My father's office seems empty when I walk in.
Like a photograph from a glossy interior design magazine. Too perfect and orderly to be disturbed. Everything has its place.
Of course, that changes when I walk in. I am the exact opposite of perfect and orderly. I think that's what my father hates most about me. He had hoped for someone he could have early morning coffee with and introduce to his coworkers. Someone he could be proud of.
Instead, all he got was an embarrassment. A disappointment. An inconvenience. He got me.
I am the son who barely got into college, and when he did, it wasn't a very good one. Not a Stanford or Harvard or Yale. I am the son who calls him at three thirty in the morning to bail his drunken ass out of jail.
I am the son who will never be as good as the son he lost.
Now that I think about it, that's when it all started.
When Michael died.
Sure, Michael had been more of a rocker. He had played guitar. He tried a few drugs here and there. Slept around. Stayed out all night.
But he always had time for family. Always had time for school.
Always had time for a future.
I guess that was why we were all so surprised when he threw that future away.
Before the incident, my father had always had time for the four of us. He was supportive of Caroline's art. Even modeled occasionally. He and my mom had spent every waking moment together. They were all smiles no matter what, and their optimism is what kept our family moving through the worst of times.
Well, most of them.
I used to think that I'd never see the day they'd part.
He had an old, beat up, acoustic guitar that he would bring out after dinner so that he could practice with me and Michael. He was horrible. Even I was better than him, but that time we shared every night was special. It was the time he put aside for family.
Nowadays, there has been a lot less of it.
I have to remember to thank Ally for the way she acted during dinner. Something about her made my father loosen up. His guard was down throughout most of the evening. I had never seen him so comfortable.
He was laughing.
He was smiling.
I hadn't seen my father smile since before Michael's death. Not real smiles, at least. Business smiles.
The kind that say "I'm sorry I have to fire you but I'm really just a businessman trying to act sorry in order to save face".
Or "I really hate you but I need you to approve this idea so I'm lying to your face about how much I love that tie you're wearing".
Or "I just found my oldest son hanging from a noose but I need to act strong for my family".
I shake my head slightly, bringing myself away from my thoughts and back into the reality of the situation. For the first time in years, my father is taking Caroline to school.
Sure, it is in a big limo that is sure to draw attention and contribute to the teasing.
Sure, he is having someone else drive the limo for him.
Sure, the two of them will probably not make an effort to fill the silence in the back of the limo.
But it is a step in the right direction.
He is making an effort.
I almost smile as I look around the room. I am supposed to meet my father and the lawyer here in ten minutes, so I have some time to kill. Not that there's anything fun to do in an empty office.
Along the left wall, there is a long table covered in a white table cloth. It looks like someone has set up a buffet or brunch or something.
The top is covered with platters of lunchmeat. Ham and turkey sliced thin and then folded into funny ribbon shapes and stabbed through with a toothpick that was tipped with some sort of colorful plastic decoration.
I wrinkle my nose and turn away from the ornate platters.
At the very end of the table is a bowl.
It certainly completes the room.
It is filled to the brim with chocolate malt balls.
I let out a puff of air through my nose, chuckling softly. I remember those malt balls. I pop a few in my mouth and roll them around until the chocolate covering melts away. My dad always had these in his office at home when I was little.
You know how you always have that one taste or smell or sound that you associate with a certain moment in time?
Well, those malt ball reminds me of my entire childhood.
I swirl my tongue around in my mouth, getting the most out of the chocolate that hadn't totally disappeared down my throat yet. I realize, regretfully, that my teeth are going to have chocolate stains when I meet with the lawyer in a few minutes. So much for first impressions.
My dad's giant leather chair is sitting behind his desk. It is weird seeing the front of it without him sitting in it.
After Michael's death, the chair came to represent my father. It smelled like cigarette smoke, cologne, and emptiness.
That's what his life had become.
That's what our life had become.
Michael had left a gapping whole in our family. Even after his death, the hole remained, and the need to throw the blame on someone, to justify his decision, tore the hole wider and wider.
It wasn't my parents' relationship that had ruined our family.
It was Michael.
I shake my head. I just can't help it. It's too tempting. This is probably the only time I will ever see my father's chair empty and I can't resist the urge to sit in it.
So I slowly walk around his mahogany desk and sink into the leather, right in the middle.
It's kind of saggy in the middle. I guess he's been sitting in it half his life, so it would be a bit worn in the middle.
The armrests are built at an awkward angle that implies that you aren't really supposed to use them.
And if you sit really still and stare at a spot on the floor, you can tell that you're spinning at the pace of a snail. Or a sloth. Or something ridiculously slow. And that gives you the uncontrollable urge to go faster, so you do.
And that is exactly what I end up doing. It keeps me busy for the better part of a minute.
I recommend you try it sometime.
Add it to your bucket-list or something.
Before you die, promise me that you will eat malt balls and spin in a swivel chair.
I stop spinning when the familiar throbbing pain of dizziness becomes too much for me to bear.
I try to prop my feet up on the top of his desk, but I am so disoriented at this point, that I miss the desk completely and my legs fall with a heavy thunk to the floor.
I soon follow in a fit of drunken, dizzy laughter.
After a minute or two, I realize that my father can walk in with the lawyer at any moment and find me collapsed on the floor, giggling like a twelve-year-old girl, displaying a chocolate stained grin.
So I stand up and sit back down in the chair, trying to no avail to compose myself.
My father has an old desktop computer on the corner of his desk. It's asleep right now.
The mouse is sitting a few feet from me.
It's mocking me.
It's begging me to give it a push.
Just a little one.
That way I can see what my father has on his computer.
I could unlock the secret of the heartless man who bailed on his family instead of confronting his emotions.
Click me, Tyler, click me!
I can't say no to a computer mouse.
I bump it with my finger and it slides forward a couple inches.
The computer makes a whirring and clicking noise, like it's putting all of it's heart and soul into lighting up the screen.
I can't describe my shock when it does.
It contradicts everything I know about him.
My heart catches in my throat as pictures of our family slowly bounce around the screen in the way that screen savers tend to do. The picture changes every now and then and I eventually realize that i am crying.
Not rolling tears or anything. I still have my dignity.
My cheeks flush and I stand up, heading to the window in an effort to hide my red, burning eyes and the tears brimming them.
The windows in this office were always my favorite.
They were so open. Stretching from the ceiling to the carpet.
It was like screaming to the world, here I am. I have nothing to hide.
I laugh, remembering something I had done when I was little.
If I rested my forehead on the glass of the window and scooted my feet back so I was looking down, it looked, at least from where I was propped up, like I was hovering over New York City.
It felt like I was above everything.
I can't believe people ever disliked the towers. I hear New Yorkers complained about them when they first went up.
I bet I could have changed their mind with just one trip up to my father's office. I would make them stand with their forehead pressed against the glass. They would feel on top of the world.
No one would look at the towers in the same way again.
I come out of my reverie and pull my head away from the window. It sticks to the glass for a second.
Now I'm going to have a red spot on my forehead when I meet the lawyer.
I hear the roar of a distant airplane engine somewhere in the clouds.
I think I want one more malt ball before my dad arrives with the lawyer.
Ally always said I should have dessert first, just in case.
I guess I could get mauled by an angry lawyer or questioned to death later by the judge.
I toss a handful of malt balls into my mouth.
One last bite of dessert.
"Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it 'cause nobody else will. Like when someone comes into your life and half of you says: 'You're nowhere near ready'. And the other half says: 'Make her yours forever'. Michael, Caroline asked me what would I say if I knew you could hear me. I said: "I do know. I love you. God, I miss you, and I forgive you"
That was actually really fun to write. I'm sorry for anything that was different from the movie. It was playing on TV so I only saw it once. I did take some liberties with it, though. I added some moments that were obviously not in there so don't be mad at me.
Just review, I guess.