He is only willing to meet you in one of two places. The first, a restaurant where they serve you in darkness. Your senses learn to come alive, you grasp around in space for your fork, drink your wine far too fast because you can’t measure it against the meal. You explain this to him over email, how you tried it, once, and how quickly you realised that the only flavour you are capable of recognising without sight is garlic. You found it mildly embarrassing. You drank far more than usual. He responds to you in mirth, having had a similar experience. He, however, enjoyed it. In fact, he goes often. He’s had these kind of meetings before, he writes, and it’s a well-chosen restaurant for ‘this sort of thing’. You are surprised at this. How can these meetings be regular? It makes you uneasy as you imagine the vast quantities of those he has met, all sitting in darkness.
You opt for the second meeting place. The cinema. It’s a little annoying, you tell him, trying to be honest. You won’t be able to speak properly while a film is playing. You have some questions that you would like to ask him.
Yes, he responds. He already knows what type of questions you will ask, he has already answered the same kind of questions many times. The cinema will do just fine, especially if it’s an old movie. A matinee. People will have seen it before, they won’t mind a little light chatter.
You pour yourself a luke-warm coffee and wonder about the word ‘movie’. Americanised. Does he have an American accent? Will he mention your own accent, the Brummy way you say ‘mom’? That’s American too, although it isn’t really, because you’ve never been there. Mothers will almost certainly come up in your conversation.
He books the film and tells you where to be, and when. He gives you the exact seat number, telling you that you’ll meet in the theatre. You go. You dress carefully, choosing clothes that you think make you look grown-up. This is difficult, because your wardrobe doesn’t really lend itself to this ideal. You have never worked in an office, for example, and you don’t own a shirt. You opt for a warm jumper, the roll neck pushing you onto the precipice of smart. You wear new black jeans and sandals. You never usually wear sandals, and when you are halfway to the cinema you stare at your feet and swear aloud. Why would you choose today? In the pocket of your new black jeans, your questions wait, hiding within a small scrap of lined paper.
He is already there when you arrive. Or, you assume it is him. He is eating popcorn, and nods silently at you as you take your seat. You are very aware of your sandals sticking to the floor. You quietly say hello. He says hello back. There is stillness for a while, apart from the blaring of the adverts. You glance at him soundlessly, trying not to be creepy. In the large, flashing screen light you check his profile. Do you recognise him? There is a slight bump in the middle of his nose, and you focus on it. He notices, and gives you an awkward smile, lines forming around his large mouth. He widens his eyes at you, uncomfortable, and after a moment of silence, the film begins. It’s Hello Dolly. You don’t like musicals, but he seems to be enthralled from the first moment. You aren’t sure when to interject with the first of your questions, it seems completely inappropriate. Soon, the first song begins. His foot taps to the melody, and your seat shakes with every beat. Halfway through the song, you panic. If you don’t ask now – you never will.
‘Why did you donate?’ You ask, the words coming out in a strange type of bark.
He flinches, and turns to look at you, though it’s more of a glare.
‘Money.’ He says, and you think that you do catch an American accent.
You nod in response, and hesitate with your next question, forcing it to come out in a more polite way.
‘And did you ever meet her?’
He rolls his eyes and sighs, shaking his head. ‘Of course not. Come on kid, I’m trying to watch the movie.’
You nod. And it occurs to you suddenly to stand and leave. Your limbs do this for you, without waiting for the go-ahead from your conscious mind. As you walk past other patrons, you hear a loud whisper; ‘Not a Streisand fan.’
You’re not really, though you can’t say you’ve ever given it much thought. Once outside you take a deep breath of air, pausing momentarily to see if he comes out after you. He doesn’t, of course. You could have guessed that already. You reach into your back pocket and pull out the paper, reading the rest of the questions. They seem stupid now, scratchings of nothingness, musings about favourite drinks and books. You screw it up in your hand. He’s not your father, not really. Your real father, your dad, was the man who picked you up from school. This man? He’s just some sperm.
About The Author
Rachel Grosvenor is a writer and tutor from Birmingham, UK, and is based wherever her backpack is dropped (currently New Zealand). She writes in various genres and forms, from travel writing to fantasy, and her work has been published in equally diverse places – from Cadverine Magazine to the wall of the blue bedroom at the National Trust’s Baddesley Clinton. Rachel’s writing news can be followed on Instragram at @teachmecreativewriting.
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