My dad always takes me to this one coffee shop.
He brings his little computer and helps me get up on the bar stool. We always have to sit at the bar. It’s his way of feeling like we are participating in life.
He usually wears a shiny vest and linen pants even when it is 100 degrees out. We have no choice but to sweat hard on the walk from our little apartment most months.
We live in a 1-bedroom. He lets me have the bed while he sleeps on the couch. Even though it can fold out, he always leaves it in couch form.
While he drinks a cup of coffee, I have some yerba maté tea. I’m still tiny. Most people just think I’m cute. My short straight brown hair is tidy, exactly like a little girl’s hair should be.
But I learn a lot of adult things on that little computer. It connects to the Internet in the coffee shop. It teaches me things about you-name-it.
One thing I always see on the Internet is a bunch of people trying to make something of their lives. It’s kind of exciting. Everyone has some kind of website. They try to make friends on the Internet. They tried to push their goods. I’m not one of them.
But I know that someday I’ll become one of them. I want to leave virtual artifacts around everywhere in hopes of being remembered.
Name recognition is worth something. Politicians go a long way simply because people know their names.
My name isn’t very memorable. I’d like it to be more memorable. I tell my dad this.
He says, “But you have a beautiful name. Why in the world would you want to change it?”
I say, “My name is too much like everyone else’s. I need a name that stands out, like Mustafa.”
He says, “Mustafa! That’s not a proper name for a little girl.”
I say, “I know that. I was just giving an example. I’d like to be called Tangy, Tangy Devine.”
He says, “That sounds made-up.”
I say, “That doesn’t matter. It’s so people will remember me.”
He says, “Why in the world would you want people to remember you?”
I say, “So I can sell stuff online. So I can make enough money to not have to get a job in real life.”
My dad doesn’t know I know, but I see him stare at the girl ordering something at the counter. She’s a little older than me. She wants something to soothe her stomach. I see my dad staring at her butt. He doesn’t want to be obvious about it, but he misses mom.
I say, “How long has it been since mom called?”
He chokes a little on the last sip of his coffee.
I say, “I feel like she’s trying to avoid us.”
He says, “Your mom is a very busy lady. She runs an empire.”
I say, “No she doesn’t.”
He says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Your mom is the busiest lady I know.”
I say, “Someday I want to be as busy as her.”
He stands up and arranges his shiny vest. He looks at the girl taking her soothing drink in one hand and handing a credit card over with her other.
He smiles to make sure she understands that he’s friendly. He means nothing bad. He is not the Big Bad Wolf that people say they see around the neighborhood.
He says, “Put on your shoes.”
I look at him and breathe with my shoulders. This is my way of saying I don’t want to leave. Yes, at this age, I’m already a little passive aggressive.
He says, “It’s time to leave. I have to prepare dinner.”
I say, “What are we having?”
He says, “Macaroni and cheese.”
I say, “The kind out of a box or the homemade kind?”
He says, “Anything you want. Now put on your shoes.”
I hop down off the bar stool and slip my little feet inside my saddle shoes. He puts away the little computer and takes one last look at the girl with the soothing drink. She’s walking away. I wonder how she makes him feel, and if he makes her feel any special way. It’s been so long since mom has been over. I don’t think people are meant to sleep alone on couches. It doesn’t seem right.
By the time I get my backpack strapped around my shoulders, he’s already out the door. I see his head bobbing up and down outside the window. He’s walking pretty fast.
The people in the coffee shop look at me and smile. They are trying to tell me they aren’t the Big Bad Wolf either. I am safe here, but I should catch up with my dad.
I say, “Daddy, wait!”
It takes all my strength to open the front door.
For a second I think my dad is someone else. He’s that far away already. All I see is the back of his shiny vest all wrinkled.