I got home from school one day and Mom had boxes everywhere. “Don’t throw your bags down just anywhere, I don’t want you to lose them.” The boxes were taped and labeled. A few of them had my name on them. A weird feeling rumbled in my guts.
I set my bags down at the front door and nodded at her that I heard and scooted out of her way to get to my bedroom. My dresser drawers were hanging open. I could see that they were empty.
Mutti held my hand in one of hers and my clothes bag in her other. We stood on the front porch of a man she wanted me to meet. She kept saying weird things like, “LK, I’m going to have you meet your father.” I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I was seven years old and had known my father my whole life. When I’d try to get her to drop my hand, she just squeezed it harder. Her fingernails poked my skin. She wasn’t letting go.
A kid answered the door. She’d rung the bell twice and he looked up at her like she looked pretty crazy. I was embarrassed because she did look pretty crazy to me, too. “Hello,” she said in a kindergarten teacher voice, “is your father home?” The kid was about my age and had lots of really curly brown hair. He squinted at my mom and nodded. Real slowly-like, how you step away from a mad dog, he backed into his house and shut the door. I heard his feet running further into the house and him holler, “Daaaad!”
A really tall man with hair the same color as mine opened the door. Mom was smiling with her mouth but it looked like she was almost about to cry.
“Toni…?” the man said. He looked really surprised and I guessed mom probably didn’t call first to tell him we were coming. It was like the guy caught himself acting funny, though, and he hugged my mom and kissed both her cheeks like a Paris man. She still had my hand and wouldn’t let go, so they kinda jerked me around a little.
The guy got his wits about him and then it hit him that I was standing there beside them. He saw me and stared at me and his mouth fell open like a fish. Next thing he was shooing us inside with his arm around my mom’s shoulders. I think that’s when I reckoned that’s what my mom was trying to tell me. That this huge guy was my dad and I don’t really know if it was possible to have two dads, but apparently she was trying to tell me something here, and it made me really, really mad.
“Harold,” my mom said, “this is Lamar Kevin.” She held my arm out to him so he could shake my hand. I knew I was supposed to be polite and use my manners here, but everything was really confusing and I didn’t really want this traitor guy to touch me.
He crouched down to see me in my face. He didn’t hold my hand too long and said, “Well, I’ll be.”
The boy was in the living room with us and he had a metal truck that he could drive up the back of the couch. I watched him drive across the top of the back part and heard my mom and the guy talking in bits and pieces. I heard things like, “Roy” and “your wife” and “your son’s name?” I wasn’t really paying attention then until mom asked the boy – who I guess was named Vincent – if he could take me to his room and show me his truck. Vincent nodded with his chin and I followed him on back.
When Roy told me I had to leave, everything switched over to zombie mode. Everything in my world filled up with water or karo syrup and that slowed everything down. Even the clock’s ticking lost its normal rhythm. Minutes became as long as hours.
I had planned for this for so many years that I was surprised when the time had finally come for us. I had no idea what to pack and no clue how I was going to explain it to LK. But there was no way in the world I was leaving him. And Seliah was going to have to come, too. The logistics of that were huge question marks in my mind – she was a teenager then and everything was so overwhelming I wasn’t even sure where to begin.
Off and on, I cried. We all had come so far to make this work together and here I was, finally in a good place to be loving Roy, and now he’d ripped that option away from me. Looking back now, I realize that turnabout is fair play and all, but I couldn’t really even express how crushed I was by his revelation. Roy couldn’t have betrayed me – Roy was good.
The next day, I picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect me with the Butler Arms Hotel. One little lie and my best attempts to hide my voice, and I had Harold’s address. I checked it out in my mapbook and started packing. Not sure how I managed to get all that boxed up so quickly – I guess there wasn’t a whole lot for me to pack. Mostly it was Lamar Kevin’s stuff because there was no negotiating, the boy was coming with me.
We left all the boxes, but I took a bag of his clothes. I didn’t have a plan, and I wasn’t sure any of this would go over at all. But I figured that Harold had a right to know what was happening with his son, and it was just as well we do the introductions at the same time.
When LK got home from school, I told him where we were going and though I could tell he wasn’t real pleased about it, he came along without a big struggle.
Seeing Harold again after all these years made me realize just how much Lamar Kevin looked like his father. And that spark in my chest proved still to be an overpowering magnet between us.
I sent LK off to play with Harold’s other son, Vincent, and sat Harold down to tell him everything.
His wife was at her mother’s, and that was a good thing. I needed to get it all out without an audience and didn’t need any more people judging me than was necessary. She’d be back in the morning.
The conversation went well – really well. It was that kind of connection that doesn’t seem to fade as the years past. And Harold held my hand while I caught him up on all of the stories about myself and my craft and the boy and he even asked about Seliah and Roy. This man was the very best friend I’d ever had, and it felt so normal and right for us to be having this talk, even though I was in an awful predicament. I made sure I let Harold know I wasn’t there to have him help, just that I wanted to see him, to let him know what was happening.
Suddenly time was speeding forward again and the hours were playing catch up from their slowing in the days before. Harold offered me a can of beer and said he’d make us dinner. The light was growing dim outside and I knew I’d need to be heading out soon, but gods I didn’t want to!
Harold insisted I needed to stay. That he would drive LK and me home if we wanted, but that his house was our house. I was grateful for him being so open to us, but knew that if I was there when Maggie got home, there would be fireworks. And that was the last thing I wanted was for more drama. I was exhausted and the well of my emotional strength was drying up.
I told him that, and he laughed and said he’d handle everything. That I was going to move in there with Lamar Kevin and we’d have all kinds of fun things to do and adventures to go on. As much as that sounded like the most perfect thing, it scared me to get my hopes up. Harold was married, and I was going to divorcing again soon, and tongues were going to be wagging before we knew it.
He didn’t care about the gossip. He said, “This feeling we have? I am the sun to your asteroid. We waited all those years, so patiently. I’m goddamn tired of being patient waiting for you.” He said my name and every single tear I’d shed was suddenly worth it. I had no idea how he’d make it work, but I trusted that whatever it was, I would survive it. Staying made all the sense in the world to me. Nothing else mattered.
This is what he did to me. All my troubles, all my responsibilities, my to-do list – everything disappeared. It didn’t matter. I was here with him now, and even the air I breathed was no longer as important as being with this man.