The girl sat in the front seat stroking her doll’s hair and gazing out the window.
He was as lost as she was bored. His mind was drifting as he took turn after turn, and then steered the car up a road to the hills. He kept turning, aimlessly, finally finding the road he was looking for.
“Dad what’s this?” she asked about the music.
“That’s a song by Sting,” he said. “I used to listen to it about the time I met your mom.”
She leaned forward and picked up a cassette tape case from a pile.
“It’s this?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s the one.” he answered. “I’d drive around up here and think about your mom. I’d listen to this one over and over.”
He stopped the car at a pullout overlooking the Pacific. The town was below and the ribbon of highway unrolled between the ocean and hills. The ground was blackened from a wild fire the summer before.
“It seems like a sad song,” she said.
Dark angels follow me, Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless falling,
For all my days remaining
“I guess it is,” he said. “Sentimental, maybe. Sappy even.”
“Sappy?” she looked at him.
“Yeah, you know,” he struggled. “Oh, fuck I don’t know: maudlin.”
“Mawd lin?” she repeated.
He laughed and looked over at her.
“You’re learning too many big bad words for your age,” he said.
“Mommy says you are knarkacisstics,” she said.
Now he really starts laughing.
“Goddammit,” he said putting his hand on her back. “She shouldn’t be telling you shit like that.”
“You and mommy aren’t going to get back together,” she said.
He leaned close and held her face.
“It’s too volatile, sweetie,” he said.
“Vol tile,” she repeated.
He now had tears in his eyes, as many as he could have, which was only a few, with enough surface tension not to break and fall.
“Yes,” he said. “You have your mama’s eyes for sure.” He leaned back marveling at them for a moment.
‘”Her eyes confess the flame her tongue denies,“ he said.
“What’s that from?” she’d gotten used him saying things like that. She’d always be curious. “What is that?”
“It’s from an opera,” he said. “Let me find it.” He took out a cassette tape and replaced it and turned up the volume.
She listened intently, and then made a face, like she’d bitten into a lemon.
“That sucks!” she said.
“Ok, ok,” he said stopping it. “Jesus, so you don’t like opera.”
She shook her head.
“Play that one guy,” she said. “The really olden guy!”
“Al Bowlly?” he asked. “You are hilarious. Ok. But don’t start listening to this stuff around your mom.”
He found a cassette tape and hit play. He reached over and hugged her then let her go.
“She hates it,” he said. “It’s misogynistic.”
“Michawginistic,” she repeated with satisfaction and held her dolls hands like she was dancing.
“Now, your mother and I may not get a long but…”he began.
“But you’ll always love me,” she finished.
“Yes,” he said smiling. “Thank God you got your mom’s brain and my looks.”
She made a funny face at him, scowling, and said in her best mom voice, “You shut up!”
They both giggled at that. He turned the car back onto the road to take her back home.
Did you ever see a dream walking?
Well, I did.
Did you ever hear a dream talking?
Well, I did.
Did you have a dream thrill you
With “Will you be mine?”
Oh, it’s so grand,
And it’s too divine!
Back to At Last!