While it’s true that Dad dying changed her life changed irrevocably, there was, long before that, the irrevocable changing of life anyway.
It’s only now, in reaching an age he never attained, that she recognizes how simultaneously insubstantial and grandiose his existence.
Insubstantial because of its disjointed structure. Brevity.
Lacking the development of even one simple character arc.
Grandiose because of how many people were left feeling so desperately lost, despite this.
So desperately lost for so desperately long.
She’s nine when she lives in the high mountains with him.
Mum is gone again, but Delilah doesn’t ask about that.
She never misses her mum like he does.
Doesn’t feel her absence at all, really.
Too busy feeling, among other things, his big heart being ripped open, in such close proximity to hers.
She’s too young to actively comprehend her mother’s disappearances and the part that she might play in them.
And yet? One is somehow never too young to be aware of the dark waters that run through a life.
Delilah sits on the high kitchen counter, legs swinging off the side, eating chocolates, one after the other, when she hears the front door open and slam and the uneven march of her dad’s strong legs.
“Lily?” he calls.
There’s an urgency to this voice that makes Delilah count the aluminum chocolate wrappers next to her on the counter. Seven. Is seven a high number?
She thinks it might be.
Dad turns the corner into the living room and sees her there.
Delilah. Torn stockings. Again. Mussed hair. Boots dripping muddy water onto the carpet.
Dad. His untamed curly hair. How she loves his silly hair. She wants to touch it.
He lifts his hand up to show her what is in it: her blue lunchbox.
“Why weren’t you at school?” he asks, and Delilah slowly draws the connection between the object he’s presenting and the conversation they’re having.
“I was going to pick you up at school,” he tells her.
Delilah remembers this now. Yes, he was.
Delilah reaches out a small hand to Dad, inviting him to her.
He sighs, sets down the lunchbox, and crosses the room.
There was snow, Dad. Remember?
She doesn’t say this out loud, simply looks at those blue eyes so much more bruise-y than hers and feels that he should understand.
There was snow. It came in during recess, surrounded by a fog.
And the clouds were so low that everything became new, disguised, mysterious.
And her feet just started walking.
There was so much to see.
The way the tall grasses had grown icicles and the sides of the river froze.
And broke beneath her feet. The cracks, like skeins, tearing away from her.
He showed her all of this. He showed her the world.
The way to see it, through his eyes.
Of course he understands.
“Delilah,” Dad says, softly.
He hangs his head and kisses her chocolate-smudged hand.
Daddy, she says, without words.
“You scared me,” he tells her.
He puts his head in her lap, circles her legs in his arms, and starts to cry.
Because it’s really hard, at some point, to try to hold together things that refuse to be held.
Delilah touches his funny springy curls and decides it’s best not to tell him that she found their missing cat.
He’s underneath the back deck. His insides eaten out. His eyes a frozen stare.
Love. It has so many interesting textures.