He said, “tell me a story.”
I told him, “I’m a shitty story teller.”
“You’re a liar. You write well. What’s the difference?”
There was a silence. I knew It well from our past. His big light blue eyes focused on the night outside the windows. I looked through the sun roof. The big dipper was above us. Orion and Cassiopeia and the triangle one, I can’t remember the name, were keeping the big dipper company. I began thinking of the lives they lead. How grand. How stressful it must be. People look up to them for beauty, for inspiration, for hope.
I told a story.
The dinky, blue folding chair was out. We were heading up to San Francisco to see his friends from forever ago. The chair sitting in front of my dad’s humble wine collection indicated a gift of red fermented grapes. They would smell it and taste and talk about undertones that I would never understand, but for now he studied, thinking of the best choice for this occasion that he was both anxious and excited about. You could tell because he was more frustrated about our late departure than he normally would be.
As I looked up at the stars and told this story, Keaton listened. I was frustrated with him for forcing me to fill the silence. He was nervous. I could tell. But we were the same people. We simply had five more years of time within us. He was still a gentle giant and I was still a spitfire trying to light a spark within him. We still clashed. But we still loved to clash. I don’t know how else to describe it other than comfort. His touch on my knee or my hip felt natural. We were back together, even if it was only for 6 hours. The only eyes that watched our comfortable, fleeting romance were the yellow, glowing eyes of the elk that stood amongst the vibrant dandelions. The flowers had been covered by the blanket of grand constellations and so the elk’s eyes were my focus. My stare did not leave theirs.
Translating his lack of patience into anxiety about the trip turned him into a human rather than the father. I understood. He was going back to the past. He would be with friends from a lifetime ago, but his new life would follow them there and his two lives would collide. And I was watching. As the hills with sprawling wild flowers passed the car windows in a blur he played with his wedding ring. It was a habit I’ve noticed since I was a little girl. He twirled it effortlessly onto each finger until it made its way back in the permanent groove on his left ring finger. He would stop for a moment and then the dance would begin again.
I felt silly for telling the story with so much detail. With such formality. Speaking as though they were words on paper was the only option. I couldn’t look at him for fear of seeing boredom, or worse feigned interest. I continued to watch the dark attracted to the yellow eyes as though I were a moth trying desperately to get to the light on the other side of the glass. As though it would extend my life. Ignorant to the fact that it would shorten it to now.
They sat around the table. They talked about their past. They were unapologetic about their stories. The two bottles of gifted red wine sat on the table empty. I watched, thankful they ignored my title as daughter and treated me as a peer. I had never heard such honesty. They were terrified as well. I had no more excuses for staying still. They had created so many lives and so many stories. It was hope. They gave me hope just as Orion and Cassiopeia.
Keaton looked at me. I felt it. I didn’t want to look. But I did. His smile was genuine and I was thankful for that. All he did was grasp my knee. And we stared in silence once again with the yellow eyes of the elk and the blanket of hope above us.