My Inner Dad

Finding my absentee father by looking in the mirror

Photo: Charis Gegelman/Unsplash

There’s an awkward distance between us. The kind of discomfort that happens when a girl hits puberty and a dad feels pressure to put more space emotionally between them because there’s now tits and ass on his little girl. Except in my case, he gave me up, both legally and physically.

I sit staring at him there in the mirror, because for a good long time that’s all we had. Me, the mirror, the omnipresence of the elephant in the room, because I never really knew him, but I wear his face.

“So… I have this little problem,” I begin because sometimes it’s hard to talk to someone so distant.

“Better than having big problems!” is the rejoinder.

“See, lately, things have been crazy busy. I’m fixing up a house to sell, working on making a camper livable, writing, and publishing five to six articles a week. And then on top of that, there’s all the other stuff, so…”

“Are you crazy busy or busy crazy?”

I stare at the image in front of me. “That’s not really a… okay. I guess I’m just overdoing it.”

I never really knew him, but I wear his face.

“You don’t get any do-overs, so don’t overdo it.”

“Uh. I suppose you’re right. But I have a time crunch. A timeline. My calendar is full this year.”

“I ate a clock yesterday — it was time-consuming!” And then there’s that grin.

I feel my palm hit my forehead and mutter under my breath, “No bad physics jokes, no bad physics jokes.”

“Did you know that Einstein developed a theory about space? And it was about time, too!”

I groan loudly. “How would you start doing less? If you were me?”

“Less is more. Work smarter, not harder.”

“Yeah, that’s… not really… helpful.”

The face across from me never breaks into concern or any other emotion that’s truly recognizable.

I blow a raspberry, and suddenly the face smiles.

“You know, a skeleton made a bet, claiming he was going to fart really loud in a crowded place. But he didn’t in the end. He just didn’t have the guts.”

This story was published in response to Human Parts’ Weekend Writing Prompt, “Get in touch with your inner dad and ask for some fatherly advice. Crack an embarrassing joke or five. Guide yourself through difficulties with a detached kind of affection.” To receive prompts like this one every weekend, subscribe to our newsletter by following Human Parts.

Existential editor. Mostly alive sort of undead, jack of all trades, master of none, but better than a master of one. AKA Kate

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