Author’s Note: I wrote this for my Creative Writing: Fiction class as a scene assignment. Let me know what you think.
Clouds fill the sky, coloring the city grey and threatening civilians with rain. Alex feels the wind pierce through her thin jacket and settle into her bones, the late fall getting to her. She stands on the corner, facing the street, anxiously shaking her leg, and watches the cars slowly inch by.
“Late again,” she mutters to herself, as she checks her watch and looks down the sidewalks, where he was nowhere in sight. For once in his life, will it kill him to be early?
Alex exhales, exasperated, and crosses her arms, hoping that this would somehow protect her from the cold. Her leg continues to fidget. She thinks about all the other times he was late, to art shows, to celebrations, to other dinners. Add this to the count.
She watches the cars continue to slowly inch by, having to constantly brake for jaywalkers. The traffic light turns red and she glances into the window of the car stopped at the crosswalk. As she watches the taxi driver throw his hands up in exasperation at being stuck at the red light once again—she empathizes with him—she hears steps running towards her. Alex turns towards the noise, putting on a defensive face.
“Sorry I’m late,” the man says, out of breath. He slows to a stop next to her, but still keeps a distance.
“Hi dad,” Alex replies, arms still crossed against her chest. She doesn’t ask for an excuse or explanation; she’s used to the routine already. Her frustration must be clear on her face though—she can just imagine herself looking blank but the tell-tale furrow of her eyebrows giving her anger away—but her father doesn’t notice.
He takes a few seconds to catch his breath before straightening up. He holds a briefcase in one hand—though, by the way he’s swinging it, it seems empty—and a heavy jacket is layered over his suit-and-tie. He looks like the epitome of the American Dream, or rather, the New York City dream, which irks her because he isn’t even from here. He’s just a visitor in her space, in her city.
“Aren’t you cold?” her father asks, as he pulls out his phone to his side, as if he’s hiding it from her, and thumbs through the notifications.
“No,” Alex lies. She instinctively uncrosses her arms and her father looks up at her, with a quizzical look in his brow.
“You sure? They’re predicting this season to be one of the coldest in recent years.” He looks back down at the phone and begins tapping at the screen.
“I’m sure,” she replies, though she feels an extra chill sweep down her spine. Her eyes linger on the phone. He doesn’t notice. The silence stretches on, only interrupted by the occasional honk, the wisp of the wind, and the tapping of her father’s fingers.
Finally, Alex looks away from the phone in his hands and clears her throat. “So should we get going?” she says impatiently, as if he forgot she was there in the first place.
Her father finally looks up, a little dazed, but quickly recovers. “Yeah, yeah, of course.” He pockets the phone and they take off down the street together, walking side by side. They stride down the long city blocks in silence, before Alex feels her father’s smile on her as he turns and asks, “You see your brother’s game the other day?”
His hopeful tone almost makes Alex feel guilty for replying with a straight “No,” but there was no need for him to think that there was any chance at a reunion with her brother. They haven’t talked in a while, a few text messages here and there, a phone call if it was warranted, but these just lead to a reminder of why they didn’t talk anymore. It was the difference in values and personalities and lives, which just leads to big arguments, which means radio silence was for the best.
Blood lines can’t be the only connecting force.
“Oh. Yeah, well, he did great,” her father pauses, “he says hi, by the way.” The lie slips too easily through his lips.
Alex doesn’t respond.
“Um, so you changed your hair again!” her father reattempts, “they’re not in the braids anymore.” She feels his eyes linger on her, but she continues staring straight ahead, focused on walking—one foot in front of the other—rather than on him. But she instinctively goes to touch her hair, the dark tight curls blown out, almost as if a cloud rested upon her head.
“Yeah.” The last time she saw her father, her hair was pulled into tight box braids. When he remarked that time that it reminded him of how she wore her hair when she was little, she made a mental note to book an appointment with her hairdresser. “Decided to go natural instead,” she adds.
“I see that!” her father enthuses, “I wish I could do things with my hair again, but I’m afraid that I’ve outgrown that phase.” He chuckles to himself and taps the top of his pale, balding head.
Alex finally meets his eyes. “Sure,” she says.
His smile immediately drops. He clears his throat and looks away. They continue walking.
Alex wonders how they must look to others right now, these two vastly different people walking side by side. Here’s Alex, with her dark skin and ratty jacket and heavy boots, stomping against the ground with every step. And here’s her father, with his pale skin reddening at the cold and immaculate pea coat and shining loafers. The clack of the loafers opposes the pounding of her boots.
He sounds like purpose.
She sounds like disruption.
She wonders whether strangers can feel the tension, whether they can feel the strain of their relationship. Would they even be able to tell that they were father-daughter?
After a few more blocks of only their shoes making noise, they reach the destination, a dive place of Alex’s choosing. Her father steps back to let her enter first, swinging his arm at the door, like he was performing some kind of grand gesture. Alex nods at him to be polite and begins to push the door open before she hears a gasp. She turns to her father, who’s staring at her hand against the door.
“Is that—is that a ring?” her father asks, eyes glued to the metal band donning her finger.
Alex freezes, but quickly recovers, her hand falling to her side.
“Yeah.” She takes a deep breath and lifts her hand up. This was the moment that she’s been dreading, the moment that makes her feel like she was transported to being back under his roof, surrounded by the four pink walls of her childhood bedroom. Alex takes another deep breath.
“I’m getting married.”