My wife brushes her teeth in the shower and doesn’t spit, so the toothpaste foams around her mouth and drips down her chin onto her breasts. It reminds me of the two people I fear the most: my mother and my dentist. Tonya oversleeps again. She is starting to look like her mother. I burn my wife’s sprouted grains toast because I hate her new Vegan diet. She doesn’t notice because it is covered with half-ripe avocado. I crisp up a whole package of uncured maple bacon to give her something to complain about.
Tonya yells at her mom like a teenager, though she is only twelve. I cannot imagine what the house will be like when I leave and she doesn’t have an audience. She and I lock rolled eyes. It’s the only thing we have in common that keeps us from falling apart.
On the way to school, Tonya mentions drugs. I tell her I smoked pot in college, but that’s about it. I try to remember what it was like when I was her age. I feel bad for Tonya, having a mentally vacant dad and an emotionally unstable mom. No wonder she is doing drugs already. I picture Drew Barrymore doing a line of cocaine off a Tiger Beat magazine with Jonathan Taylor Thomas on the cover. Maybe I just wasn’t as cool as the other kids, sweaty palms and counting down from ten to muster up the courage to kiss my girlfriend. She broke up with me and the other kids called me a prude. I entered high school with the enormous false sense of confidence that I would sleep with every girl in my class. When that didn’t happen, I drank to feel something, then drank not to feel anything, then just drank.
Tonya opens her car door before I come to a complete stop. She runs up to a group of girls and hugs them all at the same time, showing off what looks like a tattoo on her backside. I drive away thinking I should be upset or disappointed or concerned in some way. I wave begrudgingly at an over-caffeinated school mom tipping her oversized coffee cup to my obvious right of way like she is performing a humanitarian feat. I fantasize about her tailing me home where we drink mimosas and cheat.
I locate the piece of oversized luggage we used to take on family vacations and pull it down from the closet shelf; I find a tampon, a trial-size body lotion, and a foldable toothbrush in the bottom of it. I pack up everything I can fit into it, sit on top of the full suitcase, and get lost in a ceiling stain.
Tonya and her mother come home, furious I missed their calls and voicemails and texts. They stomp up the stairs like walking temper tantrums, following the noises to the bedroom. I look down at them from the attic through a large hole in the ceiling where the stain used to be. “I cut a stain out,” I manage to utter. “I’ll replace it.” They look up at me as if to confirm my suspicions that the father-daughter dance was not, in fact, cancelled this year.
My wife makes curry for dinner and Tonya stays at the table for the entire meal. She asks if we are getting a divorce and I tell her no I just hate my life and she says join the club and we smile like a familiar pain masking a deeper one. She looks high but I don’t say anything. My wife doesn’t talk to me for the rest of the night, even when I am unpacking the enormous suitcase and cleaning plaster off the bedroom floor. I pretend to sleep while she cries; she sleeps and I get up to pay bills in the dark.