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“All right,” I say. And then again, “All right.”

My backing off has unsettled him. I see his Adam’s apple bobbing around his throat. Say something.

“Give me your watch.” I am startled by my request. Probably more so than he is. I can see it glinting out of the corner of my eye, that heavy thing I once held in my hand. I hadn’t known then that it belonged to my father, yet I felt strangely drawn to it. He doesn’t move, still doesn’t say anything. It’s a standoff—a battle of wills. He’s determined not to acknowledge me, even with his words. I stand there for a few more seconds before I am exhausted. I walk backwards to the front door, never taking my eyes from him. Committed to getting one last look at the man who was responsible for making me, yet responsible for nothing else.

The night air hits my shoulders. I feel the rain before I see it. My last glance before the door shuts is of my father, Howard Delafonte, walking back up the stairs, unperturbed.

The box, the box, the box, I think. Did the person inside belong to him? I go back inside to check on it—kneeling down in front of the oven and flicking on the oven light that has miraculously not yet burned out. It’s there. He or she, I think, resting my forehead against the door.

I go to Judah’s because I can’t stand to be within the same walls as them. He’s sitting by the window, his usual spot. I don’t bother to go inside. I slide down the wall until I am sitting directly beneath the window. I can hear him messing with something that sounds like a plastic wrapper.

“I have Cheetos,” he says.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You don’t have to be hungry to eat Cheetos, just depressed.”

“I’m not…” and then my voice drops off, because who am I kidding? I was born depressed. “I don’t eat that shit anymore.”

“Well la-ti-da, fancy pants. Didn’t know you were a health nut. Excuse me while I eat my orange-coated shit.”

I smile. All of a sudden I feel like Cheetos, because Judah makes me want things I have no place wanting.

“Judah, you suck.”

I hear him move away from the window, the clean squeak of his wheels on the linoleum. Then the door opens, and I feel something hit my arm. Judah leans out the door a little, and I catch sight of his wet hair.

Then the door closes, and he’s back at his post.

I reach down for what hit me. It’s a Ziploc bag of mini carrots. I smile as I open it. That’s more like it.

“We are both eating orange-colored food. I feel all close to you and shit.”

“And shit,” he says. And then,“Why you all sad and shit, Maggie?”

“Eh, just life. You know.”

“I know,” he agrees. “But sometimes it’s still beneficial to talk about it and shit.”

“And shit,” I say. “I met my dad tonight. He’s the worst kind of cracker jack loser lobster.”

“I’ve never met a cracker jack loser lobster. Is that like an asshole?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Exactly.”

“You know,” says Judah. “I know you’ve never met my dad, but he’s kind of a cracker jack loser lobster, too. He left my mom because he didn’t want kids. Didn’t even come see me at the hospital when I was born. Sent her the child support check every month though. The first time I met him was after my first surgery. He felt guilty and decided to start being a dad to his cripple son. Sometimes I wonder if he would have contacted me if I didn’t get the tumor. Sometimes I’m even grateful to the tumor for giving me my dad. It makes my mom’s life easier … the help. And he’s all right. But, I always feel like I’m disappointing him.”

“I don’t have anyone to disappoint,” I say. “That’s nice, I guess.”

“You couldn’t disappoint someone if you tried,” Judah says.

The silence that follows is a black hole. It sucks all of the air from the planet … or maybe just my lungs. I burst into tears. Girl tears. Foul, weak, stereotypical tears. I rub them away immediately, smearing them all over my palms, then rubbing my palms on the legs of my pants. I can feel Judah watching me through the screen that covers the window. I know that if it weren’t there, he’d reach down and touch me. That makes me feel better. Knowing that someone cares enough. Everyone should have someone who cares enough.

“Maggie,” he says. “People—our dads, our moms, our friends—they are so broken they don’t even know that most of what they do reflects that brokenness. They just hurt whoever is in their wake. They don’t sit and think about what their hurt is doing to us. Pain makes humans selfish. Blocked off. Focused inward instead of outward. “

What he’s saying makes sense. But the potency of it hurts nonetheless.

“Just tell me one thing,” he says. “Does your heart still beat … with the ache and pain there? Does it still beat?”

“Yes,” I say.

“That’s because humans are built to live with pain. Weak people let their pain choke them to a slow, emotional death. Strong people use that pain, Margo. They use it as fuel.”

When I go back to the eating house, I find his Rolex on the kitchen table. Tossed like the first day I found it in my mother’s bedroom.

“Fuck you,” I say, but I carry it to my room and hide it under the floorboards anyway.

I WAKE UP WITH MY PAJAMAS DAMP, and my hair stuck to my forehead. Before I have the chance to swing my feet over the side of the bed, my mother starts screaming. I run to her room, still disoriented, and fling open her door to find her standing at the foot of her bed, naked, her robe pooling around her feet. When she sees me, she points to the far side of the bedroom. I step around her, swiping at the hair falling in my face, almost tripping over the junk she has piled everywhere.


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