enough for a single goldfish to live happily in. His name was Bob, and he
was bright orange with big bulbous eyes and a black splotch on his back
shaped like a handprint. This was during the third or fourth round of
layoffs; I thought he’d improve morale.
I finally leave at nine pm. I wait a long time for the bus, which never
runs on schedule after dark. It’s late April, and yet a few stray flakes of
snow drift down as I trudge from the bus stop to my house, which in
spite of it all still gives me pleasure, this house my wife and I bought just
before the birth of our daughter and fixed up ourselves, a beautiful two-story Victorian with teal trim and an old magnolia tree out front.
I turn on all the lights downstairs so that things will feel more cheerful and put on the TV in the den. While my microwave dinner heats, I
stare at my reflection in the dark window of the kitchen. My skin looks
too gray, a few unkempt hairs sprout from the top edge of my cheek
where I’ve forgotten to shave, and there’s chocolate between my front
teeth. I should make more of an effort. The buzzer dings. I eat, watch TV,
fall asleep in the blue glow, and wake just before midnight. I turn off the
TV. I fall back to sleep on the couch.
The next morning is the same morning again. The plants. The coffee.
The bus stop. The imagined lives and empty office. When I check my
e-mail, though, there’s a message from my daughter, who’s in LA working shit jobs and painting late at night. She usually e-mails around two
or three am with pictures of what she’s doing, even though every time I
praise her work, she rolls her eyes, tells me I’m her dad, of course I like
it. I hit reply.
Sometimes I wish she could have chosen an easier path, been a lawyer like her mother wanted. My daughter says if we’d wanted her to be
a lawyer, we should have raised her differently. But right from the start
she was wholly herself. I couldn’t change her. I just tried to help her
make the best of who she is. I wasn’t prepared for that kind of wonder,
the moment the nurse handed her into my arms and there was nothing
in the room for me but that tiny crumpled face. I waltzed off with her,
my wife groggy with anesthetic from the C-section and calling after me
to bring her back.
On Saturdays, after a long week at work, I’d sleep in and after waking
late in the morning light would crack open the door to her room and
find her surrounded by dozens of stuffed animals all arranged in some
elaborate costumed tableau, acting out a political intrigue at the court or