“Who’s this? Who are you?” Christina’s dad Charlie was all grin and glasses. I stood there with my spend-the-night backpack.
“I’m Emily.” I am 12 going on 65. I am not shy. They would find out soon enough. But for some reason his comfortable, forward attitude brought out a somewhat shy side of me the first few times we met.
“What? What’s that? I can’t hear you. Your name is Beverly? Tina…tell your friend to speak up.” He was standing in front of his TV and huge speakers.
“Dad!? This is my friend EMILY!!” Christina’s voice raised to at least 3 times its usual volume at home. For the first few times I came over, I thought everyone was PISSED because they all yelled instead of speaking to each other.
“Oh Emily. Oh okay. Well why won’t she look at me? That makes me feel like she’s lying. Hey, hey…look me right in the eyes. Right here, Emily.” He was maybe 18 inches from my face, bug-eyed, tapping his finger on his glasses and snapping his fingers with the other hand.
Soon I would be dancing around their living room in my swimsuit with a bedsheet towel-twisted and wrapped up on my head like Carmen Miranda. Not today, not yet…but soon.
“I am looking you in the eye.” My eyes flitted into 1/2 second eye contact; I couldn’t help laughing.
“We have to scream because his hearing is damaged from being overseas.” The first time I met her, I might’ve thought Christina’s mom Katy was much more reserved than the rest of them, but soon, maybe even in this first visit, she was yelling right along with the rest of them.
“Beverly…Emily…come here…listen to this!!” The volume up arrow was probably dented in more than all other remote buttons. I forgot to check.
Charlie’s grin grew even larger as the TV volume grew louder. He nodded along in approval. The windows rattled. We were all covering our ears in pain.
“Whaddya think of that? Pretty awesome?”
“Oh yeah it’s great.” It was LOUD, but I didn’t mind it then, and especially looking back…yeah, it was great. Charlie was great.
“What’d you say? What’d she say?”
“Dad…let us drive your truck to the store.” We were born to be independent, Christina and I. The way we did math, 14 was close enough to 16.
Besides, what cop would see us in a bright yellow, full-sized truck? Might as well have been camouflage.
“My keys are on the table, but I didn’t say you could…but let’s just say I won’t be looking out the window to make sure my truck is there for the next hour.” He handed Christina ten dollars.
“Let’s go.” Christina pushed her sunglasses on confidently. I heard the truck keys slide across the table, jangle off the edge, and quiet into her grip.
“Are we really going to take his truck? We can walk to the store. He didn’t really say yes, did he?” I stepped into my tied shoes, pressing my heels down and flattening the shoe backs. I put my sunglasses on clumsily.
“Close enough to yes. Let’s go.” Oh, I’m coming. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity, but I just had some nervous questions.
We slid into the hot truck, slammed the heavy doors closed, peeled and repositioned thighs a few times. Christina started it up, much too quickly for my nerves. I felt that a moment of silence for prayer and reflection wouldn’t have been uncalled for.
I burned my fingerprints off fumbling with the metal seatbelt. Christina cranked the radio. The few times I had ever driven in my 14 years, I wanted the radio and a/c off, so I could concentrate.
She banged the transmission into reverse. I looked over my shoulder for her. Her driveway had lengthened itself by miles.
“Wait a second…do you know how to drive backwards?” Cautious spectator, I was full of Nintendo-nerves. Can we handle this level? Are there ditches on the route?
“Yep.” Not even the slightest hesitation. Gravel crunching.
“Does your dad still fix dryers?” No machine intimidated Charlie. I had three daughters by this time; a non-working dryer was not an option.
“Yeah, he does. But he’s heading to the hospital right now. His stomach is bothering him again.” Christina’s heart pumped Daddy’s girl blood, always has. Still does.
“What?! Are you serious?! Oh gosh, I’m sorry. I’ll figure this out.” Christina and I had now been friends for 19 years, since we were only 12, belting out “We are Family” as 7th graders in 9 weeks of sampler choir at Darby Junior High.
“Who is that? Emily? Tell her we will call her back in a few minutes.” Charlie sounded more irritated than anything. If he could’ve willed his body back to how he wanted it to behave, he would’ve rathered that.
“Oh gosh, girl. Do not call me back.” I think about my own dad. Did they get old? Are we old? When did…
He called back. Of course he called back. I imagine he shook IVs as he raised the phone to his ear, maybe rolled his eyes…but then smiled. He definitely smiled instead. You could always hear his smile through the phone.
“Here’s what you do…” He told me where to go to order a heating element for my dryer, told me his friend’s name and number if I needed to get it finished in the next few days.
Or if I could wait a few days, as soon as the hospital people were done annoying him, then he would be glad to come fix it for me.
That’s what was supposed to happen. That’s what should’ve happened.
I shouldn’t have gotten the next phone call I got from Christina. It should’ve been a different conversation. Charlie should’ve gone home. He should’ve shown up at my house a few days later, should’ve fixed my dryer.
God, I hate it.
How did we all hold it together watching Katy walk Christina down the aisle? How did they hold it together? Charlie should’ve been there. Grinning all the way down the aisle, shaking Justin’s hand, lighting fireworks and cracking jokes at the reception.
Cold marble rocks…every one of them is a million stories. I’m honored to pass on the few stories I know personally…