“What did you have for lunch?”
“Tuna sandwich, celery sticks. Pickles. Pickles are zero points.” Then
I tell her a funny story about one of the ladies in my diet support group.
I haven’t been to the group in over a year, but I’ve saved up a large stock
of stories about the crazy lady in a turban who interrupts everyone when
they try to speak and chews so much sugar-free gum that she has jaw
muscles the size of baseballs. My daughter laughs, then asks me if any-
thing is new at work.
“Nope,” I say, “still just me. Still too much work.”
“Are you lonely?”
I tell her I’ve been thinking more about the people I used to work
with. I wonder where they are.
“Don’t brood,” she says. “And anyway, if you’re really curious, you
can Facebook them.”
Then she reminds me of how to log in to my account.
“I have to go,” she says. “My shift is starting soon. But Dad?”
“I’m proud of you, with the diet and all. I’m glad you’re taking care
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you too, Dad.” She hangs up.
I sit for a little while looking at the dark screen of the phone. I’ve
never liked the way the end of a phone call hollows you out—there’s the
illusion that the person you miss is right there with you, but then the
bubble pops. They’re gone. An echo of the feeling you have after someone dies, when you forget and remember and grieve afresh, over and
over, each day. I get up and go turn on the home computer. A thin rime
of dust comes away on my fingers.
Jim is easy to find. A photo of him in a hunting vest and sunglasses,
smiling, holding up a large striped bass. A salt-and-pepper-haired man
with an ample figure. I read the comments on his wall: I miss you. You
were the best, man. Rest well.
I think I already knew this is what I’d find, but nevertheless it makes
me feel—I can’t place how it makes me feel.
When my daughter was twelve and my wife was in the final stages of
dying, my wife and I used to play a game. I’d lie underneath her hospital bed, the cool of the linoleum and the smell of disinfectant somehow
comforting to me, and we’d pretend we were both very old and reminiscing. That time we went to Rome, she’d say, and you got us so lost,