The Look / by Academy Monthly

       As the sun begins to rise over the repeating brick row homes I feel as if I were a child again waiting on the front porch steps for the bright, yellow school bus.  It feels like just yesterday that my family and I were all sitting down at the dinner table.  My father had just arrived home from his fourth business trip that month.  However, his work folder, filled with his most important documents that us kids were “never allowed to touch,” I found hidden under his clothes in his closet when my mom requested for me to bring his dirty laundry downstairs.  Now that I think about it, there was a lot of dirty laundry.  But, it wasn't the folder that led me to believe my suspicions were true. When we sat down to eat, my mom was discussing how Maryanne came over today to help with gardening.  I asked my dad if he had seen the flowers she planted.  Right then, he shot me a look.  But it wasn't just a look, it was a nervous, you know too much, type of look.  It has resonated with me for 10 years.  After that memorable dinner, it only took a week for my mom to figure out that my dad had been having an affair with our neighbor and best family friend, Maryanne.   

       Thinking back on my experiences with men, I never had believed relationships were for me.  I am now 24 years old living in Chicago and have only been in one committed relationship.  However, it didn't end so well.  You know that one person who seems overly friendly, always going the extra mile for people, and talks to just about everyone? Well that's Lucas, my ex-boyfriend. I loved him more than words could say, which to me, is a dangerous thing.  

       Lucas grew up in a small town in Illinois named Carlton. Everyone in the town knew and supported each other.  It’s where his qualities are traced back to, unlike me who grew up in Chicago, and talks to nobody I haven't seen before.  If someone looks suspicious, my mother would say hood up, head down.  Anyways, Lucas had asked me if I would mind that Claire, his best friend while growing up in Carton, stayed with him for a week.  Apparently they hadn't seen each other in 5 years, which didn't come as a surprise to me because I never had heard the name Claire before then.  But now, the name will resonate with me forever. 

        Although I was super reluctant to say yes, I did.  Claire was supposed to stay at Lucas's for a week, although the visit was cut short.  When Claire arrived, Lucas introduced me to her.  I immediately took notice of her girl next-door look: blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that stretched across her entire face.  As I helped carried her bags up to Lucas's apartment, I couldn't stop thinking about Lucas and Claire being alone all night in his apartment.  The thought drove me insane.  We were planning to go to dinner the next night, which I felt was going to strange having another women with me at the dinner table with Lucas, even though Claire came across as extremely nice. In fact, in some ways, she reminded me of Lucus.  For most of the time spent at dinner, Lucas and Anna carried on and on about their childhood memories.  When they talked, my insecurities began to grow.  Then, Lucas looked over at me, and it felt as if it was the first time he had all night.  However, it wasn't his normal look he gives me, like he was admiring one of my characteristics. It was a look I couldn't let go of: It was the same look my father had given me ten years ago.  So, I stood up at the table and yelled, “admit it already, admit you two are having an affair.” Silence rippled throughout the restaurant as everyone turned their head towards me.  I felt vulnerable and I saw what love had done to me.  I ran out of the restaurant humiliated by what I just had done.  Shortly after, I discovered that my assumptions had been false, and I saw what my father had done to me.  I felt crazy. I had a decision to make, and I made the wrong one. I chose not to trust Lucas.  

       I still miss Lucas everyday.  Ever since the restaurant incident, I have yet to receive one call or text back from him. I constantly live with regret over my actions in the restaurant that night. Now, the sun is beginning to set under the brick row home I had lived in as a child. The wind roars as leaves swirl and dance in the air.  While staring at the house that I had spent my childhood years and accumulated so many memories in, I decide to do it.  I decide to let go in order to trust others once again.  I reach for my phone and begin to dial my father’s phone number.  Ten years have passed since I last spoke to him. He picks up and says, “Hello this is Tom Montgomery.” Hello is the word that sets me free.