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Beach Grit

Surf fiction: Don’t call me dad!

Rory Parker

by Rory Parker

Rory Parker says goodbye to single moms!


God damn it.

I knew it was coming. Told her this wouldn’t work, couldn’t work. Kids build these attachments, regardless. I’m present. I’m kind, enough. I’m big enough to pick her up, buy her a gift without too much thought. But mainly present. In the end that’s all that really matters. Kid sees you every day, nearly, you become a part of its life. There’s no stopping it. Thing doesn’t have the perspective, can’t understand that a large portion of its life is just a small fraction of yours.

It’s why everything is such a big deal. Why petty slights hurt so bad. Don’t have the experience to put things in perspective. Each hurt’s the worst you’ve ever felt, can’t imagine a crueler world.

You figure things out, though. Shit happens, keeps happening. Does the pain stop? Do you just become numb to it? You’ve gotta, right? Or eat a bullet, because there’s always more. Just how things go.

Don’t call me dad, call me a lesson.

“You don’t need to worry, she knows you’re not her father.”

“She doesn’t know shit. She’s a child. This isn’t going to work. I’m sorry.”

I’m not. This is her own fault. I saw it coming. She should have.

“I can keep you separate. I’ll get a sitter, it’ll just be the two of us. You don’t ever need to see her again.”

Great mom. Good job. Got those priorities right in a row.

I can be a band aid, off and gone. Stings like a bitch, the memory fades. But become a ghost? Linger in the eaves? She’ll know I’m there, just don’t want her. I can’t do that. Don’t have it in me.

She’s got a real one out there somewhere. We never talked about him, her mom and I. Not a subject I wanted to broach. Not my business.

He’d sure make it easier. Swoop in on weekends, fill her with candy and half-assed love. Weekend dad, two days of affection. Mom at home raging, the kid a pawn in her bitter game. But not bad for me, an outside observer. Palms raised, stepping backwards, ain’t my job to interfere. Be a good time, a fond memory. Some kindly fellow who fucked her mother then flew the coop. Simple, fun, what I was promised.

I knew she was lying. She had to be.

She’s a piss poor cook. Boiled hot dogs, microwave bullshit. Too self involved to spare twenty minutes to make something decent. It’s her own fucking daughter, always too much effort.

“You don’t know what it’s like! Raising a child on my own, the pressure! Every single day, it’s what she wants! What she needs! What about me? Don’t I get to have a life? You can’t leave me alone! You can’t! What will I do? I need someone, someone who cares about me! It can’t all be about her!”

But it is. And I’m not that someone. Can’t be. Won’t. Don’t care to, not with your true colors bleeding a selfish black from every fucking pore. You made this thing, signed up for it. It’s not the fifties, you wouldn’t’ve bled out in some back alley abattoir. Sterile and trained and safe and easy. Unpleasant, yes. A hard thing to admit, to place that primacy on your own happiness. Self interest at the expense of another life. But worse to ride it out because of unearned guilt and spend the rest of your life awash in resentment. Like a selfish owner, too weak to put your pet down. Letting it suffer away its final days in an agony you ignore. Cursing the clean-up, hating that it just won’t end. But still too weak, too selfish, to do the right thing. Doom another to pain in order to avoid your own weak twinge.

If I don’t say goodbye she’ll cry. She’ll wonder where I went, what she did wrong. Why don’t I love her? Then she’ll move on. Too much in this world to learn. Everyday a different adventure, filling her little head and pushing me out of it.

Mom’s her own problem. We’re adults. We each and always suffer alone.

I’m not going back. I’ll block her number, she’ll figure it out. There’s a jacket I really like hanging on a hook on the backside of her bathroom door. Small price to pay to cut things off cleanly. And the kid will be fine. They always are. Or they aren’t. Gotta keep that vicious cycle turning.

No more single moms. I said that last time, I mean it now. Too much mess. Divorced is fine, maybe good. No kids, no ex, at this age? Spells trouble in my book.

Still talk to my own, occasionally. My ex. Remarried, with the kids and dog and mortgage, whole shebang. Good for her, truly. She got what she wanted, says she’s happy with it. I hope so.

We met young, loved, planned a life together. But they don’t tell you how you’ll change, either or both. That blissful naivete, the notion things last forever. It was easy in the end. No acrimony, mainly mutual. She said she wanted to grow up. I said I was, liked things fine how they were. How much weight you can bear isn’t the measure of a man. Or shouldn’t be. Isn’t for me.

It didn’t break me, nor her. Young enough to start again, smart enough to end it before we burnt through our youth. Sometimes I wonder if I’d, we’d, hung on, made it work, if one of us would’ve come to the other side. A stupid question to ask. Things are what they are.

I let her have the car, the only thing we owned. It was a piece of shit, I looked magnanimous. Win/win.

I had a weak moment, sent her a text. Not my past ex. The one soon to be present.

This isn’t going to work. I’m sorry. You’ll find someone else.

From raving to pleading to ranting to begging. Little dick, piece of shit. I’m so sorry, I love you. We can make it work, I swear. Fuck you then, I hope you die. Don’t do this to me!

Let her get it out of her system. Catharsis is fine, she has every right. Howl at the moon, if that’s what it takes. Empty that pit, find someone else to fill it back up.

It’s easy to move on. Easy-ish. I miss the kid, a little. She was sweet. In some other world, some parallel universe that built me differently, I’m probably still there. For birthdays, Christmas. Teach her to ride a bike, build a little tomboy, the type that bloodies noses. If she were mine I’d have hung around. Even when I’d had enough of mom, moved out, found a place of my own. Through school, through college, give her money for a Summer abroad. Try not to think about how often she gets fucked. If I were her real dad. Which I am not.

The time we had together will have to be enough. If it isn’t, wasn’t, I can’t say I’m sorry. I can’t remember truly feeling sorry, no matter how often I may mouth the words. We do what we have to, all of us, all the time. It’s rarely as clean or pretty as we’d like.

Back in the dating pool is no fun. We’d never talked about monogamy, but I fall into it. Out of sheer laziness, unforced.

The internet makes it easier, if awkward, every meeting a first date. A random encounter in a crowded place is always best. Nothing replaces that magic. Fumbling at a stranger, waiting for morning to see if the click is still there. It usually isn’t, but it was damn fun while it lasted! Sometimes not. Sometimes the room stinks of shame and you can’t wait to get the fuck out. But that has its own charms.

The phone calls and texts and long, crazy, nonsense social media messages slowly taper off, until I’m free and clear. Really starting to feel like I dodged a bullet. Put my dick in crazy, snuck out just in time.

Got a hot date tonight. Off Tinder, of all places, some kid. Which is who it’s for, not some divorced asshole who recently kicked a lonely single mother to the curb. But you’ve gotta fail to succeed. Someone told me that once. Or I read it somewhere. I figured trolling for daddy issues might get a few bites. Looks like it did.

She’s fat, I can tell from her picture, no matter how she frames it. But she’s young enough that it works. Skin’s still taut at that age. And the fat ones are grateful, I remember that. Usually willing to push a few boundaries, because of that gratitude.

I wonder if I should shave. There’s a few grays in my stubble. Does it make me look old? Or edgy, cool, dangerous, experienced? Fuck, she’s still in college, what are we going to talk about? Her class schedule?

I don’t know why I worry. She’s just looking for a fuck. Or should be. At that age.

I’m not gonna shave. Just a quick shower, change of clothes, maybe put some shit in my hair. Not worth getting dolled up. Short sleeved button-up and clean jeans and sandals.

There are reds and blues flashing in my driveway, and my date isn’t happening, and I’m feeling sick to my stomach because I know why they’re there.

Should have seen it coming.

I got the text earlier, saw the name, didn’t read it. Just swiped at my phone so I wouldn’t keep chiming. But it must have registered, because it’s in my mind, I know what it says.

I think we all pray in these pointless moments, when we’re wrapped in terror. Minds shut off, existential fight or flight. Nowhere to run, no thing to confront. Please, no, it can’t be. Anything but this. Please!

Pointless, an empty grasp at nothing.

I know what I’ll see. I just have to look. I could be wrong, I know I’m not.

I did it. She’s gone. We can be together. I love you so much!