Read: Telling Stories (Part 3)
Eventually, Mom and I came back. Mr T reappeared as a taxi driver, his voice unrecognisable from years of smoking, drinking, and doing time. We met at the Chinese restaurant our family used to frequent on weekends. They made the best spring rolls. “Look at you! Your mother should do something about that,” he said, referring to my pimply, teenage skin. Although we regularly flew between the two cities during the first half of our separation, I was always weighed down by the feeling that every trip might be the last. For the first few years, Mr T called every night. Then it was every other day, then weekly, fortnightly, and slowly, sporadically. At 13, I found myself defending the state of my skin against the observations of a familiar stranger with whom I shared long-distance goodbye kisses over the phone. “Hormones.” It’s not like he would know how to deal with these things. The discomfort didn’t go away. As dinner wore on, it became obvious that my hopes of a happy reunion were based on the flimsy memory of missing my father. My mother wore a permanent frown between her brows as Mr T approached every word with caution. “I can get you two an apartment in the Central and Western District.”
“Where are you going to get the money?” Mom replied bluntly.
“Don’t worry about me.”
Mom never took up on the offer, and we never saw Mr T again after that dinner. Mom said he was put away. But he made sure I knew the offer still stood. Years later, when Mr T and I reconnected online, he told me he could give me an apartment under my name. “No,” I wrote, recalling his affinity for telling stories. “I appreciate your offer, but no, thank you,” I repeated firmly. “Just so you know,” he replied, “the offer is always open.”
I still wonder if that big, middle-aged man with Buddha-esque ear lobes standing across the street is my father, or if I would climb into a taxi and find Mr T behind the wheel. But since he had told me he was moving to Australia with his wife and son, maybe not. “That’s his first wife”, said Flora, pointing to the family photo Mr T uploaded on Facebook. The portly trio stood next to Batman and Catwoman at Movie World on the Gold Coast. The photo was unpleasantly similar to a family photo I took when I was at Movie World over a decade ago. I could see why he left the first wife for Mom. I did a little victory dance in my head. “But I can’t tell you much more about your father.” Flora took a final gulp from her cappuccino. “You’re too young.”