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REVIVAL

George ate the same meal for dinner every night: grilled filet mignon, a small portion hardly larger than a demitasse, but the best quality meat, very juicy, his knife sliding through it as if through butter. The thick chunk had to be medium rare, seared dark on the outside, pink in the middle. Placed beside it was a baked potato cooked in silver foil for about an hour then split and adorned with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. A green salad – cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, garnished with slivers of onion – was served in a wooden bowl beside his plate. The bowl, kept especially for George’s salad, looked like half a coconut rubbed smooth and stripped of its creamy flesh. George liked to read the paper while he ate, and Susan made sure he wasn’t disturbed. She’d always been a very attentive wife. Though George never commented on that fact, Susan felt he knew it and was grateful.

I might as well confess George was my dad. He was one of those dads who rushed in after work, swept up his kids and hugged them, then hurriedly went off to live his life. We met him during the evening only by chance. That was home: the rush, the kiss, the smell of grilling meat, the paper brought neatly folded then spread open, taking over a large part of the table. Later, far off, the TV news. And very late, if I was still awake, the muffled thuds and clangs of boxing matches father loved to watch.

Sometimes, I’d slip out of my room and peer into the den. There dad sat, upright and alert, hands clenched, duplicating moves. The glass of tea my mother always brought stood cloudy and untouched on a nearby table. I gazed for a few moments, then crept away.

My mother was in bed. Fast asleep. She never stayed up past ten. A bit of reading, then the light went out. Though my parents’ rituals were worlds apart, I was convinced of their loyalty and affection.

I was in my twenties, living on my own in another city, the day I made the call. My father answered. Cheerfully, I asked him how they were. “Talk to your mother,” he said. Then he was gone and my mother’s voice was saying, “We’re divorcing.”

I don’t remember more of that conversation. Only those two fragments, and then nothing.

Life moved on. My dad found another woman, many women. My mother married again. Each lived in a new place, my father’s functional, my mother’s cozy. Once they split, I rarely saw my father. My mother had been the glue that held us together.

I try to forget the past. Or at least to view it through a misty lens.

I’ve bungled it. What I’m experiencing now is a resurrection: the rush, the kiss, the smell of grilling meat, the salad gleaming red and green as gems, the TV murmuring in another room. Father’s throwing punches, alert, intent. Mother’s asleep, hands tucked beneath her cheek, her hair still thick and dark, her body young.

I’m longing to see them but the house is cold. Soon even my father will have gone to bed. I burrow under the covers. It can wait. Everyone will be here in the morning.


“Revival” was published in Otherwise Occupied: A Journal of Literature and the Arts

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