I ran into him yesterday morning on Los Angeles St, just outside the apartment. I was walking out with the dog and he was on his way in. My eyes always go to his hand these days, the one with the soft cast on the wrist. It will be another ten months of recovery, of the break healing.
The dog sniffs his leg. she loves him. He loves her too, more since she lost a leg.
“Hey, Pops,” I say.
“Oh,” he says, like he’s startled, even though we’ve been standing in front of each other now for about 30 seconds.
He nods. “I was just at the doctor,” he says.
“Ok,” I say. “All good?”
“Yes,” he says. “I have to go back next Monday.”
He leans down and pets Bella on the head. She sniffs his arm.
“Oh,” he says. “Good. Real good. That medicine—”
I always pause when I catch myself staring at his shoulders, at how small and narrow they’ve become. It happens again. I look away into the street, where a white toyota pulls into an open space. I’m embarrassed, but I don’t know if it’s for him or for me. My face feels warm.
“So,” I say, then put my hand on his left arm, the one not broken. “What - what do they say?”
“What do they—” I pull my hand away and look at his face, search for something familiar, like myself. “The thing, the treatment. Radiation?”
He nods slowly. “Oh,” he says, “I go back next monday so they can tell me what’s going to happen.”
“I need you to help me with something,” he says. “You have to look at something for me.”
The dog sits down and stares at the woman unraveling herself out of the Camry. She whines. A little.
“Ok, Pops,” I say. “I’ll come up.”
He nods and smiles. “Things going ok?”
“Yeah,” i say. “Judy leaves in a month.”
We look at each other in silence, one that is interrupted when he sighs.
“See you in a minute,” I tell him.
“Ok,” he says. “Ok.”
On Broadway in downtown, the sun shone. There was sparse traffic. From a storefront, music blared loud. And at the end of the block, a woman in red pants laughed while walking.
I was there, somewhere in mid-motion, my hand rubbing the sweat off my head.
It was just past 2pm. I was alone.
Things will happen in my life, out here in the street or inside my room.
But I will never get to watch my own child die. And when I am the one who is passing away, I will never get to watch my own child continue to live.
When I stepped up to the mic that night, I couldnt see him. I had lost him in the crowd. I read something about him, or maybe it was about my mother.
The next day I found him. He said he had to go. He said he couldnt stay.
He said it was all just too much.
I am trying to tell him that I am terrified.
But he is my father. These are things I am not supposed to speak of:
Love. Fear. Touch.
And that I don’t know how to let go of something that I never got a chance to hold.