Tip & Ring
Doreen hadn’t spoken to her father since her last birthday, a year ago, when he’d called two weeks late. He thought he’d gotten the date right, was proud and chipper, his voice strong and cheery as he launched into his rendition. She’d sighed, waited for him to finish, acted like it was the actual day, finishing his sentences, allowing the charade to continue because it wasn’t worth the fight anymore. They’d hung up with the usual ritual of Elvis-voiced Take Care’s and Love You’s, the rhythm in her bones, so familiar and maddening.
This morning she thought of tire swings, treehouses, ponies— things he’d bought for her, her amusement, to keep her occupied, out of his way. The times he’d sent friends to fix flat tires, mailed money with no cards, the only time he’d visited her apartment noting the windows needed bars since it was the ground floor, the back door with its paned glass a hazard for a young woman alone.
This morning she remembered her mother, her death a wedge, her corpse inhabiting space between them, the only thing they had in common: a critical worship of Doreen. Guilt or joy, she could no longer tell them apart, washed over her like a frantic character in a Kate Chopin story. Freedom blanched everything, tainting the day, like a lifelong prisoner who has nowhere to go when released into the world.
That morning, she tried to pick up the phone but her hand hovered just above every time.