I've never thought that my father is perfect. I'm not one of those young women who weigh the character traits of the men I meet against those of my father. I've seen him struggle with his own personal demons.
When I was in high school, he traveled extensively. Those rare nights when he wasn't out of town, he'd come home late from work under the guise of an important meeting that he just couldn't miss. He'd typically pour himself a scotch, and then another, and often a third before he'd go to bed hours after my mother did.
It all made sense when during a strained family Thanksgiving dinner, the year before last, my parents told my siblings, their partners and me that their marriage was over. My father repeated those same words over and over again while my mother wept and blew her nose into a tissue. He would always be grateful that he met her, and that they had four beautiful children but the way they loved each other had changed.
Judging by the sorrow on my mother's delicate face, the emotional shift in the relationship wasn't the same for her. She retreated into her sewing room after that, spending hours knitting and crocheting mittens, scarves and even hats for the winter. I have so many piled into a cardboard box under my bed that I'll never wear. I can't wear them. They are a painful reminder of my mother's broken heart.
I tried to stay close to her. I wanted to be that anchor that she needed while she weathered the storm of the end of her marriage. My siblings tried to as well with promises of tropical vacations with her grandchildren and spare bedrooms she could move into in their homes. She'd always politely decline because she wanted to stay afloat in her pain. She's still there, unwilling to allow anyone to rescue her and bring her back into the real world.
I've tried calling her twice since I left the hotel in the midst of Gabriel's questions about whether my father is the man whose face was broadcast on the national news. My panicked ramblings about needing to take care of a personal matter silenced any doubt he may have had about my relationship with the man who is being accused of a list of crimes so long, and vast, that I can't digest any of it.
I'm numb. I'm so dazed that when I fling my arm in the air to hail a taxi on the street outside the hotel, that I don't know where I want the driver to take me.
"Just drive," I whisper. "Please just drive."
I hear the incessant ring of my smartphone that is now buried in my purse. I'd shoved it in there, out of pure need, after I'd left my mother a voicemail. The screen danced to life with notifications that my sister, my oldest brother and Landon were all calling, almost simultaneously. Answering it will only propel me deeper into this nightmare. I need solitude. It's what I've always craved when my world has turned inside out on itself.
I close my eyes as the driver steers the car through the crowded streets. I don't want to see anything. I don't want to feel anything. All I want is for my father to be the man I thought he was when I got out of bed this morning.
"Why is my husband looking for you?" Lilly sets her tablet down on her desk. "Is there a problem with the gala?"
I reach forward to place a paper cup filled with coffee in front of her. I was on my way home after I asked the taxi driver to drop me off in Times Square. I thought if I could stand in the middle of the chaos and absorb the energy of the tourists, buskers and New Yorkers who converge there at any given moment of the day, that I'd feel less lost in my own body. I mistakenly believed that by being around a bunch of random strangers that I'd gain some perspective about the scope of my problems.
It hadn't worked. I just stepped out of the taxi when I was propositioned by a sweaty businessman who apparently values my sexual services at less than fifty dollars.
When I'd marched through the crowds and out of the commotion, I'd sought solace, and relief from the mid-day sun, in Penn Station. I was tempted, for no more than a second or two, to board one of the trains that race to Boston.
I would have been in my mother's home before dusk trying to fill my selfish need to seek comfort in her company. She would have held me in her arms, as all good mothers do when their daughters are disappointed, but when the light fell and she went to her bedroom, the gravity of what my father had done would have hit me even harder.
I see the loss of our family in her eyes and I feel it in the way she clings to me when I hug her each time I visit her. I don't have the strength to see her now. I can't shoulder her disappointment on top of my own. I need my oldest brother there for that or my sister, who is the one who stands tall when the world is crumbling around her.