Never Trust A Naked Busdriver

The polyester hugged my midsection as I found my place in a sea of blue. Funny how an institution that promoted diversity and individuality required its graduates to dress in uniform. “Never trust a man who tells you his brother is an only child,” I thought to myself. I chuckled as I choked back the impending sob. He was here. If only in my mind, he would always be here.

“Pomp and Circumstance” still blared as the student body filed in. The echo of its notes reverberated off the walls of the sports complex, somehow amplifying the absence of one very important person: The one that waited his whole life to see me there that day. The man who worked twelve hour days six days a week for twenty years of my existence to make sure that I had every opportunity life could afford me. The mortal who, miraculously, found more joy in the discovery of my impending motherhood than anyone I knew.

I can’t remember much about my graduation beside the fact that my father had died two months too early to see it. I vaguely recall the discomfort of being the only twenty one year old sorority president to graduate pregnant that December. I recall everyone staring at me as I walked to my seat, but I have since been assured that this only took place in my mind. I can feel the tightening of the cerulean gown around my growing child as I took my place in the folding chair, but apparently my five month pregnant body did not look much different than anyone who had enjoyed a large breakfast that morning. I treasure the comfort of having my closest sorority sister sitting next to me, constantly reminding me that it was ok to enjoy the experience despite my circumstances. Though I was sure that everyone could see the rings under my eyes from so many sleepless nights, Melissa convinced me that I was the only one who noticed. I still thank God for the similarity of our maiden names. It’s true how they say that you may not always remember exactly what a person said, but you always remember how they made you feel.

There are no photos of me receiving my diploma that day. I’m still paying for it, but there is no photographic evidence of the event. If I had to recall the memory, my insecurities might urge me to tell you that the Dean of Students shook my hand and simultaneously told me how disappointed in me he was for quitting my internship two months ago. That didn’t happen though. It just feels like it did.

My future husband was adrift somewhere in the sea of faces in the bleachers. I don’t have any photos of him that day either. If it existed, I imagine a glossy print of us holding one another with twisted, writhing faces; struggling to remain upright despite the crippling anguish. 

I only have one picture from my college graduation. My sister, my best friend, and my uncomfortable, newly pregnant face in a cap and gown smiling politely for my mother behind the camera; feigning pride and joy in a state of ambivalence and heartbreak. It seems as if we all floated through the day on a cloud. It rained below us to keep our cheeks dry and heads high.

My family was notorious for our rare, but outrageous parties. That evening was different, and for that I feel like we let him down. If Don had been there, we would have tapped a keg, dropped an M80 in a large piece of produce, and peeled at least one fallen man off of the bathroom floor. That last part would surely be my job since I was with child. I wonder who “That Guy” might have been at party central. 

The somber celebration that ensued would have killed him if the cancer hadn’t gotten to him first. Instead of the standard, we arrived back to my mother’s house, just my mother’s house now, to enjoy a fine Italian meal. I think it was delicious. I don’t recall eating a single bite, but I may have. I do vividly recollect the most uncomfortable meal in the history of eating. The food was eaten in the silence of my mother’s kitchen by my closest family and friend. Yes. Friend. The only guests other than “The Immediates” were my aunts and cousins, who were all as equally awkward in their devastation as I was. A shot of Frangelico for my father might have lightened the fog of the forlorn, but I think everyone stayed sober that night for the benefit of my bulging belly. If only they had known how badly I needed them to be drunk and rowdy. If only we had spoken out loud about how much it hurt to celebrate anything at “Villa Hilla” without him. “Never trust a naked bus driver,” he would have said. It was precisely what it appeared to be. This was, most literally, a pity party.

Looking back now, I am so proud of my family for simply getting out of bed that day. If I was in my mother’s position, I don’t know that I would have been able to pull myself together enough to fake it as well as she did. Daddy taught us all well, and his clan went out into the world that day and fulfilled the one thing he told us to do every time we left the house.

“Be good. Be careful. But most importantly, be cool.”

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One thought on “Never Trust A Naked Busdriver

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  1. Wow! The passion the pain and power of your write is huge.Forgive the aliteration, my goodness me if there was wrong time for Dad to leave, a hard time to graduate or a more challenging time to be pregnant I haven’t heard of it. If that in its self wasn’t enough to make you grow balls of steel I really don’t know what was. A fabulous write that I was honoured to read.

    Like

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