— Jami Attenberg, The Middlesteins
Months before, I had been lying on the couch in my therapist’s office (as I have, with mixed results, for what seems like most of my life), and she asked me what I wished my father had done for me when I was ill, what I needed from him that he had not been able to provide. Together we conjured the coffee shop where he and I had come the closest to a real conversation, where I had circled around him, wanting to say please help me I need you but in the end lacking the courage. Together the therapist and I sat in front of him, gazing into his hazy blue eyes. What would you say to him? she asked. I meant to say, I wanted him to tell me that it would be okay, but what I said instead was, I want him to tell me that it will be okay. I heard myself, ever wishful, in the present and future tense, and from this began a flood of tears of an intensity that I had never before known. I sat up and cupped my hands over my face and heaved dark, guttural sobs, and when I walked out of her office I was still sobbing, and it was only until I rode my bicycle to the Mississippi River that the wind had dried my tears. Plenty of people have been wounded by their fathers, and they have borne this, borne this without consequence. Ben, somehow, has borne it. I couldn’t. I don’t think I ever will.
(shamelessly derivative of william maxwell, maybe-hopefully somewhere in the last pages of my book)
And then all the sudden it was three-thirty a.m. and we were sitting on the floor in the Bellagio hotel lobby, eating greasy sausage biscuits from an ambiguous source. I had not eaten a sausage biscuit since I was six years old and my father would take me to Country Kitchen for breakfast. But that father didn’t exist anymore and I didn’t care. I sprayed crumbs all over the marble floor because I was laughing so hard. It was so funny. What was funny? Everything was so, so funny! I rolled over on my side because at once I was very tired, and Monisha said, Sally you’re flashing everybody, and I told her it didn’t matter because that’s what Brazilians were for. That’s when a security officer came over and said that we couldn’t sit on the floor anymore so I stood up and said HA HA and laughed my sausage biscuit laugh right in his face, and it was only after he had rolled his eyes and walked away that I licked the salt and oil off my dirty fingers and raised my middle one toward him. I had not licked my fingers since pre-chemo days, before the doctors told me that germs, even cold germs, could be my undoing. But anyway fuck that security guard!