That — at its heart — was why Laura loved this poem…and why, right now, she felt so viscerally connected to it. Sure, it could be seen as a study of religion, or politics.
Certainly it was a narrative of redemption. But when you stripped it down, this poem was the story of an ordinary guy in the throes of a midlife crisis.
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As Daniel Stone waited in the long queue of cars pulling up to the high school, he glanced at the stranger in the seat beside him and tried to remember when she used to be his daughter. She fiddled with the radio, running through a symphony of static and song bites before punching it off entirely. Her red hair fell like a gash over her shoulder; her hands were burrowed in the sleeves of her North Face jacket.
She turned to stare out the window, lost in a thousand thoughts, not a single one of which Daniel could guess. These days it seemed like the words between them were only there to better outline the silences.
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Daniel understood better than anyone else that, in the blink of an eye, you might reinvent yourself. He understood that the person you were yesterday might not be the person you are tomorrow. But this time, he was the one who wanted to hold onto what he had, instead of letting go. They had a different relationship, after all; closer than most daughters and their fathers, simply because he was the one she came home to every day. He had done his due diligence in her bathroom medicine cabinet and her desk drawers and underneath her mattress — there were no drugs, no accordion-pleated condoms.
Trixie was just growing away from him, and somehow that was even worse. Daniel had had his share of fantasies: After all, Laura pointed out, rebelling against the system was what led her to start dating Daniel. So when Trixie and Jason went out to a movie, Daniel forced himself to wish her a good time.
When she escaped to her room to talk to her boyfriend privately on the phone, he did not hover at the door. He gave her breathing space; and somehow, that had become an immeasurable distance. The cars in front of them had pulled away; the crossing guard was furiously miming to get Daniel to drive up. Trixie gathered together her backpack and jacket. She looked at him, waiting. There was a game they had played when Trixie was little, and would pore over the comic book collections he kept in his studio for research when he was drawing.
No way, Trixie had said. It had been the only answer they agreed upon: But this time, Trixie looked at him as if he were crazy to be bringing up a stupid game from a thousand years ago. He closed his eyes, trying to remember what he had been like at her age. At fourteen, Daniel had been living in a different world, and doing everything he could to fight, lie, cheat, steal, and brawl his way out of it. At fourteen, he had been someone Trixie had never seen her father be. Daniel had made sure of it.
Daniel turned to find Trixie standing beside his truck. She curled her hands around the lip of the open window; the glitter in her pink nailpolish catching the sun. Trixie Stone had been a ghost for fourteen days, seven hours, and thirty-six minutes now, not that she was officially counting. This meant that she walked around school and smiled when she was supposed to; she pretended to listen when the algebra teacher talked about commutative properties; she even sat in the cafeteria with the other ninth graders.
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She slipped the word into her mouth and tucked it high against her cheek like a sucking candy, so that if anyone happened to ask her a question she could just shake her head, unable to speak. Trixie had even overheard one girl making a bet about when she might fall apart in a public situation. High school students were cannibals; they fed off your broken heart while you watched, and then shrugged and offered you a bloody, apologetic smile.
So did Preparation H under the eyes, as disgusting as it was to imagine. Trixie would get up at 5: Trixie crested the hallway on a sea of noise — lockers gnashing like teeth; guys yelling out afternoon plans over the heads of underclassmen; change being dug out of pockets for vending machines.
She turned Trixie turned the corner and saw them: She could smell him -- shampoo and peppermint gum and believe it or not, the cool white mist of utter ice. It kept the details in her dreams: The flannel-covered sound of his voice when she called him on the phone and woke him. The way he would twirl a pencil around the fingers of one hand when he was nervous, or thinking too hard.
Trixie became a rock, the sea of students parting around her. She could see the dimple on the left side of his mouth, the one that only appeared when he was speaking from the heart. Was he telling Jessica that his favorite sound was the thump that laundry made when it was turning around in a dryer?
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That sometimes, he could walk by the telephone and think she was going to call, and sure enough she did? That once, when he was ten, he broke into a candy machine because he wanted to know what happened to the quarters once they went inside? Suddenly, Trixie felt someone grab her arm and start dragging her down the hall, out the door and into the courtyard. She smelled the acrid twitch of a match, and a minute later, a cigarette had been stuck between her lips. She had enormous doe-eyes and olive skin and the coolest mother on the planet — one who bought her incense for her room and took her to get her navel pierced like it was an adolescent rite.
She had a father, too, but he lived in California with his new family and Trixie knew better than to bring up the subject. Bethel High had an open campus, not because the administration was such a fervent promoter of teen freedom, but because there was simply nowhere to go. Trixie walked beside Zephyr along the access road to the school, their faces ducked against the wind; their hands stuffed into the pockets of their North Face jackets. Trixie automatically started breathing through her mouth, because even from a distance, she could smell the gassy, rotten-egg odor from the paper mill to the north that employed most of the adults in Bethel.
She felt her eyes prickle with tears again, and she wiped her mitten across them. Trixie shook her head. I just know it.
They had reached the turn of the river past the park-and-ride, where the bridge stretched over the Androscoggin River. This time of year, it was nearly frozen over; with great swirling art sculptures that formed as ice built up around the rocks that crouched in the riverbed.
Zephyr watched Trixie cry for a few minutes, then leaned against the railing of the bridge. Trixie felt another stab in her chest. He waited for me after English class today to ask me if you were okay…but still, the way I figure it, he could have asked anyone, right? Trixie wiped her nose. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family. Raquel Cepeda is an award-winning journalist, cultural activist, and documentary filmmaker.
She lives with her husband, a writer and TV producer, daughter, and son in her beloved New York City. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, she lives in southern California. Katherine Preston is a writer, public speaker, and a regular contributor to Psychology Today. Raised in England, she currently lives in San Francisco. Find out more at KatherinePreston.
Ukaguzi Sera ya Maoni. Published on. Flowing text. Best For. Web, Tablet, Phone. Daniel E.
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