My hand crumples the small slip of paper my father had pressed into the palm of my hand just before the nurses bustled me out of the doctor’s way. I hover in the doorway, watching in a slightly out of body way as they work on him; beeping filling the room until someone turns off the alarms, crash carts called for, a flurry of frantic activity and then…nothing.
Time of death is called, and the room quickly empties.
I stay in the doorway, the prone body of the man whose condom broke in my mom, lying lifeless under a sheet metres away from me.
Truthfully, I hadn’t seen him in nearly ten years, not spoken in four, only turning up in the hospital today after he’d filled my answer phone with messages begging me to come.
With his last shaky, death-filled breath he had pulled me close and whispered in my ear ‘tell her’.
Numb, I wander out to my car, pulling my coat tighter around me as the wind picks up, dry leaves scuttling around my feet in little eddies. Once I am in the relative shelter of my car, I open the note.
Scrawled across it was a name I hadn’t thought about for years, and a phone number.
She was my father’s oldest friend, although like a lot of people in his life, I’m sure she hadn’t spoken to him in many years. I know she had always worried about him, had always worried something would happen to him and she wouldn’t know…they moved in entirely different hemispheres.
Running a hand down my face, scraping over the week-old stubble which coloured the bottom half of my face a deep auburn, I grab my mobile phone and punch in the digits.
“Hello?” The sound of her voice, even after the decades which passed since I had last heard it, transported me straight back to the first time I had met her when I was a small boy of four…
…It was my weekend with Dad. We had spent the day doing fun things culminating in a much-coveted Happy Meal. My dad had seemed lighter than usual; most weekends I stayed with him, he seemed preoccupied, always glued to his phone leaving me to entertain myself. He told me that I could stay up later than bedtime because his friend was coming over and wanted to meet me. I had wrinkled my nose at his words; his friends were scary and usually smelt of oil and tarmacadam, their nails black and their hair greasy. But when he walked back up the stairs from the front door, the woman following him was nothing like that. She was elegantly dressed, wearing a warm smile on her face which elevated it from almost plain looking to beautiful. Her grey eyes were friendly as she crouched down to my height and introduced herself, wrapping her manicured fingers around my little hand. “Hi, Jacob! I’m Natalie. It’s a pleasure to meet you at long last! Your dad has told me all about you.”
She repeats the word on the other end of the line, and I clear my throat, shaking my head to clear away the memories. “Hi…It’s Jacob.”
“Jacob?” she questions.
“Kozlowski…Aleksander’s son.” I pause, not sure what to say next. “He’s gone…he wanted me to let you know.”
She sucks in a sharp breath, and I clench the phone in my fist as I listen to her soft sobs. After a moment she pulls herself together and sniffs a couple of times. “Thank you, Jacob. I’m so sorry for your loss. He loved you so much.”
I stiffen at her words. My old man hadn’t shown his feelings towards me in a very long time. “I’ll contact you when I have the funeral details.” I disconnect without letting her respond, feeling a little shitty for doing so but I wasn’t in the right head space for dealing with any more heartfelt sentiments about the man who had just died; it was going to be bad enough swallowing that bullshit at the funeral.Start writing here…