Will I regret the move? It remains to be seen, but I don’t think so because I wasn’t exactly killing it as an actress in the big city. After getting a degree in theater, I thought that the world would be my stage. It would only be a matter of time before I’d be on Broadway, belting out show tunes to the sound of thunderous applause.
But instead, I didn’t hit the prime time. I didn’t hit Off-Broadway, or even Off-Off-Broadway, if I’m being honest. Instead, I was auditioning with regular frequency, but only landing non-speaking parts. I wasn’t an ‘actress’ exactly; instead, I was on stage to create ‘environment’ for the main characters. In fact, I was more of a prop, and there was literally once when I actually was “the Palm Tree” while wearing a costume of leafy fronds sewn painstakingly onto a brown latex jumpsuit. My dad was kind though. Rudy said I was likely the best palm tree in Chicago, and that the Nederlander Theater would be calling soon.
But now, here I am, back at home. All dreams of the spotlight have been put on hold, and I’m okay with it actually. Oakdale has a decent community theater scene, and I’ll see if there’s a spot for me somewhere. But first, I need to take care of my dad because Rudy’s my priority now.
“Dad?” I call into the dark house. “Where are you?”
I suppose it’s a rhetorical question because he must be locked up in his office, depressed and unhappy. Quietly, I tiptoe down the dimly lit hallway before rapping gently on the office door.
“Dad?” I try again. “Are you in here?”
Finally, there are some creaking sounds and the door edges open. As I surmised, my dad’s been living like a hermit. There are food wrappers strewn all over the carpet, as well as an unmade sofa bed and heaps of clothes in messy piles. The computer monitor on his desk casts an eerie glow in the dark room, although there’s a tiny shaft of sunlight from a parting in the drapes. Otherwise, it’s a depressing sight, and my heart turns over. It hurts me that Rudy’s been living like this.
“Dad, are you okay?” I ask.
Rudy sighs after settling back into his desk chair.
“Yeah, more or less,” he replies, crossing his hands over his paunchy belly. Even in the darkness, I can tell that my father’s hairline has receded even further so that his forehead looks enormous. He’s pasty and flabby, and dressed in an XL Costco t-shirt that hugs his rotund frame. Not only that, but there’s a weird smell.
“Is that stale pizza?” I ask, indicating a half-open box on his desk.
“Yeah, I had it delivered two days ago. I haven’t gotten a chance to take it out yet,” he confesses. “I’m sorry you have to see me like this, Pey. I didn’t want you to quit your job to come home and take care of your old dad. How are you, by the way? How was your drive?”
I manage a cheerful smile.
“It was okay! The highway was like a parking lot, the way it always is, but otherwise it was no trouble. Everything went smoothly, and I’m glad to be back.”
Rudy smiles sadly.
“I’m happy you’re back, honey. But you know that things aren’t well on the home front.”
“I know, and that’s why I’m here. I’m going to cheer you up, Dad. You’ll see that the sun doesn’t rise and set with Monica. You have your own life! You can pick yourself up from this.”
My father merely shoots me a tired smile.
“Can I? It doesn’t feel like it some days. It’s been really hard to get out of bed some mornings, and sometimes, I just don’t. I stay beneath the covers until night comes again and it’s easier that way.”
That confession makes me really worried.
“That’s why I’m here,” I say in a quick voice. “You need to see the doctor about some anti-depressants, not to mention your diabetes. Have you been taking your insulin, Daddy? You know how important that is.”
“I have,” he says. But then his eyes dart to the crack between the drapes and he pauses. I see it then. My father’s already a pale guy, but he goes sheet white as his eyes focus on the scene outside.
“What is it?” I ask. “What’s going on?”
Rudy fidgets on his chair and immediately averts his gaze.
“It’s nothing,” he says quickly. “You were saying?”
But I can already see a glassy sheen of tears in my father’s eyes, not to mention the fact that he’s now trembling like a leaf. What’s going on? What did he see to make him so unhappy?
Quickly, I get up and make my way to the parting in the curtain. The sun outside glares hotly and I squint as I look out at our backyard pool, unable to see much. But then, my eyes adapt and I see what’s made Rudy so distraught: it’s my mom, and she seems to be making love to the pool boy at this very moment.