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A Voicemail From Dad photo

Hey Em, it's Dad. Sorry it's so early, but I figured I’d call since it’s been a minute and I turned fifty last week and the grays have just about taken over my hair. Also, they say talking it out can cleanse and the Lord says to forgive, so I said to myself, Hey Jim, why not give it a shot, worst case she ends it but maybe right before the busy tone I catch a snippet of Jane’s sweet voice. She’s three now, right? I saw her holding a mermaid birthday cake on Facebook the other day; her smile was wide as a canyon.

What I am trying to say is that when I wake it is still dark and I am covered in blue TV glow and I make my way to the sock drawer and run my hands through them, the socks, that is, and there are so many to choose from—whites and grays and blacks and striped and more striped—and it is hard, the day is hard. 

Let me be clearer. Do you remember that day after baseball practice when we shucked corn together, pulling off the outer green leaves, piece by piece, the leaves dry and soft, the crisscross of the kernels’ yellows and whites sparkling in the sun? You were sitting on my lap, humming a tune—“The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” maybe?—and we took turns drinking from the hose, the water metallic and cool, and we could smell the sweet gasoline from the boats bobbing in the lake, and you said over and over, in a sing-songy voice, “Daddy, I love the smell of gasoline, I love the smell of gaaaasoline.” But then evening came, and your mother and I couldn't choose where to eat because there was Wendy’s and Mickey D’s and Chili’s, and every fast-food chain you could think of, and I was ashamed, goddamn ashamed, of our endless choices and limits—it felt like being pinned under a giant redwood and all you could do was look up, up—and we ended up at a Pizza Hut, and I found a hair curled inside the lip of my glass of Dr. Pepper, and I yelled at the waiter and grabbed the toy from your meal—it was a cheap Captain America figurine, the white star on his shield was washed out—and I flung Captain America against the wall and it clanked off of a stupid sign that said “PAN ZONE,” and you and Mom started to cry, both in thick, hurried sobs. 

The thing is this: Right before I wake, before I rummage through my sock drawer, I dream of the field at dawn, the sky bruised purple, the dew clinging to the grass, the raised red seams perfectly stitched, the ball cutting through the unblemished morning. I dream of the deep silence interspersed with the ping of the bat and the popping of our mitts, and suddenly I’m floating, floating above you and me, and I can see our faces and we both look so content, you with your gap-toothed grin, your ponytail hanging through your cap, your right arm cocked, ready to fire—and me, well, my eyes are beaming, bright as the sun, glove outstretched, waiting for your delivery, and my attention is on you, only you, and I think we have all the time in the world, but soon enough we call it quits when the afternoon sun bakes the infield dirt into a hard and cracked clay. And that’s when I wake, awash in my blue, sinful glow, though today I thought maybe it could still be morning for us.