The restaurant was mostly empty when she walked in. Five minutes late, she knew he would already be there as she looked around for him. There he was, waving from a booth near a window. She didn’t wave back, but only nodded at him as she started to walk over to him, checking her phone one last time in hopes of having some urgent business she could use as an excuse to get out of this lunch and another one of his conversations. He stood up to give her a hug and she threw her purse into the booth before accepting.
“Hi honey.” His smile lit up his face as he gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Hi, dad.” Her voice was dry and flat.
“I wasn’t sure what you wanted to drink, so I got you a glass of water.” he tried to keep an upbeat tone as they sat down in the booth.
“Thanks.” Again, her voice barely hid her contempt.
He knew she was angry. Her face did it’s best to hide that fact, but her body gave it all away. Her hug was rigid, and as she sat, she crossed her arms in front of her and leaned back in as disinterested a posture as she could muster. When she did finally smile, it was more teeth than it needed to be.
“What’s wrong?” her dad asked as he reached across the table and put his hand on her arm.
“Why does something have to be wrong?” Her tone betrayed her.
“It doesn’t, it…” he paused, “But something is.” His voice was almost pleading.
“What if I don’t want to talk about it?” She pulled her arm away from his and went back to staring at her phone.
“That’s fine.” He took a deep breath and got quiet, allowing another one of her many secrets to become a brick in the ever-growing wall between the two of them. After a few moments of quiet, he tried again. “Love you.”
She pursed her lips in a forced smile, speaking through closed teeth as she avoided eye contact with him. “Love you too.” It was hallow. It was apathetic. It was the best he was going to get.
“I just wished you would talk to me. You know, like you did when you were younger.”
“I’m twenty-three. Not twelve. And.. I just, you know what, I just don’t want to have this conversation right now.” She stared at him.
He rubbed his fingers down the sides of the water-glass in front of him, feeling the cool condensation against his skin. He rubbed his fingers into his palms, and then his palms together before he spoke again. “One day, you won’t be able too, you know?” He diverted his eyes to the water-glass as he spoke.
“I know.” She looked out the window again, missing as his countenance changed and a heaviness took hold of him. He wanted to break down that wall between the two of them, to have his little girl back, to erase the years of hurt that had created this monstrosity between them. To share with her that he was dying a whole lot sooner than either of them had planned.
But through silence, that secret also became a brick that quietly slipped into the wall between them.