Shitty, he says, real shitty, when I ask him
how he’s doing. Katie’s dropped out of college,
didn’t even tell anyone, he says, sticks his finger
in his drink, and swirls it around. Now I find out
she’s living with her hippie friends in Asheville.
She says they’re going to start a t-shirt company
or some bullshit like that. I shift a little bit in my seat,
tell him that doesn’t sound so bad, but he finishes
his drink in one swallow and says, When I left her mother,
I signed on Katie’s student loans just to make everybody happy.
We all agreed she’d pay them back after she graduated.
Now I’m really fucked. Christ, what was I thinking?
Oh, shit, I say. That sucks really hard, and motion
to the waitress to bring another round of drinks,
tell her to make them doubles.
Twenty years earlier we tiptoed up to the crib
in the makeshift nursery. Isn’t she great? he whispered,
and I replied, Yeah, she sure is, even though
the room was too dim for us to really see. I’m going
to be a great dad, he told me. I’m going to make sure
she can be anything she wants. Doctor, lawyer . . .
hell, maybe even a starship commander. Who knows?
I don’t care. Whatever she wants, I’m going to make
it happen. I’m sure you will, I said, raised my beer bottle
to him thinking then that I was the only one who heard him
make those promises in the dark that would cost him
so much to keep.