A little girl in a puffy pink jacket sits between her parents and rests her head on her father's shoulder on the metro. She seems restless. Lifting her fur-lined hood over her head, she nuzzles her father's arm as he sits stoicly with empty eyes. I contemplate her age as I assess the situation. Maybe eight, or ten years old. Either way, she is a precious child of God seeking her father's attention. Her mother seems distant from her child and even further away to her husband. The husband and wife have not looked at each other for the entirety of the metro ride--doors open, doors close, they remain.
The little girl in the pink jacket clutches her father's arm. He wrestles it away. She pulls her hood over her head and lays down in his lap. He does not move an inch. It is like he is cemented to the beige metro seat.
The little girl in the pink jacket suddenly sits up, reaches for her father's face, and attempts to rub noses. Silently, assuredly, swifty, he shakes his head away. She holds on more tightly and turns her head back and forth, trying to show a cute gesture of affection to her father. This time, he cannot brush it off. He forcefully holds her arms, tilts her facing forward, and rests her hands in her lap.
She gives up.
My heart breaks.
The little girl int he pack jacket turns to her mother, who blindly swishes the hair out of her daughter's eyes. Watching across the metro, I feel the exhaustion of the mother, the disappointment of the daughter, and the thirstiness of the father. Maybe he just needs a beer to relax. Or maybe that beer may be the start of an even more heartbreaking night.
Memories of my father and me overcome me with a sense of gratitute as I compare these sets of relationships. I remember how my siblings and I would "call who got to lay on Dad's arm" during a long flight on our family vacations. Oftentimes, my father would sacrifice his comfort and space as he was smothered by two children--one on each arm--as he sat in the middle airline seat. Even now, I consider him to be the actual embodiment of Atticus Finch from my favorite book of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am sure my siblings would agree--and even now, call who gets to sleep on his arms.