I shift my weight from one foot to the other and back again. The monologue in my head repeats on a loop:
“Take slow, deep breaths.” I breathe in, hold, release without sound.
“Look at him, not at the ceiling.” His skin lays wrinkled and loose on fragile bones. He strings together sounds to express what's going on inside his head, unintelligible bits of crooked puzzle pieces.
“Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” My father, who I once thought huge and larger than anyone I else I know, can't touch his feet to the floor as he sits in his blue, microfiber covered recliner. The chair occupies the middle of my living room, it's plush mountainous bulges contrasting sharply to my orange hardwood floors.
I’m late for work. My canvas bag, stuffed with my journal, tablet, a book on writing, my smart phone and a bottle of seltzer, digs into my left shoulder.
“Bathroom?” I’ve said it five times already, but number six lights up his face. He wants to know if he can go in the bathroom to get ready for the day. Shit, shave and shower. He needs to know explicitly if he can go into the bathroom and do his thing and I forgot to tell him before I headed for the door to leave.
Three hours before the bus comes to get him, he perches on the front edge of his chair, his body clenched, hands folded, fingers laced, wrists touching. I see him in grays, a still from the Dust Bowl during the thirties, lines of fatigue etched in his face, eyes haunted.
“You can use the bathroom.” I smile. I nod.
He rises, shuffles his feet into his gray slippers, shuffles across the room. The same path he shuffled yesterday. Routine matters. He carries a box of tissues in his left hand, tucked under his arm. He takes them into the bathroom. The door clicks shut. The razor buzzes.