He'd been sleeping on my couch for the past week, a picket fence of Coors Light cans walling him in. The lamp was never on in the living room. He just sat there all day, his belly sagging over his penis, staring at the television. The DVD menu blared on loop. Was he preparing to watch a movie or was he too lazy to shut it off? My guess was neither. I think it just hurt too much for him to think in silence. He'd try to smile whenever I walked in. I had waited for him my entire life. Well, half of it anyway; toward the end, I'd sort of given up. But now, suddenly, here he was. My father, the unwanted visitor.
He was always running. This time it was from his old squeeze who'd been taking care of him. He said her kids didn't help with his high blood pressure. To avoid conflict, he'd left everything behind except a suitcase full of cheap Italian boots he claimed to have bought for me. None of them fit. When I took him around the Hill to find a place, a flock of trannies lumbered past in knee-highs, and I saw his face harden. My father always trained his dogs to be racist. We both knew he didn't belong.
The house I was sleeping in was a shabby three-story on 12th Avenue. In the summertime, it was invisible behind two big maples, but come fall, the enormous gray gable emerged like a shit stain against the sky. According to my landlord, a bunch of nuns once slept there and still haunted the place. In the wintertime, cocooned in blankets, I'd xani out watching zombie flicks and drink a glass of milk. Then I'd imagine the invisible nuns touching themselves beneath their prayers. I had three other roommates: two boys and our latest arrival, a 21-year-old of Asian descent. She was young—young even for her age. This was her first time leaving her mother's house, and she'd made it only two blocks. Five feet two, Christian. She did have eyes, though. Attractive, despite the demonic tantrums I sometimes heard ringing through the walls.
In the week after my father arrived, I was anxious all the time, swallowing nails. Every time he met my friends, it would be stories of prison, selling rock, fucking hookers, burning bodies, all interwoven with tall tales of my childhood. My father painted me as a hero of the hood, the angel he'd pushed away for protection. "Nathan!" he'd sing, the sound ancient and debilitated. "Nathan, Nathan!" Every time he said the name, it chopped me at the knees, grew my ears too big for my head, bucked out my teeth, made me a lost little child all over again. "Nathan!" he praised, glorifying till he choked on his drunken tears, blubbering to my friends while I stood in the corner. He spoke as if I wasn't there. After three days, I hated the sound of my own name.
One night, near blacked out between one thing and another, with a baggie burning in my pocket, I stopped off at home while a friend's van blew smoke outside beneath the streetlights and rain. I ran up the stairs, swung open the door, found the DVD menu on at full blast.
They didn't stop. They didn't hear me. Beneath the bluish-orange glow, the girl—my roommate—had both eyes closed, two dark fingers in her mouth, not her own. The fingers pressed her cheeks apart to the cacophonous trumpets of Conan the Destroyer.
He was on his knees, with his curly round head in her crotch, a shrine of Coors Light cans beside them. The front door was still wide-open, rain slapping the porch. My father's head nuzzling up and down made me think of the methodical chewing of zombies. His stubby fingers still toyed inside her cheek. Conan the Destroyer looped interminably. Her eyes never opened. She looked like a patient drugged at the dentist.
My closet was in the hallway. I quietly opened it and sifted through the dirty pile in the corner, dropped off what I needed, picked up what I needed. On the way out the door, I stopped, turned around to look again. I watched for her eyes to open, but her thighs were the only sign of life, swaying slowly and innocently like a 12-year-old dreaming. I turned to leave again, then realized I couldn't go until I was sure she was conscious.
I snuck around the hallway to the kitchen, from there turned the corner to the living room. I thought I could come at the couch from the side. But as soon as I turned the corner, I saw my father's leathery face emerging from her hips. His eyes met mine. He smiled a big, silent, tooth-gleaming smile. I practically smelled her on his gums. Then he waved. It was the kind of jubilant, side-to-side wave Mickey Mouse gives a toddler at Disney World. His nose dove back down, then popped up nodding in victory before plunging in again.
I got close enough to cast my shadow over her face. I waited for her to give me some sign. Her eyes tickled in a trance, her long fine black hairs standing on end. Finally, I touched my father's shoulder. He jerked, and her eyes shot open. She shoved back, pale and horrified, pulling her knees closed. There was some scrambling, some yelling.
"I had to make sure you were awake," I tried to explain, as my father started laughing.
The next day, my father reported proudly that he'd finished her hours before, amid a clutter of Barbie-pink rubbish, a sea of shoes, and Hello Kitty sheets. That night, we had a feast cooking in the kitchen and a living room full of friends. She walked through the front door to her bedroom like a ghost. My father yelled after her, invited her to dinner as if she were his daughter. Her eye caught mine. The door closed behind her.
A few days later, my father split without telling me—left all his luggage and my suitcase of useless shoes. I haven't heard from him since. As for the girl, we lived together for another two months, mostly avoiding eye contact. I would have liked something from her—not sure what, but something. Soon, we were both unwanted visitors in that house. We moved our shit out in silence, that one eye cutting through me as if I'd eaten the bitch out myself and split town. I'll admit one thing: Seeing that made me believe a lot more of those stories my father always told. Made me sort of proud in a fucked-up way.
Nathan Quiroga is also known as Buffalo Madonna in the band Mad Rad.