In the summer we went camping at the hot springs in the desert and Kelley took her clothes off because my dad said it was beautiful for her to be naked in nature. Then my dad kicked off his shorts and strode around our campground, beautiful with a beer in his hand. I put on my American flag bathing suit. They laughed at me and my dad said I was just like my mom. I figured that was an okay way to be.
Kelley and my dad held hands a lot, looking at each other, kissing with their tongues. They’d smoke sweet cigarettes in the tent, smiling and holding their breath and then they’d laugh and laugh. I wanted to laugh too, but I didn’t understand what was so funny. We walked down to the edge of the hot springs where the water smelled like old Easter eggs.
After that summer my dad took me to their empty house where I ran from room to room, my footsteps echoing off the tile floors. There was only a hard mattress with tangled black sheets in the bedroom. My dad said it was called a futon. He showed me how his bedspread was like a giant pillow case and told me it was called a duvet, and that it was hand-blocked from India. He told me how Kelley had a lot of emotional baggage and so she had hang ups. He said he wasn’t going to enable her crazy-making any more.
The house was empty because Kelley had moved out and she’d taken all the furniture since it was hers before they lived together. My dad said he had left his real furniture with my mom and me, so now all he had was a futon and a duvet. He said things were hard for him because he kept losing things to his exes. Then he told me that he sure hoped I appreciated living in a house with furniture.
The next time I saw him he’d moved to a small apartment and painted the bathroom walls black to match his sheets, and planted pansies in the strip of dirt on the edge of his patio. There was a pinball machine next to the kitchen table that I wasn’t allowed to touch. He told me he was getting his head together, getting in touch with his needs and that he was getting honest. He talked to me about the importance of yogurt and the mind body connection. He showed me things he’d bought like granola and books about meditation. Now there was always a glass of orange juice and a bottle of vodka on the counter in his kitchen next to bags of pills that he said were good for him. The pungent smell of vitamins was everywhere. Mugs stained with Sanka were left in the kitchen sink.
I liked his apartment because I could roller skate on the smooth sidewalks around the courtyard. I went around and around until it got dark and I saw the lights go on in his window. When I came in from roller skating, he was sitting at the kitchen table in a brown velour track suit. The apartment smelled murky and heavy, warm and sweet like springtime. I thought that he’d been crying because his eyes were red. Maybe he was sad about Kelley.
The next day he took me to a record store on Melrose in Hollywood, and he pointed to a closed door in the back.
“Smell the pot?” he asked quietly, grinning and gesturing to the back room.
I couldn’t smell it and I kept saying, “I don’t smell it.”
And he laughed at me because it was so strong, how could I not smell it, and I kept saying I didn’t know what he was talking about.
All I could smell was my dad.
Erin Parker won her first Creative Writing contest when she was 11, and has been writing ever since. Her work has been published by Uno Kudo, Red Fez, Drunk Monkeys, Cadence Collective, Lost in Thought, Timid Pirate Publishing, The Altar Collective, Santa Fe Lit Review, Silver Birch Press and Lucid Moose Lit’s anthology Like a Girl: Perspectives on Female Identity. Erin was a finalist in the 2012 NGR Literary Honors contest, was nominated for Best of the Net 2014, and is an editor for Uno Kudo and JMWW. The Secret and the Sacred is her first book. Visit her online at erinkparker.com