The sandpaper roughness in his hands has spread to his voice box, and it’s sometimes hard for others to know what he’s saying. It’s sometimes hard for even him to know what he’s saying.
His hands are rough, just like the sandpaper that used to bring in the paychecks and give him something to be proud of. He walks into the Dunkin Donuts at the corner of town that used to be somewhere to take tourists, but is now filled with the faces that could never find a way out; faces that sip their black, burnt coffee and talk shit about each other, as if trying to make up for mistakes they had no choice of colliding their charred bodies with. But amongst them, there’s him, with his blonde hair and blue eyes that somehow add a little light to that used-up coffee shop sleeping inside of those old bricks.
Everyone knows him. He’s like some fading legend in the corner of that town that people can grip.
“Mike!” they yell out when they walk in and see him sitting in his gasoline stained blue jeans and Boston sports team t-shirt that he wears proudly, always wishing to be part of something so great. Their voices yell his name with such hope, as if Mike has the answers to their rock bottom lives. He’s always been just a little bit better off than the rest of those faces. A little smarter, a little better looking, funnier, luckier; loved just a little bit more.
He ignores the shouts of his name and sits back in his hard chair.
“Brown Eyed Girl” tries hard to play through the washed-out speakers that hang from the falling apart ceiling above his head and he remembers the day his children were born and how much his wife loved him before he fucked everything up and learned that chances don’t grow on trees. He remembers being fifteen years old and seeing her family move into the house behind him, with just two acres of pine needle covered ground separating him from her long brown hair and kind brown eyes. He remembers wanting to be next to her. He remembers the day he got his first motorcycle and the day he snuck her out of her well-behaved Catholic home; the two of them riding straight into the cranberry bog; never telling her parents that they almost died.
He takes a sip of coffee, gives a few head nods, and he walks out.
His feet hit the pavement in his old Chuck Taylors, and he reaches for the Marlboro Reds in his back pocket. He should quit, but “fuck it,” he thinks. “I ain’t got nothin’ else.”
He inhales the butt and remembers that night a few months back, walking in the cold to buy a pack of cigarettes and crossing that busy intersection, when suddenly he’s in Beth Israel because some SUV drove into him so hard that his shoes came off and the lady in the car behind them who saw him get hit couldn’t eat for a week. He forgets the visits from his daughters. He knows they were there because that’s what they tell him, but he can only remember his ex-wife and her brown eyes and how she sat by his bedside in that quiet room in the middle of that dirty city. And even though he could barely stay awake or speak, he could have lived like that forever.
His phone vibrates in his pocket and he fumbles for it, balancing the cigarette and coffee; “this could be one of my girls,” he thinks. But it isn’t his ex-wife or any three of his daughters. It’s one of his drugged out friends asking where they can score some more pills. He bullshits his way out of the conversation. Hangs up. Keeps walking.
His eyes are tired now. The blue tries so hard to peer its way out from behind those wrinkles in his eyelids. His blonde hair is starting to fade and fall. The sandpaper roughness in his hands has spread to his voice box, and it’s sometimes hard for others to know what he’s saying. It’s sometimes hard for even him to know what he’s saying.
His phone rings again, and this time it’s me.
“Hi Honey! Wow I’m so glad you called. How’s it going?”
“It’s going good. How are you?”
He starts talking about his day, or maybe about my sisters; I don’t know because he’s mumbling again and not making any sense. I just agree with everything he says. Sometimes I ask him to repeat himself, but that gets old quick, so I just continue with my agreements and head nods that he can’t see through the receiver.
“Alright Dad, I’m glad you’re doing good. I should go. I love you.”
“I love you too, Honey. I’m so, so proud of you. I remember the day you were born and I swear…”
“I know, Dad. Listen, I really have to go. I love you.”
His hands are rough, just like the nights he left us alone, and my mother swore that despite all of this, we were something he was proud of.
This article originally appeared on Medium for Human Parts.
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