March 10, 2009
By Nicole Elsmore BRONZE, Beaverton, Oregon
Nicole Elsmore BRONZE, Beaverton, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Away from the other cars, in the secluded spot I had picked out, sat my truck, gleaming silver in
the California sunshine. I got into the familiar cab and tossed my backpack to the side. As I
adjusted my position, the strong smell of cigarettes leaked from the fabric. The seat of my 1992
Ford F350 was molded perfectly to my shape. I opened the slightly scuffed glove compartment to get a
cigarette, letting an abundance of change, condoms, used tissues, and crumbs spill to the floor. I
felt my way through empty Lays bags and dirty socks. I rolled my window down, turned on the radio,
lit up the cigarette, and began to drive. When I got home, I was welcomed by the familiar, thick
Texas accent. My mom, unusually conscious at this time in the afternoon, rolled her head towards me.
'Jakey!' she slurred, struggling to smile from the couch, which she had drunkenly draped herself
on, the morning paper slipping from her lap. 'Oh Jacob, you look so much like your father. Such a,
such a handsome man. Big and strong. Like you Jakey!' I ignored her and opened the fridge. Nothing
there. Not a surprise. 'I'm going out. To get food. Don't miss me too much.' 'Oh Jakey,
you're so' grown up. Old. You're '' I slammed the door. I couldn't take another
comparison to that man. I wasn't like my father. I hadn't abandoned my mother, and I hadn't
abandoned a two year old child. I was not like him. I got into my truck and drove to 7-Eleven, like
I did every day. The only good thing about life with a drunk for a mother was the reliability. I
knew there was never any food. I knew she wouldn't hear a word I said. I knew where to find her. I
knew she would always be in the same place, and I wouldn't have to worry about her not being
there. I partied the weekend away, returned to school on Monday to endure the torturous boredom of
high school life as a senior. Another week or so went by with the same routine. The air was little
thicker than usual for this time of the year, the sky a little darker, and I'd had a bad taste in
my mouth the whole day. I didn't stop by home and instead went straight for my afternoon snack. I
wandered the racks of the filthy 7-Eleven, browsing to waste time. Finally I grabbed my usual bag of
Lays and orange soda, tossed the exact amount of change on the counter, and headed out. I slowed my
pace. A man in a black suit was peering through the passenger window into the cab of my truck. I
cleared my throat loudly and the man glanced back casually. This was not the reaction I had expected
' he didn't jump and blush like he'd been caught in the wrong; he didn't flinch. It was as
if he had been waiting for me. Slowly, he turned his shoulders. I stood an inch or so taller than
him, and his age showed. His stomach protruded slightly over his belt, and gray hairs dusted his
head. The California heat dampened his cleanly shaven lip with perspiration. He licked it away. His
dark, empty eyes grazed my face, a slight smile crept over his aging skin as he shook my hand
firmly. 'Hello Jacob.' His voice was strong and clear, 'I'm your father.' I stumbled
backward, the man's hand the only thing keeping me upright. My head swam. I lost feeling in my
body. He wasn't my father. No father could leave their child for 15 years and come back this
causally. Even as I thought this, I couldn't help but recognize my murky brown eyes in his, I
couldn't help seeing the same prominent nose on his face that I saw every morning. I was a
reflection of him. I heard the bell of the 7-Eleven jingling behind me. The scorching pavement
clawed at the soles of my shoes. My father's blank stare tore through my skin. I swallowed, trying
to keep from either screaming or crying, and a trickle of saliva slithered down my throat. I slipped
my now clammy hand from his, 'No. You're not.' I began to walk away; quickly realizing my
truck was still behind me with that stranger. 'Jacob!' he called. I kept walking, slower now,
debating whether to turn back to go to my car or to just loop around the block and hope he was gone.
The sweat that began to dampen my brow made my decision. I spun on my heels and quickly half jogged
back. 'Now, I knew you would come to your senses'' he began. I ignored him and hopped inside
my truck. As I looked behind me to begin backing up, the passenger door clicked open. Oh, hell no. I
slammed on the gas. The yanked backwards. I heard a thud, and I prayed it was his miserable body
hitting the pavement. But, unfortunately, it was only bouncing on the seat. He had managed to slam
the door in time, and he now fumbled for his seatbelt. 'Get out!' I screamed. 'Get out of my
car! Get out of my life! GET OUT!' I started shoving and smashing him into the door. 'Jacob, I
just want to tal-' 'OUT!' I bellowed, giving one final shove. I slouched down in my seat,
crossed my arms, stared straight ahead, and the let the ashy smell tucked into the seats take me to
a better place. 'Jake,' he started. 'Out.' I didn't look at him. He sighed. I heard him
rummaging nervously through his pocket. I could feel him staring at me and we sat in silence. When
he finally got out, I didn't watch him leave. I didn't drive away either. I shoved the business
card he left on the seat into the glove compartment. Pressing my head against the worn steering
wheel, I let the scene replay behind my eyelids. I got home, still shaken, and was disappointed to
see my mom passed out on the checkered couch. I had wanted her to be awake. I wanted to tell her
about my father showing up. She probably would have drunk herself into a coma, murmuring about how
she always knew Matthew would come back for her. I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on
my face.

At school, I avoided everyone. I didn't go to 7-Eleven for a while. I came home every day, helped
my mom stumble to the couch, cleaned up her mess, and tried to forget about my father. I couldn't
forget. Eventually, I dragged myself into our unused office. I pulled out a good-sized cardboard
box. Wiping off the layer of dust on the top, I skimmed over the neatly labeled bindings until I
came to the last one, the one with my birth year on it. I opened the scrapbook entitled 1988. It
started off very neat and detailed. There was a picture of my parents in Texas, outside of the bar
they meet in, and my mother had written a very elaborate paragraph about their meeting. Her elegant
scrawl was everywhere. Each picture got an explanation. I came to a page about halfway through the
scrapbook that surprised me. Instead of the usual 'say cheese' photo, this page had a picture of
my parents kissing. The camera had been too close, you could only see about half their faces, and
you could tell that one of them had been holding the camera. My mom's hair was a mess and she had
no makeup on. Underneath, it read simply: He said he loved me. The rest of the album was full of
pictures of them, and the last one was of a miserable looking, very pregnant Marlene and my father
in front of our current house. It was when he forced her to move out to California with him. And it
was taken shortly before she turned to the bottle to wish herself away from this place she hated.
The phone rang; I jumped and was wrenched from my thoughts. S***. I got up quickly, leaving the book
open on the floor. 'Hello?' 'Jacob?' It was him. I didn't say anything. 'Jacob, Don't
hang up.' I remained silent. 'I'm sorry our first meeting went like that. I should have
thought it out better. But you haven't called me. I figured I'd given you the appropriate amount
of time for you to think about things, but you still haven't called me. Did you lose my card?'
That ignorant a**. 'No? Okay well listen, I was thinking we could meet for coffee. I'm coming
back to California for lawyer stuff but I can make some room for you in my schedule. Sound good?
Jake?' 'Don't call me again. Ever.' I slammed down the phone. Red flashed in my eyes. I
wanted to punch something. Someone. 'Jakey?' I could hear my mom rolling over on the couch.
'Who was that?' 'Oh, just my friend.' I couldn't bear to tell her the love of her life had
not only met with me, but called too, and didn't even ask to talk to her, hadn't asked how she
was. 'Oh. Tell them not to call so late.' It was 4:47. He called a few more times over the next
few weeks, always wanting to meet. I never did, I usually just hung up. But a few times I let him
ramble on, and I'd close my eyes and just listen to him talk in circles, trying to recall him
reading me a book before bed, trying to remember if his voice ever had any love in it.

The last Thursday of the school year, I went to 7-Eleven and then to my friend's house to burn
daylight. The sun was setting as I turned onto my street. I could hear the wail of sirens growing
louder as I continued down the road. I crept my truck forward, craning my neck to see what was going
on. Slowing to a stop a few houses down, I got out. My stomach dropped. I felt my heartbeat in my
ears. I couldn't swallow. I sprinted towards my house and burst through the door. The red and blue
lights illuminated the living room. Pill bottles were lying around the checkered couch. 'Son, you
can't be here.' A police officer tried to usher me out of the room and put his hand on my
shoulder. I shrugged it off, 'Where is she?' 'Son,' he looked at me, his eyes full of
concern. The ambulance screeched away and down the road. I ran outside in time to see it turn the
corner. The police officer followed me out and again placed his hand on my shoulder, and I didn't
have the strength to shake it off this time. 'She overdosed.' Obviously. 'The neighbors
hadn't seen her come out to get the paper all day,' The only thing she ever did. 'So they
called 911.' 'Is she '' I couldn't say it. 'She had no pulse when I first arrived.' I
held my breath. 'But- I don't- you never know. Miracles happen all the time. There's a chance.
Don't give up hope, not yet.' I tuned out the rest of his impotent attempts to comfort me. I
walked slowly, in a daze, back to my truck. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the number I had
subconsciously memorized, I felt like I had no other choice. I met my dad a few hours later. Mom was
gone. He was the only parent I had left. He told me all about his life, how he and mom met at the
bar. How her unexpected pregnancy prompted a shotgun wedding, and how he forced her to move to
California. He couldn't take living with a drunk and being unemployed, so he left, when I was two,
and moved up to Oregon. There he got a law degree and became a hotshot lawyer. And now he was back.
After a lot of small talk, I finally asked, 'Why did you come back?' He sighed. I was ready for
him to pour his heart out and express all the guilt he had built up over the years. I waited for his
voice to break the robotic tone it always held. He fiddled with his fingers. 'I've been having
nightmares.' I was taken aback. 'What?' 'Nightmares. About you, about Marlene. I've been
seeing this therapist for the past few months. She suggested a visit with you would help me move on
with my life.' My hands clenched into fists. 'Move on? You want to move on? You can't just
move on from me, from your family.' I wanted to hurl obscenities at him, but instead I looked
directly at him, I tried to look into him, into that cold heart that had fooled me for a moment.
'Are you saying that you came back just to clear your own conscience?' 'Well.' He paused,
running his tongue over the edge of his teeth. He glanced to left, looking for malleable ideas,
searching for excuses he could bend and distort into a justifiable motivation. 'Some things you
can't talk your way out of,' I spat. 'Even if you want to.' I grabbed my keys off the table
and strode purposefully away from him. I hated him. I loved him. He disgusted me. I wanted him to
want me in his life. Tears stung my eyes. I had no one. This wasn't the time to cry. I left the
coffee shop. I left the town. I knew I was going to miss Mom's funeral, and part of me felt like I
was doing what he had done to her all those years ago. A thousand clich's ran through my mind:
like father, like son, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I kept driving until the sun rose
up again and still, I didn't stop. You can run, but you can't hide.

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