The only reason I got to see Frank before he left for Akron was because he had nowhere else for his cat.
"I can’t have any burdens, but I also don’t think the street is the best place for him. He’s coddled. You two might get along."
He was bleary eyed, billows of smoke coming out with each word. He didn’t even bother to get out of the car. This is what Frank did. He left.
For some stupid reason I was surprised when he came back only a few weeks later, frantically pounding on the door to my house.
"Do you want your cat back?"
He came into the kitchen. Sheila was making dinner – it was…some pasta dish. I honestly don’t know what it was specifically. She said hi to Frank, but nothing else. She didn’t like Frank, and he barely understood that she existed. “Want some dinner?”
"No, I ate."
She nodded to herself and left for the garage where – I found out later – she checked and cleaned her entire gun collection.
"I’m surprised you’re back."
"So am I." He got up and served himself some pasta and sat back down at the table.
He was rough. dirty. I could tell he slept in his car, and in those clothes. I could see some stitches on his arm.
"I’m not ready to talk about that."
"Will you ever be ready to talk about that?"
He seemed to genuinely think on it for a few seconds. Frank was fond of telling me that I was conceived and born in a shopping mall; I don’t know where Frank was born, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in a field. The type of place without walls. He left, for years at a time. Sometimes he would say where, but most times he didn’t. When he came back nothing and everything had changed. He had missed my wedding, to name one life event he wasn’t there for.
"I need Canadian health care. Akron, Ohio doesn’t have that."
"What did it have?"
Thinking on it, I think he also missed my high school and college graduation.
He got up again and looked in the fridge. When he didn’t find what he was looking for he sat back down.
"I’m sorry, I don’t have any beer in the house right now."
"Oh, that’s okay."
"This was sorta last minute, you showing up at my house, so I didn’t have time to prepare."
"Oh, it’s perfectly alright."
He started to shovel the pasta into his mouth. Rotinni? Is that the name of a pasta? I think that’s what we were having. He was having. I lost my appetite.
"I thought Akron, Ohio had jobs. But it doesn’t. Everything’s rough over there. When the bottom fell out, you know, jobs just…poof, disappeared."
I nodded. “But I thought you said there were some.”
"You know how it is…"
"I don’t, Frank. Please explain it to me."
He looked annoyed. “Are you sure there isn’t any beer here? Have you checked the garage?”
I didn’t say anything.
Frank continued, “Well, a friend said he had some work. But he didn’t.”
The cat entered the room. At first I wanted to call the cat Frank Jr., but Sheila thought that that was a morbid joke and that it’d get very confusing. We settled on Lucy when we realized that Frank had misgendered the cat. She rubbed up against his leg, but he didn’t seem to notice.
"So, why are you here?"
"I’m here to see you."
I took a deep breath and soothed every ragged nerve.
"Why are you really here?"
He threw his fork, the loud clanking ringing out in the quiet house. Lucy ran out the room.
"What kind of question is that?" he asked me. I took another deep breath. He’s done this before. This is not going to work again.
"I…think that it’s…a reasonable question, Frank."
"I hate it when you call me that."
Each breath drew heavy. “You can’t stay here.”
"What the hell kind of–"
"You can’t stay her–"
"–wasn’t even ask–"
"You need to go–"
"I don’t understand why you–"
"–no, you can’t–"
“– c’mon junior this isn’t fair. What the fuck have…What have I done?”
And the dozens of reasons spooled out in front of me, but I knew each would turn into a debate. I didn’t want replies and justifications.
"You need to leave. Right now."
He got up. I didn’t. I didn’t even look at him. I tried not to flinch when he threw the chair down, breaking it. I didn’t look at him when I knew he was looking at me, waiting for another chance. I turned back only after I heard that familiar poisonous engine start up.
I took another deep breath.
I went into the garage and Sheila had a Smith and Wesson Model 58 revolver dismantled in front of her.
I opened the tiny fridge by the door and took out a can of beer. It dragged the other 5 with it. I was about to separate it, but I thought of better of it and just grabbed the whole thing.
"Yes, he’s gone. Again. For good."
She put on a strained smile. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
I didn’t really answer. I went into the backyard. The sun was hidden somewhere on the horizon turning everything into a hazy orange. I sat on a patio chair and drank one beer, then another, then another, then another, then another.