We avoid looking at each other.
He stares at the floor, his eyes not seeing the worn wood grain or the edges of dust creeping into sight from under the furniture. My eyes run laps around the room, no longer noticing the unmoved books and tiny mementos of a life now receding into the crumbling memories of his mind.
Click click click
The overhead fan keeps time, reminding us of each passing second. The chain hits a single light shade with a steady violence, distracting me as I ponder how the fan does not break from its thin metal anchor and spin through the living room window. The dam in my chest breaks as if the propelled fan had driven into my heart, and I stand with buzzing anxiety.
He doesn’t move. Not a look. Not a twitch.
The bookcase draws me, her figurines tempting my restless fingers. I pick up an angel, her shoulders brown with neglect.
“Do. Not. Touch,” his words ring out like gun shots, startling me. My fingers dance, trying to keep the delicate porcelain from cracking against the shelf before easing the angel back onto its clean spot amidst the grey blanket of disregard.
“You know, I can clean…,” I squeak past the lump that forms in my throat every time I walk past the house’s threshold.
“No! Leave me alone!”
His red eyes stare at me from below his unkempt hair, his hand bringing down the now empty tumbler hard on his TV tray.
I visualize shouting at him, full of adult anger and frustration, to pull himself out of his whiskey cloud and accept that she is gone. I imagine balling up my fists, stomping my feet, and screaming at the top of my lungs like a petulant five-year old that he is a selfish bastard and not the only one in pain. I envision throwing my arms around his legs like a little girl, sobbing out my heartbreak as I beg for him to see that I miss her too, with every cell in my body.
Instead, I clear my throat. I look at the clock on the wall. I put my hands in my pockets. I pace around the room, trying to run away from memories that stare at me from every object and catch me in every corner. His eyes return to the floor, his fingers twitching on his glass.
“Um, well,” I whisper against the clink of the chain and his rejection.
“Isn’t it time for you to go,” he states, releasing me from my indecision.
“Yeah,” I pull myself together, “I put enough food for the week in the fridge, and your snacks are in the pantry. I leave for a business trip on Wednesday, but I will be back Friday and will come by Saturday.”
I pick up my keys and walk towards the door. My back receives his reply, “don’t bother.”
Taking a deep breath I call out, “I love you, Dad,” before closing the solid front door against sounds of a television coming to life.