November, 2020: Dad Bods
“Yuck! Daddy has donut crumbs in his shoulder hair!”
“Da-da gwoss! Gwoss da-da, hahaha.”
Stacy and Jordan scampered off across the park, laughing. Their father remained seated on the cold hard earth, back slumped, gut protruding from beneath his sweater, gaze inscrutable.
Rob smiled down at him. “Same, man. Same! After 32 or 33, it all hits at once: the weight gain, hair sprouting in weird new places–”
“Gotta cultivate that dad bod.” Jaimie’s dad patted his paunch with a grin.
Rob laughed and gestured to his own flabby midsection. “Same, dude. Same! I can barely fit into my jeans.”
“Good thing we’re not heading back to the office anytime soon. I don’t think my work clothes–”
“Ravages of time. It’s inevitable.” William’s dad reached for the donut box. “Nothing to do but embrace it, lean into the dad bod–”
“Hey guys. Anyone seen my shirt?”
The dads ceased talking as all six feet, five inches of Tessa’s dad stood shirtlessly before them.
“I took it off for my HIIT workout, now I can’t find it anywhere.”
Sweat glistened on Tessa’s dad’s hairless torso. It trickled down into his cumgutters while the dads glared at him in silence.
Tessa’s dad shrugged. “Guess I’ll have to keep moving to stay warm.” He smiled, turned, and launched into another set of burpees.
The wives returned en masse. Rob caught William’s mom’s eye for a second before turning to kiss his own wife, Meghan, on the top of her head.
“So whaddya want to do with our Bella-free weekend in the city, Megs? I’ve only got the one showing tomorrow … Megs?”
“Huh? Sorry Robbie, could you repeat that? I got distracted by all the squirrels.”
Nearby, Tessa’s dad executed another set of hand-clap push-ups with flawless form. His daughter, his heavily pregnant wife, and his dog, all seated on his back, cheered and laughed.
“Now do one-hand, daddy!” shouted Tessa.
Stacy and Jordan’s dad watched Tessa’s happy family as his right hand fumbled around for the donut box, in vain.
He glanced down, then looked around. No box.
He looked up and saw the hulking mutt a few yards away. Watching. Grinning. The box with the last remaining donut in its hideous maw.
“Mommy, Daddy, look! That man is fighting with a dog over a donut!”
“Uh-oh!” Tessa’s dad laughed toplessly.
Jamie’s dad continued conversing at Jamie’s mom: “I’m considering increasing monthly transfers to the stocks portfolio–”
Jaimie’s mom gasped and squeezed his arm.
“Look, there’s Tessa’s dad! I’m going to go see how he’s holding up, what with all this Asian hate on the rise.”
Jaimie’s dad stared.
“But … I’m also Asian, and you’ve never asked me …” he trailed off. His wife was gone.
William came toddling up to his parents.
“Tessa’s daddy is SO strong!” William exclaimed breathlessly. “Look! He’s carrying Tessa and Tessa’s pregnant mommy and Cinnamon the doggie all the way home! Wow!”
He lifted his tiny arms up to his father.
“Carry me home, daddy!”
“Baby, you know daddy’s back hasn’t been right since that time he tried going to the gym three months ago,” said William’s mom.
“I hate you,” muttered William’s dad.
The Following Monday: TBF ADD Is Totally Real (I Have It Myself)
Rob’s phone lit up with a new message from William’s mom. He threw the sports section over the phone without reading it.
Rob stared down into his coffee as he spoke. “I might stay in the city tonight. Not come home, I mean.”
“Uh-huh.” Meghan continued frowning at the prescription bottle in her hand. Had she already taken her pills this morning? When she’d first come into the kitchen, perhaps?
“Because of work. Work’s been crazy. Weird, right? You wouldn’t think it from the news. I’ve got showings booked for every night this week. Next week too.”
“Hey Robbie? Did you see me take my Adderall this morning? I can’t remember if I took it already.”
“Did you see–oh, never mind.” Meghan shrugged and gulped down another 30mg.
“So you should assume for the next couple weeks that I’ll be staying in the city most nights, unless I say otherwise.”
Meghan settled down at the table with a mug of coffee and began scrolling on her phone. “Uh-huh. You helping Bella get set up on the computer today?”
Rob leaned back and sighed. “I guess, yeah, I can get her started. But I have to be out of here by 10, and I need to get myself ready first. I actually have to go out into the world. Assholes around here assume everyone can hunker down in their pajamas, work from a laptop–”
“Language,” Meghan murmured, absorbed in her reading.
They sat in silence. Several minutes passed before Meghan spoke again, her head bent over her phone.
“You going to be home for dinner tonight? Can you pick up some things from the store on the way?”
Rob stared. “Didn’t you hear anything I said? I just told you, I’m slammed at work. I’ve got showings booked every evening for–”
“Holy shit! Did you know the Righteous Brothers are white?”
“I’ve lived my whole life, thinking they were black.” Meghan shook her head in disbelief, then turned and gazed out the window. “My whole life. What else don’t I know?” she whispered.
“What the fuck?”
“But you just said ‘shit’ a moment–”
Rob sighed with frustration. “MEGS. LISTEN. I won’t be–”
“Ssshh, keep it down! Bella’s still asleep. You want to wake her?”
Rob lowered his voice to an irritated hiss. “I am trying to tell you, I won’t be home tonight because of work–”
“You’re still too loud. If she wakes up, you can deal with her.”
In a strained whisper: “I keep telling you, work is really busy right now, and tonight I won’t be home, and in fact most nights I probably won’t be home, so you should just assume going forward that I won’t be home unless–”
“Oh god.” Meghan swallowed. “I definitely already took my meds this morning. Shoot.”
“I accidentally took my meds twice. It’s nothing, I do it all the time. It just means my heart feels weird and jumpy for a few hours, like it’s trying to escape my chest. It’s annoying, is all.” Meghan got up to refill her mug.
Rob watched incredulously. “That … really doesn’t sound good, Megs. You say you do this a lot–”
He was interrupted by wailing from Bella’s room.
“Shoot, she’s up. Can you handle her this morning? Get her to have some breakfast, but first she’s got to use the bathroom, maybe some fruit, she won’t touch the bananas but she’s been into the pineapple lately, if you haven’t eaten it all already maybe try giving her some of that, but you have to cut it up into very small pieces or she won’t eat it, and get her all set up on the computer? I’ve done it the last three days. I still haven’t finished my coffee.” Meghan’s hand jerked as she tried to pour, sending coffee everywhere but into her mug.
December, 2020: Endings! Beginnings! Squirrels!
Rob typed out a brisk final message to William’s mom. Don’t overthink it, he told himself. Get to the point and be done with it.
I’m out. Meghan’s starting to suspect something. I can’t risk it anymore.
Rob read it over and hit send.
Meghan came into the bedroom and screamed.
“Jeez, Robbie, you scared the shh– … the crrr– … you really, really scared me! What are you doing here?”
Rob stared. “Megs. I’ve been here for hours. I talked to you out by the TV, remember? You were sorting laundry.”
Meghan’s mouth hung open. Shoot, the laundry!
She craned her neck back towards the living room, trying to determine whether she’d actually put a load into the machine, or just left everything in separate piles on all the furniture.
“Megs … Megs … are you listening? Did you hear what I said earlier, by the TV? About staying out here with you guys from now on, only heading back to the city for showings when I really need to?” Rob struggled to stay patient.
“Uh-huh! That sounds nice.” She turned back around and smiled.
Meghan went to her dresser and began changing for bed. “Can you bring back some more of my winter clothes, the next time? Sweaters. Also for Bella. Are you going back tomorrow? Pyjamas too. But with the footies, I don’t know. They grow so fast. A whole year? Dental floss; that’s what I meant to get! No. She’ll need new ones.”
Meghan went to draw the curtains, but stopped when she saw Rob. “What’s wrong? Do you have a headache?”
Rob lifted his head from his hands. “Megs. Come here. Sit down.” She did; Rob took hold of her shoulders and stared into her eyes. “I’m not going back to the apartment, ok? I’m gonna stay out here with you guys, from now on.”
Meghan swallowed. “Oh. Well … great! That will be great.” She forced a smile, then rose and went to the window. “The curtains … Bella will be thrilled.” She stood staring out, not pulling the curtains shut.
Oh god oh god what will I do I can’t … aww! A squirrel!
“Robbie, come look! There’s a squirrel in a tree!” she called over her shoulder, but Rob had left the room.
Later That Week: It Really Is A Solid Franchise
Meghan and Tessa’s dad lay on the rug before the fireplace, fully nude, facing each other.
“Really? You’re not teasing me?”
“Meghan, I swear! They’re my favorite movies. I watch the whole series start to finish at least once a year.”
“Seriously? Me too!”
“Yes! Which one’s your favorite?”
“That’s tough for me.” Tessa’s dad frowned. “Objectively, I’ve got to go with Furious 7 as the all-round best, but personally? I love the ones with Han.”
“I love Han too! I still feel deeply ambivalent towards Shaw, even though he’s on their side now–”
“I know; the British are such dickheads. But, before all that? Han being with Wonder Woman? That was huge for me, seeing that on the big screen. Walking Dead gets all the attention for pairing Glenn with a white chick, but–”
“–but the Fast & Furious series has been low-key racially progressive since DAY ONE, both in front of the camera AND behind the camera–”
“–YES, exactly!” Tessa’s dad slapped the ground. “I can’t believe this! Which one’s your favorite?”
“Well, like you, I fully appreciate that Furious 7 has the greatest cinematic merit. But my personal fave is the first.” Meghan lowered her eyes. “Because it was the first time I’d seen ADD depicted onscreen in such a raw way. When Paul Walker says to Jesse, like, ‘you’re so good at computers, how are you not working for NASA or something,’ and poor Jesse explains he’s got ADD–”
“Right? And later, when Jesse impulsively makes that terrible bet against Tran, then loses the bet, then panics and impulsively flees? Those are textbook ADD behaviors.”
“It’s so sad when Jesse shows up at Dom’s place days later, and he’s like, ‘please help me, I didn’t know what I was doing, I have ADD,’ and then Tran and his crew gun him down right there in the driveway–”
“–he had so much potential, but he never stood a chance in this world. Because of the ADD.” Meghan sighed. “And that’s what it feels like, for me, every day. Fast & Furious nailed it. It … made me feel seen.”
Tessa’s dad swallowed. “That’s how the Fast & Furious franchise makes me feel, too. Seen. When I felt like, maybe no one did.”
Meghan kissed him. “I see you,” she whispered.
“I know that now. That’s why I love you. And I see you, I really see you.”
“I know. You make me feel the way Fast & Furious makes me feel. Seen. Really, truly seen. And I love you for it.” She wrapped her limbs around him and drew him back on top of her.
June, 2021: Awww! A Miracle!
Meghan stood outside the movie theatre, too stunned to order an Uber.
Only one person in the world could understand what she was feeling at this moment, and he was the one person she couldn’t call. It had been too long. Too much had happened, in both their lives. So much sorrow.
All around her, people streamed out into the streets, buzzing about one thing: a hero’s return from the dead. That, and the space car.
Meghan felt the tears coming. She reached for her phone. But instead of ordering a car, she found herself drafting a text. To him.
“Meghan? I thought I saw you in there.”
She looked up. He was standing there, so close. Smiling at her.
She smiled back, her first smile in months.
“You did. You did see me. You’ve always seen me.”
And she was in his arms again.
“I see you,” she told him, over and over, between kisses.
“I’m sorry your husband shot himself in the head–”
“I know you are. I’m sorry your wife died in childbirth–”
“I know, I know,” Tessa and Gisele’s dad murmured as he drew Meghan to his chest.
Feeling Meghan’s goosebumps, he wordlessly peeled off his shirt and swaddled her in it.
They looked into each other’s eyes and smiled. Everything was going to be ok.