I have no control over what people think of me but I have 100% control of what I think of myself.
A dark night stretches over a hushed city, on the verge of falling asleep. Samantha pulls on the string of an action figure whose nasal voice pours out, “let’s play.” It’s four a.m in the morning, the wrong time to wake up and the wrong time to fall asleep. Samantha knows all this, and pulls again on it’s string. Let’s play.
On the other side of the city a man sits down with his daughter in an inner city cafe, the waiter only meters away. “Dad, we need to talk,” she has the eyes of her mother, “it’s time.”
The waiters eyes are hollowed out purple circles, his lips a thin and dehydrated line across his face. It seems even the well paid ones get hooked.
"About what honey?" Two months ago Sofie rang up in the middle of the night, her voice an urgent whisper and the the high sound of ringing bells in the distance. It’d been two years since she’d called, and so it should have been of comfort to him when she said, "Dad, we need to talk."
It’s early, nine a.m. Way to early to get breakfast. Way too early to talk. Sofie’s hair falls down her shoulders and he swears he remembers thirty years ago when his ex wife said those same words. The woman he hated plastered across his daughters face. The woman he tried to kill in that quiet desperation.
"It’s about Ben," When was the last time they spoke? Right, it was a bit over 2 years ago. When she’d stormed out of a restaurant only two blocks away from here. "Sofie," He’d called, she only a blur of blue down a yellow street. "Sofie, I’m sorry."
"Ben?" He asks. He only knew one Ben.
"Ben, you know Ben." Her face tightens. He’d thought he’d known the reason why she’d called. One eye twitches and newly formed wrinkles stretch into her face. Ben. They only knew one Ben.
"I think I do," Of course he knows Ben. He last knew Ben when only ten blocks from here he’d bent him over the back of his hood and hit into his smirk ridden fucking face. Ben, their good friend. Mr. Reliable. Suddenly he doesn’t feel like eating and some of that left over adrenaline comes right back in.
"He came over a few weeks ago," The adrenaline gets stronger and he feels his fingers clench into a fist. "To speak to mum."
For a second he forgets where he is and thinks of the quickest way to get to Ben and smash in his fucking face. Dig that smirk right into his skull. For a second the sound of his heart pounding makes him deaf. Then he remembers, it’s been two years. He might never see her again. He’s lucky she came this time. Remember what the shrink said.
"Is everything fine?" It takes everything from him to level his voice. Things better be fucking fine.
"Dad, Ben’s dying." The customers at the tables near theirs suddenly go quiet and they make no effort to conceal their snooping. He should feel sad, he should offer his condolences. He doesn’t.
"That’s shit," He attempts. She doesn’t bite.
"You know mum and him have always been good friends," She’s careful with this. Treading water. Something she got from her mother, he’s never been good with subtlety.
"Right," he says.
"And you know that if anything ever happened to Ben-" But he already knows. He knows the end of the sentence and just as it reaches midway his blood starts to boil. Keep your cool, a voice within him says. This is a public place.
"-mum would want to help him out." She looks at him, all puppy dog eyes. Aid of the devil.
"Mum is prepared to forgive you." And there’s the bottom line. Her eyes are qualifying. Waiting for any hint that he’s going to react. Not today, baby girl. Dads not fucking up a second chance.
"What does she want?" The conversation seems to have gotten way too much attention and by now the entire cafe is quiet. The waiter pretends to shine a tray of plates.
"Let’s take a walk."