by Sarah Southerland
(based on a true experience)
“Wh—” I cleared my throat. “What are we doing here, Dad?”
My dad glanced around him, then looked over his shoulder. “Your mom said she’d meet us here.”
Why would Mom meet us here? My visit wasn’t over for another week and a half. I looked around us too. “But she’s not here.”
Dad’s eyes darkened. “She said she’d be here,” he scowled. He pushed an empty soda can across the parking lot with his dirty shoe and looked at his watch again. And again.
Twenty minutes late, he shoved his hands in his pockets. “Listen, pal, I gotta take off. Your mom will be here. Wait here until she shows up. Don’t talk to no one.”
He glared at me.
“Alright,” I mumbled.
He pulled open his wallet and shoved a crinkled five dollar bill at me. “Use this if you need it. Don’t talk to no one. Wait here.”
Without another word, he took off. He never looked back. I sat down on the curb along the motel parking lot and waited. And waited. And waited. I didn’t talk to anyone. There was no one to talk to. I didn’t have a watch. I didn’t know how much time was passing. I tried counting the cars passing on the street.
After the 40th car, the motel manager told me to get off his property. He had cigarette dangling out of his mouth and two days worth of a beard. He stunk like my dad did.
I moved to the sidewalk by the dumpster. I sat on the side near the road so the stinky manager couldn’t see. I slumped down and kept counting. I must have fallen asleep after the 97th car. When I woke up, the sky was dark and I was very cold. I pulled my hoodie tighter around me and hugged my knees to my chest.
“I thought I told you to get lost!” I heard someone yelling.
The manager was back.
I scrambled to my feet and tried to explain. He wouldn’t listen. He yelled at me until someone called the cops. Then the cops walked him inside, yelling all the way about the teenage trash in the neighborhood ruining his business.
The officer asked me a lot of questions. I felt the wrinkled five dollar bill in my pocket. I tried to smooth it out with my fingers and answer the questions without getting anyone in trouble. I couldn’t answer the questions and keep counting the cars. I saw the officer’s watch: . The clock in my dad’s truck said right before I climbed out. I thought we were getting a drink. I thought I still had a week and a half left with our visitation.
The officer gave me a blanket and let me sit in the back of his patrol car to warm up. I thought of all the times I had seen my dad taken and away and tried to imagine how he felt. He was probably too wasted to even know. I watched the clock on the dashboard slowly move. 9:48. 9:49. .
A lady with a white government car showed up at . She took me to a children’s shelter to spend the night because they couldn’t find my mom. She thought I had a week and a half left on my visitation too.
I never saw my dad again.
He never looked back.
Author's Note: I teach a writing class every Thursday morning in a Youth in Custody facility near my house. Every week I hear the life stories of my teens and they break my heart. This was the first story I heard that I knew I had to put into words. I did change the info (because I didn't know all the info), but the essence of the story is the same. I wish I could say it's a "Happily Ever After" story, but it's just too soon to tell....