The little girl packs her bag well. She’s fast, and she can get all of her things into a small one. The little girl is proud of this. She feels good that she can move quickly and efficiently and not take up much space. She’s happy that her dad lives on the next street. It’s quick to walk over there. She does this every weekend. There’s even a walkway that cuts through the block of apartment buildings so she can take a direct route.
She and her bag arrive there every Friday night and walk up the apartment stairs; it smells like gum when he opens the door. Spearmint and Winter Green. Cinnamon, too. There are dinosaurs there; small, plastic dinosaurs because he loves anything at all related to them. He makes shapes out of clay that he bakes into solid creatures and paints. There are sliced red apples and raw tofu in the morning for breakfast. Black coffee is brewed. Once, as she was sitting on his lap while he was working, the coffee spilled on her. She remembers it was so hot. He was upset.
Her dad is handsome and smart. So very, very smart. That’s what everyone says about him, and she knows it’s true. He teaches her many things. When she’s a teen, he will teach her complex math in a way that no teacher will be able to help her understand. He ties her shoes super tight. He makes her cheese and ketchup sandwiches.
He smiles at her often, and sleeps a lot. He sleeps on a futon. She naps with him sometimes, just to be close to him. She’s not sure why he sleeps, but it is more than she does. He’s always very tired. She knows that. When he sleeps he pulls the blankets up over his head so all she can see is his nose. It must be dark under there. It’s always bright outside when he’s asleep.
His love for her is strong and pure. He tells her often. She feels very loved; it is hard for her mom to understand. When she is young, he will have her over every weekend. She will move in with her dad when she’s 16, wanting space from her primary caregiver. There will be many apartments, and several relationships. There will be one apartment in which he lets her paint the walls in her bedroom. She paints scenes on them – big, strong colors, all present in the rainbow. Deep colors; it makes her very happy. When they move out, she has to paint it back to boring.
It is hard for him to be overly present. His depression takes a lot of his energy. She does not realize this until she’s much older. His depression makes him think he’s not a good person. It is ruthlessly uncaring. There will be years of medication and therapy, and years without it. When he’s older he will find the right combination; he will find the right research.
They are close as she approaches middle age. He is one of her best friends. They text every day and talk often. Hour-long conversations about anything and everything exciting in the world. He encourages her to write. He supports that dream of hers. He knows so much about so many things, and even though he doesn’t post on social media, he knows all the ways she could and should build her blog. He never ceases to amaze her with his knowledge base. Once, many years ago, he shared with her that he thought she should be a journalist. She did not listen to him then and regrets that now.
She feels lucky to have his love in spite of the depression.