I don’t rightly know what this has to do with anything. But for me it has to do with everything.
He dragged his grip up the stairs, we called them grips in the ’40s, and I, his daughter, followed close behind. He was returning home after several weeks in Havana, and I was so happy to see him that I was barely distracted by the stream of epithets that poured from his mouth. He always talked that way. That might be an explanation for why my hair still stands on end. I anticipated a gift, some colorful souvenir from his travels. Maracas, shells to tie around my ankles when I danced. What matter that I did not dance. I was better at stomping.
Unshaven and very sunburned and very handsome, he smelled good, too. Cigarettes, the sweet-sour smell of ingested rum. I still have a picture of him with his cronies lounging over the bar at Sloppy Joe’s. He looks enormously happy.
He smashed his cigarette into a small china plate on the desk, my mother’s Wedgewood saucer on which she placed her dainty coffee cup at such times as my father had not used the plate for an ashtray.
He heaved the grip onto the chenille bedspread. Fumbling for the key to the tiny padlock that secured the suitcase called for yet more oaths. My father articulated. Big. He couldn’t find the key. Drown my puppy. Steal my chocolate. Put me in a dress. The guy knew how to get up my nose. Ah, all the while the key was in his pocket.
Zip ... one side ... zip ... two sides. I held my breath, craning to see.
The suitcase contained bottles of rum. Bacardi, a lot of it. No wonder he had such a hard time getting it up the stairs. Packed three deep with layers of socks, underwear and wrapping paper protecting them.
No present for me? Apparently not.
He offered me a cigar.
“I’m glad you’re home,” I whispered into his sleeve. And meant it.
There is no accounting for love.