It was Father’s Day. I hadn’t seen my children since Thursday, a fact that my parents were kind enough to remind me of every few minutes. The text messages were to the point: if you were a real mother, you would stay with him; if you really loved them, you would do whatever it took to make it work.
Gaz and I sat in Jells Park, watching families gather. Generations of men. Men and their children. Men and their wives and their children. We had prime real estate at the top of the hill, near the tea rooms, where grandfathers pushed scones and cream and milkshakes into kids’ faces. The clouds had cleared and the sun was out. It lit up the lake like thousands of icicles.
The smell of charred meat and cut grass hung thick in the air. We drank apple juice. We ate mandarins. We kicked a ball back to someone. In the afternoon sun, I leaned into him and pulled his arms around me and felt his breath on my neck. My phone beeped.
Why are you doing this to us?
I listened to his heart thundering.
“Who was it?”
“Just my dad. Again.”
“Forget him. What a dick.”
My throat closed.
It is 1985. I am sitting on my dad’s knee and I’m crying like the world is ending. Dad has been redoing the front verandah and I have stepped on a piece of granite and cut my foot. It’s bleeding on his good pants. He pulls me into his chest and wraps my little hands in his.
“Anna! I have terrible news!” he exclaims, and I’m startled out of my hysteria.
“What is it?”
“Look at my pants!” I look at his pants. A red stain is spreading before my eyes. “Anna, my pants are bleeding! Quick! Get up! We need to find them a bandaid immediately!”
I am up and racing.
After an hour or so, the park began to swim with screaming children.
“Let’s go,” he said, putting his hands over his ears.
“Okay,” I said, butting out my cigarette on the grass.
It is 2007. I touch the scar on my foot. I can’t remember what the pain felt like, but I can remember why it ended.