In the food court where the tables are shaped like convertibles, my dad and I speak for the last time. But it’s not like either of us know this. We’re surrounded by stationary bodies of chevelles, lincolns, mustangs, all bespeckled in glitter paint and chipped. The mall itself is gap-toothed with dormant stores. Dad and I used to live here, back when we lived everywhere for months at a time, never unpacking the truck, instead keeping most of our life huddled in the bed next to loose tools, covered with a tarp until the next time our lives changed. It used to be just him and I, but as I’m starting to realize, some things just are until they aren’t any more.
The food court sells grease-lined burgers. We piled into a convertible and eat. Untethered kids roam the floors, crawl along the black and white tile. Dad pays no attention to them. He chews slowly. I wonder if he’s trying to decipher whether or not the food is anything other than decent, but it’s never easy to see what he’s thinking. There have been years where I wanted to ask him where he went without me. What his life was like while I bounced around from different aunts and uncles to cousins to a home where boys my age were just trying to make it to the next day.
I bring up the time we walked out from one of his girlfriend’s places to find his truck on cinder blocks. I forget how old I was, but it was old enough where the memory doesn’t leave you, where you can remember the chill in the air and the position of the sun so bald and bare in the cloudless sky.
He scoffs; swallows with difficulty. Dad doesn’t want to talk about that. Bad time. New tires cost more than anyone ever thinks. He continues to eat and I watch his jaw hinge. I realize things will always be this way. I could bring up more times, the days I found him passed out with bottles and needles stabbed into the carpet or the morning we took cash from an open register and he promised me we were still good people. There’s so many hills to die on and I want to choose them all, have him remember the same way I do. Instead we sit in silence, in this food court, the place where our last conversation will be held, in a car that can’t go anywhere. It’s the same as the day we found the truck tireless. We climbed into the cab and sat there, as if we could just keep going.