(this is annie)

Invisible man

In the mornings, I like to watch other commuters as we ascend from the underground. Most of us are trudging off to work, and sometimes I force myself to walk slowly. This is one good side effect from those awful days of crutching. Slowing down means I notice more details, like whether the Examiner-offering man's eyes are bright or defeated.

Yesterday morning, an elderly man was about ten steps in front of me. He was about six feet tall with trimmed gray hair peeking out from a tweed flat cap. He wore brown leather shoes, tan trousers that were a mite too large, a navy twill jacket. His ears stuck out a little. From behind, he looked almost exactly like my father.

Rationally I knew that this wasn't my father, but he shuffled his feet so similarly that my heart instinctively hurled itself toward him anyway. I wanted to know what he looked like. If only I could see his face, I'd see that he'd look nothing like Dad. Even if some bizarre twist of fate gave him an identical face, it wasn't Dad. I knew this, and yet I felt simultaneous urges to run away and run toward this stranger.

His gait was slow, so I tried to catch up to him. No matter how much I stretched to see his lightly whiskered face, I couldn't see any of it. I'd get closer, and just as I found the right angle to steal a sideways glance, he'd shift his path. When he disappeared into the news and candy shop, it was too late.

I tried to keep it together by looking up at the tops of buildings. Gravity kept the tears from brimming over at first, then my preference to never cry at work did. Hours later, upon crossing the apartment threshold: release.

This morning, I retraced my steps from train to street. I looked around. Not-Dad, of course, wasn't there — it's a big city with lots of people and patterns, and paths sometimes cross only once. The truth is that the man I'm looking for will never be there, at least not physically. I'm still wildly unused to living without my father. The grieving moves forward in sine-wave formations. But at least it's moving forward.

I was up before dawn again and called my mom. She made me feel better. Before work I stopped by Walgreens to buy a Valentine's Day card for her. It's her first v-day without my father in more than 35 years, so I hoped to make it feel a little less alone.

Hallmark — oh yes, I do care enough to send the very best — had a dorky selection. The flowery "For you, Mother" cards were mawkish. The music-playing cards were gimmicky. I considered a greeting from the Chipmunks, but she hates rodents. In the end, I went for a card whose theme truly captures the sentiment and depth of our relationship. I think it'll show her how much she means to me. Let's hope she likes the Jonas Brothers.

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    it's anniet at gmail.


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