Sunday, March 05, 2006

four

Standing in the front hall in my nightgown, I shift back and forth, one foot to the other. The slate tiles gather and retain the cold coming through the opaque glass panels flanking the front door. I watch my father put on his rubber shoe liners, maintaining his balance with a hand on the door frame. Reaching into the closet, he slides aside coat after coat, searching. He sighs, sets his jaw, and his face reddens. He finds the one he's looking for, pulls it from the hanger, pushes his arms through, and heaves it over his shoulders with a shrug. I watch his fingers maneuver the oblong wooden buttons through the leather loops. Reaching up, I grasp the forearm of his coat and the lines on his forehead deepen. Relenting, the lines smooth out.

“OK hon, give me a kiss. Daddy has to go.”

“No, please”, my voices starts to quiver, “Don’t go.”

I feel the grasp of his strong hands lifting me from under my arms, my stomach rising with a lurch. I sail through the air, trying to temper the smile that has involuntarily begun to spread across my face. I circle my arms tightly around his neck. He smells of soap and his hair is soft, the edges newly trimmed. He kisses my face.

With a cold piercing burst I find my feet back on the floor. With that he is gone, the door pulling shut behind him. I rush to the window at the side of the door, but I can't see through the thick lined glass, no matter how hard I try, cupping my hands around my eyes. I run as fast as I can up the wood stairs, into the living room. I jump onto the couch, the thick corduroy upholstery pressing into my knees. Leaning against the back of the couch, at the centre of the bay window, I cannot see my father but I can hear the sound of his car picking up speed, shifting gears. I strain forward, the knot in my four year old stomach settling heavy with the fading sound. I press my face against the glass trying to catch a last glimpse. Then there is nothing.

Turning from the window, I let my body slide into a sitting position. I shift to the edge of the couch, trying to focus through my tears, on the green glass grapes on the coffee table. I slide to the floor and settle cross-legged, pulling my nightgown down from where it has gathered around my waist, and fold my arms on the table. I lean my chin in line with the grapes. Blinking hard to clear the blur from my eyes I stare into the depths of the rich green glass. They look like they would taste brilliantly sweet and sour, like the suckers I get at the doctor’s office but I do not try to taste them because I already know that they taste like nothing. Carefully, I reach out and touch one of the grapes, let it nestle in my palm. It is cold, heavy, and perfectly smooth in my hand.