“A Year of Wishful Thinking” by Anastacia Tolbert
He had a decomposing smile. All the rotten children caught between his teeth. And none of us thought we were rotten. And none of us knew he was decomposing.
This familiar place is a shy grin waiting to unfurl. The edges of the city facing up. The inside of the city moist and polished. It is not a place I want to live in again. Get a permanent address. Join a gym. But I have to live here for a moment. There’s a park I like. There’s a Westport apartment I have. My father does not agree with my lifestyle and my mother doesn’t understand the things I will and will not do. I’ve grown a mothers pouch but I have never had children and I cannot remember the last time I went on a juice fast or cleanse. Perhaps I am letting myself go or maybe I’m letting myself come.
My father is decomposing rapidly and every day he begins to smell badly. This is what I think but my friends say that’s mean. But he is not a healthy living man and some days it feels like he is already dead. The thing. The heavy thing about my father dying wakes me. I decide to stay at a hotel to remind me I am not moving here. To remind me I will not get a Missouri state driver’s license. I will not memorize the Starbucks in my neighborhood. I will not refer to it as my neighborhood. I will not make nice with my neighbors. I will not let them bring me wine or cookies or cocaine. It’s not happening.
My father used to be a hearty man with a skinny smile. He was addicted to working out and alcohol. He was deemed stable drunk. Functioning quite well with altoids and coffee as an intermission between sets of six or so drinks. He never beat my mother or made white trash scenes in our front yard. We never pressed our ears against our parents’ bedroom while we held the phone to our ears and called 911. It wasn’t that kind of life at all. My mother and father have been divorced for many years. In some families I suppose this splits things down the middle. It isn’t as easy as that—not like perfectly parted plaits or a wavy pastel chalk line.
And now my father is a skinny man with a fat smile. His lips swollen to one side, his glitter only on the left. And there are plans to be made. Important things to think about. Adult shit to do and not say. People to contact. Tears to fall.