by J. D. Dupre
A single dad struggles with purpose.
| He woke to the sound of light footsteps, opening his eyes to see the small the silhouette standing quietly in the doorway. He looked over to the alarm clock on the night stand. The faint red glow showed 2:44. He sighed to himself with a slight grumble. He closed his eyes, wishing he could fall back into that peaceful slumber. "What's the problem?" he asked, his voice hoarse and cracked with sleep.
"I had a bad dream," the boy said in a small voice.
He turned on the lamp and looked at the boy through squinting eyes. "Wet yourself, too, I see." The boy looked away, embarrassed. "We can't keep this up, Stephen. I can't work all day and clean up your pee all night. If it's not your dreams or your bladder it's that dog next door barking at nothing all night long. I'm tired, son." Stephen stood in the doorway, staring at the floor.
He got out of bed and slid into his slippers. The night air was piercingly cool. "Go, get out of those wet clothes and I'll run you a hot bath," he said. Stephen followed him into the bathroom. Steam rose invitingly from the running water. "Climb in," he yawned. "I'll get you some clean clothes."
He went into the boy's room to strip the bed and wash the sheets. He stared at the bed through puffy bloodshot eyes. Fantasies of freedom circled his mind. A mourning for the days when dreams were big and seemed within reach. He gathered the dirty laundry and walked them to the laundry room, passing to check on Stephen who way playing with foam letters, sticking them in random order to the wall.
As he walked the length of the single wide mobile home, he daydreamed about what life may have been like had things been different. Had he not met Sarah. Had he not confused whatever it was he felt for love. Had he not made the mistake of turning one night of passion into urine stained laundry, sleepless nights, and cartoon music that seemed to play on a loop. Even in silence the ghosts of those animated tunes danced in his mind.
He opened the washing machine lid to find load of washed, yet spoiled towels. He let out another sigh and grumble, poured some bleach into the machine, closed the lid, and turned it on. He dropped the wet sheets on the floor in defeat. He looked down at his boots, caked with dried mud. Construction; I was going to be an actor, he thought to himself. He wondered what kind of success he may have found, had things been different, that is. Would his band have made it? He hadn't even sat behind a drum kit in five years.
He went to the boy's dresser and got him some clean clothes, passing the stack of pink colored bills on the kitchen table. A sense of failure draped him like a wet blanket. What am I doing with my life, he wondered. Am I destined to live in this trailer park forever? I was going to travel. I miss my friends. He could here the dog barking though the window. Will I find fulfillment in this life?
"You okay in here?" he asked as he walked into the bathroom. Stephen sat slouching in the tub, pretending the washcloth was some sort of sea creature. On the wall behind him, colored foam letters, "I LUV DADY."
"Can I sleep in your bed?" Stephen asked.
He smiled. "I can't think of anything better."