Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Ride Home

Filip sat in the driver’s seat of his old, rusty van, reading the news on his phone. He was sixty-five but still wore a newsboy cap; his winter gloves were worn from years of snow shoveling, and a strong aversion to throwing things out.

The door handle creaked and clicked as his daughter, Annie, piled into the passenger seat, dropping her bag on her feet as she buckled up. He’d heard from others that she smiled a lot, but he knew what that smile was-- an exhausted girl, bouncing a ball in the air over and over, for fear of it hitting the ground.  

“How was work?” Filip asked, starting the key in the ignition. It always took a few tries to get it going.

Annie didn’t answer. She stared straight ahead and slouched in her seat as the van pulled away from the Kiss and Ride, clattering and clanking as it went.

Filip and Annie were more similar than either might like to admit; both lived in their own heads, and when allowed, preferred to stay there. Out of some sort of mutual understanding, they took nearly every trip in silence. But not today.

As they sped onto the highway, Annie told her father about work— about the situation with the man in the office. Filip grumbled; he couldn’t understand why Annie constantly let the man speak to her the way he did; why she chose to sit silently as he continually crossed all levels of respect.

“What’s your problem!?” Filip cried, protectively, “Don’t let him bully you. Talk back to him!”

He couldn’t understand why, despite all the lying and cheating, she still wore that tired smile.

“If you were a man you would have punched him!” Filip blurted out, offering his encouragement and fatherly rage—rare for such a quiet man “Instead you sat there quietly? And went through the rest of your day with that smile!? That’s crazy!”

Annie looked at her father, with that same tiredness she always bore.

“Don't you get it, Dad?” she sighed “ If I stop smiling, that’s when they’ll start calling me crazy.”

Photo credit: Getty Images