We’re standing in his garage in our pajamas, with winter coats on. After a short drive around the block to bring the oil up to temperature, he pulls out the bright orange dipstick to teach me how to check the level.
Even though he’s never seen what’s under this hood before, he knows where everything is. Every nozzle for every fluid, every connector to every part. A sixth sense that all dads seem to have, like when a steak is cooked medium rare, and when the TV is just big enough.
This is the first time we’ve ever done something like this. A strange sort of bonding I rarely had in my childhood.
Inside, I’m showing him how to use Photoshop, to take the wrinkles out of his friend’s faces. Anything helps at this age, I suppose.
In my heart, I wish my dad had shown more interest in my photography. I wish he wanted one of the prints I brought, maybe to show other people and say that he was proud of me. But he didn’t. And I say nothing because it’s one of those things that shouldn’t have to be said.
He keeps bringing up his dance partner. The person who called him to make sure I arrived safely from the drive. He wears two new earrings in piercings that weren’t there the last time I saw him, a gift from her, and I wonder if “dance partner” is his euphemism for “mommy”.
I’m too scared to ask.
There’s no reason for me to stay more than a night, because there’s nothing more to be said.