
This isn’t mom. Who is this person? An aunt. A great aunt? Great. Grrreat.
A plate with some kind of mush. Old people in wheelchairs, eating it. Old. Why is everyone so old? Dad is very young and strong. All great-great uncles and aunts. Purple eater people. Purple mush on a spoon. Dad smiles as the mush comes closer. No use resisting. Tastes like nothing. Purple. Purr.
“See? It’s good you have that bib on, Dad.”
What did he call me? Why does he keep smiling when it’s clear he’s sad? There are tears in his eyes. He smiles. Whose father is he?
“Listen, Dad, I need to go.”
His voice is unsteady.
“I’ll see you next week. Oh, and Laura sends her love. She’s sorry she couldn’t make it today. I’ll see if I can bring her and the kids over next time.”
The woman? My lips fumble with the question, but he’s already leaving.
“Dad,” I say, “Dad. Don’t go.”
(In memoriam M.K.)