Hat pulled low over my face, I pull the lever of the pump,
getting back in my car,
hands placed on the steering wheel as if I'm going to drive away while the gas is going,
I just sit.
Trying to clear my mind before the day.
That's when I see them.
A pixie-like little girl in denim and cotton,
tennis shoes untied and scuffed,
long hair trailing unkempt,
she skips beside a man who is undoubtedly her father,
a serious-looking man dressed for a day of adventure,
the same nose as the sprite hopping along beside him.
I spiral into an invisible shoe box of photos...
then it's me with my hair down and my shoes untied and a big smile on my face as I accompany my father in the most mundane tasks.
Everything is an adventure with daddy,
everything is a game,
a brand-new experience ******* in shiny ribbons,
even if it's just going to the gas station.
They reappear from the store,
and the little girl excitedly pulls a bottle of chocolate milk from the plastic bag.
The colorful snacks look silly in the father's large, rough hands,
but he opens each package carefully,
handing her napkins,
and in her unrelenting grin,
anyone can see that she owns him heart and soul.
I shift uncomfortably in my mental shoe box,
and I see myself again,
overalls and a small bag of donuts,
licking the glaze from my fingers,
my father reaching over with a towel to wipe my face clean of chocolate glaze.
He chastises me, but he's smiling,
and he pops a donut into his mouth, too,
two best friends on a summer adventure,
nothing can stop our fun.
The father starts their rickety old suburban, and the little girl bounces excitedly in her seat, eager for their next stop. The mode of transportation could be a rusted row boat in the middle of a swamp,
but to her,
it's all a part of a beautiful memory that she'll never let go of.
And one day,
when her daddy is gone,
she'll drive up to the gas station in her own car
and sit in the driver's seat to take a breath,
and she'll see herself, fifteen years younger, prancing happily along her father's steady gait,
and she'll fall backwards into an unexpected