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“I really want to go home,” I whisper to my mother.
I’m 15 years old, sitting in a restaurant booth about to meet my father for the first time. With my back to the door, I can’t stop moving. I wonder what he’ll look like, what he’ll say. My mother asks me if I’m nervous. I lie, “No.”
I wish I could be anywhere but here. I feel ill every time I hear the door open. It’s too early and I begin to yearn for the comfort of my bed. I try to focus on the conversations around me, but nothing works. I can’t stop thinking about what is about to happen. The thought that he might not come crosses my mind. I tell myself that he probably forgot; he’s late. My thoughts comfort me, but not for long.
“There he is. He’s walking in right now,” my mother tells me. She forces a smile. I want to disappear. I turn to see my father – a stranger. We make eye contact. He is my height, blond, with blue eyes and bronzed skin. I smile, but feel like throwing up. He sits across from me, but talks to my mom before speaking to me.
“Hey, babe,” he finally says to me. He has a Southern accent and I wonder where he picked that up. As far as I know, he’s always lived in Michigan.
Now it’s my turn to force a smile. I can’t look at him, and his calling me Babe makes me want to spit in his face.
He stares at me for a few minutes. The waitress comes and I feel like thanking her. She quickly takes our orders, and leaves. I want to cry.
My father turns to me again. I act like I don’t realize he’s staring. I don’t want to look at him, not even once, but I finally do. We both have blond hair. That’s it. I don’t look anything like him, but I have no doubt he’s my father.
He begins a conversation with my mother. I realize I act like him, and wonder how that’s possible. I can tell by looking at him that he is nervous, too. I can’t help thinking that I want this to be over. I’m shaking because I know I’m going to have to talk to him and really don’t want to. I want to be home, sleeping.
I listen to his voice and force back tears. This is my father, I think. I wonder why he has never wanted to be a part of my life until now. For a second I want to hug him and tell him I love him. But I don’t – I know I’d regret that later. I tell myself I hate him and could care less if I ever saw him again. I know that’s not true, either.
Now my father has turned his attention to me. He tells me I’m pretty, asks about boys, school. I answer in short sentences, and nod.
We leave the restaurant and make plans to meet at our apartment. He doesn’t remember how to get there, so he follows us. At home, he tells me how sorry he is for never being around. He says he wants to be part of my life now and will try his hardest to be a good dad. He makes many promises, and finally gives me a hug and leaves.
I haven’t seen my father since, and the restaurant where we met has burned to the ground.