Once on Christmas morning I woke up and my dad was gone. It was weird because when I came downstairs his only pair of shoes was still neatly placed by the front door. He must have been smoking weed in the garage or playing guitar on the back lawn, long red hair icy in the winter wind.
I retraced his steps — this is the spot where he opened and downed his first beer, a warm gilded sheath; here on the loveseat is where I held up my phone as he listened hard to Taylor Swift’s new song, rapt; that’s where he told my mom he loved her decorations this year; this is when he cracked the 5th drink probably, distracted in the ginger-spiced kitchen; a knock-knock joke, an anti-Trump monologue, a new riff he wrote last week, listen to this!; here is where I sprawled on the floor staring at the fire half-listening to increasingly manic speech; I felt the spit of foam slosh on an unshaven lip, 7th, 9th, 12th. 3am—I stumbled to bed against his protests to stay up! I never get to see you! I’m your dad!
Movements recounted, pathways scoured, no ivory rental car, driveway empty. Doused in white morning light, I quietly unpacked my stocking, lottery ticket sand lip gloss, smiling because Oh, it’s okay, there’s always next time.
On a loop, for years to come, a cassette tape will play. Deadbolt unlatched. Rearview mirror adjusted. A Christmas sunrise. My dad, southbound and shoeless.
Brennan Foster is a recent graduate in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford now residing in Dallas, Texas, working as a mental health agent.
My heart hurts, you are a resilient young woman. 💜