Your boss—your former lover—calls to tell you that your father is sitting in his office and would you please come and collect him? So you do. You drive down, all the while thinking what if it’s not him? How could Simon be sure? He’s only seen your father once in pictures during the visit to your mother’s house back in the days when your love was new. It was his idea.
The two of you showed up at your mother’s house one bright Saturday morning and stayed until Tuesday. Your mother loved him on sight. Your Simon, dressed in his nice suit with his charming ways. Simon kissed her on both cheeks and hugged her until she squealed. That first night the neighbors came over and in your mother’s tiny kitchen your Simon played dominoes. You helped your mother cook until Simon called for you saying, “I’m losing, baby. Bring me some luck.” And you made yourself comfortable on his lap and played his tiles while he kissed your neck and whispered the dirtiest things into your ear. It was there in your mother’s kitchen that you fell in love with Simon. You often wonder where he was when he decided he didn’t love you.
You arrive at the tall, black windowed bank building where Pritchard Investigations has its new office. A perk of mingling with the “right people” as Simon says. His new girlfriend has connections with the influential. She’s from money. She’s a west coast barbie-doll. You’re Midwest black girl. Thus far you have only seen her twice, during her office tour when most of the office was still in boxes. She said hello to everyone but made a point of walking over to you. Neither of you spoke but just smiled instead. What was there to say? Nothing. So you each smiled and she left. Later your former boyfriend, now just your boss said, “She likes you.” It was all you could do not to reach over the desk and punch him.
Now standing in his office while he gives your father a rundown of your life in Las Vegas (the g-rated version that doesn’t include the killing you do for him), like this is a parent-teacher conference and you’re his most gifted student, you have to resist the urge again.
Your father looks uncomfortable in the office chair. He doesn’t look you in the eye. But you look at him. Look at him and look at him, trying to see you in him. It’s been nearly seventeen years since you saw him last. Nearly sixty now, his hair is still black, with the exception of gray around his ears. When he stands, claiming he is tired and he really just wanted to see you and thanks for the tour and it was a pleasure to meet you, he towers over Simon. You had forgotten just how big your father was. All these years you had only dreamed about his back, the sound his shoes had made on the wooden steps as he made his escape. You’d forgotten him as your father. Most of you had anyway, but there was a small part of you, perhaps in your little toe, that housed what was left of the ten-year-old girl you had been. The girl who still adored this man, the girl who thought Joe Park was Superman.
You could go anywhere to talk but you don’t want to take him to your house nor do you want to go to his hotel room. You decide against the casinos, the noise from the slot machines and poker machines would only make the headache you have worse. So you opt for Denny’s. The one on Fremont, it’s never busy and the staff will leave you alone. You each slide into a booth seat and feign interest in the menu before ordering coffee. You order a scoop of vanilla ice cream to pacify your ten-year-old self, to shut her up. She wants to hug her father and cry and tell him how much she’s missed him. She wants to know where he’s been. Is he staying? Will he and momma get back together? You let her ramble on in your head while staring at your father. He smiles uncomfortably at you. He doesn’t know this version of you. You have spent the last three years becoming this woman before him. Your role model for your transformation is Frank. And really no one wants their daughter to grow up and be like Frank. Wouldn’t your father just love to know that Frank has taught you how to kill? Frank has taught you how to fight, how to take a punch and get back up. How to make people fear you. How to give a punch that will bring a man to his knees and once there, how to finish him off. Frank is your teacher, your partner, your guide.
The coffee and ice cream arrive and you cut into the ice cream with your spoon, load up a heap of melting vanilla and slide it into your mouth. You let the cold rest on your tongue just like when you were little. Your father laughs and you open your eyes (when had they closed?)
“Nice to see some things stay the same,” he says.