Six years from now, driving away from departures, you'll think about the first time your dad leveled with you. Six years isn't much, but when it contains months of marital woes, a divorce, and five years shepherding him around his momentary dreams (joining a commune, getting involved with the "ballistics community," stand-up) six years drags. The memory will make you laugh. Well, not quite laugh It'll start as one of those nose-laughs and end up a sigh.

He'll be at the baggage drop-off then, preparing for a flight to Gatwick where his internet girlfriend has promised she'll pick him up. This will be the dream you can't make him avoid.

But now, it's the August before your senior year. You're 21 and your dad wants to take you to a bar. Who are you to say no? You sit on the patio, have one, two, three beers each. It's the first time you've seen him drunk, it's funny, but this will stop being a treat.

At the bottom of pint four, it happens.

He pushes his glasses back and massages the bridge of his nose between two fingers.

"James," he says.

He's serious: a different tone than you've heard before. He looks at you, earnest, and you can feel he's leveling with you, like he's coming to you for advice for the first time.

"I think I want to start tweeting," he says. You swallow beer. "I think I'd be good at it."

And he never will.

That's what you think about while you drive away from the airport. What you remember after hugging your father for the last time.

That night, your wife will ask you how it went and without looking at her you'll say,

"Whatever makes him happy, I guess," while you wash dishes.

September 25, 2019