We were sitting in a Thai restaurant, enjoying our lunch, when a father with his two daughters occupied the table next to ours. He was making a business call when they walked in and didn’t end it when they were seated. His daughters, one of them about ten years old and the other probably fifteen (you can’t be sure with today’s teenagers, can you), were reviewing goodies in their shopping bags. They purchased quite a few things – a few pairs of shorts and blouses, some jewellery and something from the bookstore.
The scene reminded me very much of my childhood. My parents are divorced and when M. (my biological father whom I call by his first name because he doesn’t deserve to be called Dad; for the purpose of this story I’ll name him M.) remembered from time to time that he had a daughter and picked me up, he usually took me to some dingy pizza place (dad at the next table at least took his daughters to a fancy Thai restaurant, I’ll grant him that), and he always spent half of the time talking on the phone about some very important business that couldn’t wait.
I glanced toward the family on my right and met the younger daughter’s gaze. She quickly turned her head away and I felt angry with myself for giving her an unintentional but obvious sympathetic look. It felt like I was trapped in a time capsule; one moment I was sitting in a Thai restaurant with Mr Starlight and the next I was in some pizzeria with ugly interior design, trying to amuse myself while M. was occupied with a phone call and some woman sitting at the next table looked at me with pity in her eyes. There was always a woman who looked at me and felt sorry for me and I’m wondering if they too had similar experiences with their distant fathers.
After finishing his phone call the father directed his attention to the menu and when the waiter left with their order a couple of minutes later, the three of them looked awkwardly at the table, probably wondering what to say to each other. This was the first and only distinction between them and M. and I.
M. is a very chatty person and he was always bragging about something; either his new car or the holiday he and his girlfriend went to, but most often he talked about his work. I don’t remember details from his monologues but I clearly remember one thing – he was always portraying himself as the best, a superhero of some kind. He was always a leader of something and someone; even when his own business went bankrupt and he worked for other people once again, he boasted about being the boss.
When we ran into someone he knew or went to visit his family I became the object of his praise. “Look at how pretty she is and she’s very successful in school, in fact, she’s the best in her class,“ he said over and over again. And that was pretty much all he could say because he didn’t really know me. On one occasion, when we were fighting over the fact that I didn’t call him Dad, I asked him if he knows what’s my favourite colour and flower. His answer was red and rose, which I both genuinely hated. “That’s why I don’t call you Dad“ was my answer and that was the last time he opened that topic.
I hope that those two girls are luckier than I was and that their father knows what their favourite colours and flowers are. I also sincerely hope that he isn’t usually as silent as a grave while spending time with his daughters. If that’s the case, those girls at least have each other while I… well, I have the best Dad I could imagine, someone, who deserves to be called Dad. Although he’s my stepfather it’s he who raised me, it’s he who was always there for me and he’s the one who knows that my favourite colour is green.