Today’s story comes from guest author Bridgette Ramirez.
Bio: Bridgette Ramirez has been an avid reader since birth and an avid writer since the sixth grade. She has written poetry and fiction in various genres, including fantasy, romance, and comedy. Currently she is an undergraduate student studying Creative Writing: Nonfiction at Scripps College in Claremont, CA.
My dad grew up in a house full of women, and the fact that he lived in a house full of women past childhood without complaint made me think that he was perfectly fine with that. First, there’s Mom, who paints on the walls and tells our most embarrassing stories to people so they don’t feel as bad about their lives. Second, there’s Grandma, who is more likely to go to a midnight showing of a Twilight movie than any tween girl I know. Third, there’s my sister, who plays Bieber on a loop and strings at least one cute boy behind her per weekend. Finally, all that’s left is myself. I have a pencil shoved behind my ear so often that people think it’s an actual part of my body, I have fingernails that are constantly chewed in half, and I have a library of books that have more history behind them than I do.
This was the me that was flipping through the pages of the latest epic of knights and dragons and damsels who are tough enough to take care of themselves when my dad’s broad figure appeared within the narrow doorframe of my bedroom. He took a sweeping look at the soft yellow walls, the posters of movie premiers, the bulletin board coated with photographs and flyers, the large window with morning light struggling to seep through the half-closed blinds. Finally his gaze landed on me, diving deeper into my book as a thrilling plot point I’d already read a thousand times sucked me in once again. I didn’t look up until he cleared his throat, and when he did I realized that he had that expression I always hated on his face: mischief.
“I don’t have a son,” Dad began, “so I guess you’ll have to do.”
My eyes asked “What?” but his eyes didn’t answer them; instead he waved for me to follow him down the hall, the hall that had Mom’s paintings smeared across and had family photographs by the hundreds hanging from its walls. When we stepped into the backyard, I saw the scattered pieces that I couldn’t mentally assemble into a grill, until he showed me the picture on the instruction manual.
“It’s a present from your grandma for Father’s Day,” he explained, “and you’re going to help me put it together.”
I suddenly understood the reason for Dad’s comment about a son, but I didn’t resent it any less. I didn’t know how to twist a screw (I didn’t even know which way the screw went!), and I certainly didn’t know whether I was jamming things into the right holes. I would detail every painful moment from the first until the fifteenth and final step, but that would mean reliving the nagging sense that I was actually stupider than I thought—when really, it was because a son was exactly what I was not. When I saw the reflection of the sun on the smooth black dome of the fully assembled grill, I thought the father-son bonding time was over and I could re-find out what happened next in my book. Sadly mistaken.
“Tickets to the Dodger game, and no one else will go with me!” Dad cried, pressing the back of his hand to his forehead and looking melodramatically at the sky. Do you think I should’ve taken more pity on him?
Sizzling summer sun. Licking the garlic from the garlic fries off my fingers. Guzzling lukewarm pink lemonade. Wishing Dad let me bring my book. Muttering “Take me out of the ball game” underneath my breath, like Mom did whenever she was dragged to a game. The crack of bat smacking baseball snapped my attention back to the field for a millisecond, and then it wandered again. Dad finally gave up trying to get me to keep track of the batters, pitchers and runners, so his eyes were permanently stuck to the perfectly manicured baseball diamond. I kept singing Mom’s twisted version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as the din of cheers rose higher. It got me through until the seventh inning stretch, and then finally Dad said we could go home.
“We’ll miss the fireworks,” he said in a singsong voice.
“Oh, what a shame,” I replied.
At the end of the night, we lounged in lounge chairs while we watched pinpricks of starlight punching holes in the canopy of a black sky. Dad rifled through the blue cooler next to his chair, and I could hear the clinking sounds of various bottles and cans tapping each other in greeting. Soon I saw one bottle of beer, and then another one. I knew that even he couldn’t guzzle down two of those at the same time.
“You can’t be serious,” I said.
“If you were my son, after we were done fixing the car engine, or lawnmower, or whatever, we’d both kick back with one of these.”
“Dad, that’s illegal. I’m underage.”
“It’s just a culture thing, hon. Maybe in American culture it’s wrong, but we’re Mexican. You sucked on an empty beer bottle as a baby. There’s photographic proof of it.”
Dad shrugged, which he never liked me to do (“That’s such a lazy response, can’t you use words like a real writer?”), and stuffed the second bottle back inside the cooler.
“So am I finally off son-duty?” I asked.
Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Didn’t I tell you about the hockey game tomorrow?”
“Da-ad!” I whined, smiling at the same time despite myself.
“We should go inside before the mosquitoes suck us dry,” Dad suggested after a comfortable pause.
“Okay,” I agreed. “But before we do that, you need to answer one question.”
Dad swished around a sip of beer in his mouth for a little while, before swallowing and replying, “Go on.”
“Do you ever really wish you had a son?”
He wasn’t looking at me before I asked that question, but as soon as I did he stared hard at me. He brought his hand up to my cheek, swiped his thumb back and forth across it, and smiled playfully.
“Eh, who needs a son?”
That’s all a daughter ever wants to hear.