I remember when my father used to trim my fingernails it felt like he was cutting them down to the bone.
“So we don’t have to do it that often,” he said.
He smelled like cigarettes and cologne. I was five, and didn’t know what those things were yet. Sometimes I would lick his hair. He didn’t like that, and would get angry. Still, I got in the licks when I could.
I had a light-up toothbrush with a suction cup on the bottom. You had to stick it down hard in order for it to light up. Sometimes I couldn’t do it, so he’d take it and jam it down on the bathroom sink and say, “There.”
I would watch him writing, longhand. I tried to do it, too. I’d scribble messages and show him, confident he would understand. I always knew what my messages were. He didn’t. But I didn’t know what his were, either.
Once in a great while, my father would sleep in late. I’d be up, ready to go, and he’d just roll over. The rest of the time, I went to bed and he would shut the door and I would hear music and talking and when I awoke he’d be drinking coffee and say, “Hurry up.”
I watched the trees rolling by change color from the back of our loud, red car. I knew when the leaves changed color that I would be five, and I would start school, and I would ride the bus. They changed, and I had a birthday, and went to school, but I didn’t take the bus. I kept asking him when I could ride. “Soon,” he kept saying.
“Well…there are lots of kids. There’s only so much room…”
I had been on the bus to tour it and for field trips into town. I knew all about it. “Three kids can fit in each seat,” I told him.
I would watch the back of his head, too, as we drove along. “Soon,” he said. “When you’re ready.”
Of course, I didn’t know then. He knew I was ready. He also knew that he wasn’t.