I hate how Dad sounds over the phone lately.
I remember when I was a kid, I thought voices I heard through phones were some compression of the other’s soul, their essence miniaturized and compacted, then shot through miles and miles of wire; the faint static that tinged a voice’s edges was the soul’s frenetic crackling, unable to keep still after having lightninged its way to me.
I know now that’s not the case–mics and speakers convert audio to electricity to audio–but still the image saddens me, because these days my father’s voice sounds far too soft over the phone, as though his soul is fraying at the ends, becoming too weak to travel long distances.
“Do you have enough money to last the weekend?”
“Yeah,” I say, knowing full well I don’t.
“That’s good, that’s good. Are you studying?”
“Yeah, I guess,” I mumble.
He sounds so tired. I am not used to Dad sounding weary.
My dad is not an imposing man. He is slight of frame, not small, but by no means large either. I’ve been taller than him since I was fifteen, yet I remember the night I was being rude and he grabbed me by the front of my shirt and yanked so hard my t-shirt ripped at the seams, and I went to bed shaking and respectful. I’m supposed to be in my prime and he’s a retiree, but I still hand him jars I can’t open. He is seventy kilos of quiet strength.
I fumble through a conversation with him, my mind racing for things to talk about. I don’t want to hang up. I want to have a robust conversation with my father, the kind you hold between both hands and examine from several angles, proud of how full-bodied it is.
“Okay,” I hear him say eventually. I panic.
“Are you eating well?” I blurt. He laughs. I can’t help but smile. It’s nice to hear him laugh.
“Yes son, I’m taking care of myself. Your mother won’t let me do otherwise.”
“That’s good. I’m happy to hear that.”
He says something about living to be ninety. I whisper a fierce Amen, almost harsh in its force and exuberance.
He laughs again.
“Amen. Alright son, we’ll talk later,” he says, and in that moment my hands shake.
How long until there isn’t a later? How long until his face is the memory of a memory of a memory, and I am ashamed that I need to look at pictures of him to remember it?
I swear to myself that next time, next time I see him I will crush him in a hug so tight and bad it’s a vice, and have a long conversation with him. I tell myself I will forget I hate soccer and sit down to watch a game with him. I will look forward to the car rides in which he probes and asks me personal questions and I will not grit my teeth, to cage my words. I will tell him I love him, and I will not feel awkward at all.
I want to tell him now.
It’s on the tip of my tongue. I want to say it. I start to say it.
Instead I say,
© 2016 k.amoh