“Eat.” Always a command with my father.
“I’m not hungry, papa.”
“You think you’re not hungry.”
“No, I’m really not hungry.”
I was sitting at the dinner table anyway. It’s just where we all ended up. You come in, pull off your shoes by the rack in the hall, try to balance your coat on top of everyone else’s and then you come and sit down in the kitchen. It’s where papa will be.
“I made stew. Good beef at the butcher today. And I saw Angie Benson in the queue. You know her son, Jimmy, don’t you? She says he’s dropped out of university to become a mechanic.”
Papa had put a plate of stew in front of me, and now he was moving around me like a gentle whirlwind, putting down cutlery and condiments a a glass of water. When he stopped moving he leant on the edge of the sink with one hand, a tee towel over his shoulder, and picked up his evening beer.
“A mechanic?” I said.
“Can you believe it? He could speak french when he was seven, that boy. All As, all the way.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a mechanic, papa.”
“No, maybe not. But maybe there is something wrong with not using all the brainpower you’re gifted with. Why are you not eating?”
I looked at my plate, and yes, it looked delicious as usual. I sighed. “I’m not so hungry today.”
Papa’s answer was always to pile more food in front of you, and he dropped some crusty bread onto the side of the plate. “Mop some gravy at least. It’s cold outside.”
But it’s cold inside too, I wanted to say, here, inside my heart. I don’t think even papa’s gravy can warm that up.