It’s funny, the things you remember and the things you forget. For instance, I can’t recall what day it was, exactly; I just know it was a warmish evening in June. And I have no clue if I was wearing a sundress or a nightgown or if I’d gotten my braces off yet, but I remember Troy’s Where have you bean all my life? underwear with that silly can of green beans on the butt.
Only, that night, the underwear wasn’t on his butt.
He’d done this before — not wear his underwear where his underwear should be. He liked to take it off and place it on his head, running around the house, with his naked parts dangling for everyone to see. I didn’t know if that was typical three-year-old behavior, but Mom had tried to get him to stop many times before and nothing seemed to dissuade him, not even threats of taking the underwear away. It was his muse. That night, I guess, she just gave up. Troy was naked for hours.
That was the night Dad left.
By then, they’d been at war with each other for months. On that particular night, Mom followed Dad from the bedroom into the basement indignant about the same topic they’d fought about week after week.
Dad had nothing to say for himself other than, “I stand by my life, Penny. I stand by my life.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she screamed. “You don’t think I stand by my life?”
Dad said nothing. There in the basement, he grabbed two suitcases. Mom grabbed more anger.
“How about standing by your family for a change, huh? How about trying that on for once?”
Did she hope this fight, this epic argument, would be the one where he’d see the error of his ways? Did she want him to change his mind? Did she think that if he did, she could forget everything that had happened?
I will never know.
Whatever the reason, that night, she was particularly irate. She fumed as he took the suitcases up to their bedroom. She seethed as he threw a bunch of his clothes in them. She yelled as he swept the contents atop the dresser into a side pocket. She raged as he rolled the luggage down the sidewalk and tossed it into his car.
Troy and I followed them from room to room.
They were so vexed with each other they didn’t even notice me. And they certainly didn’t notice Troy, naked, wearing his green bean briefs over his face.
“Where have you bean all my life?” he’d ask, through muffled cloth.
Nobody would answer him.
“Where have you bean all my life?” he repeated.
I should have been mad at Mom for shouting so much. Or not noticing Troy’s thing hanging there in the open air. Or neglecting to see the horrified look on the neighbor’s face as she watched from her bay window. Or letting Dad leave without explaining how he stood by his life. But all I could think about, really, was Callie.
She was the Other Woman.
And the fact that my father was a no-good, self-absorbed, cheating bastard as Mom put it. Everything else seemed to fade into the background like a boat sailing into the horizon.
Most of that evening is still a haze.
Dad drove off—the anti-hero—without a hug or even saying good-bye. One night in June, ten years after the start of their war.
Troy’s now a teenager and his green bean underwear is long gone. He outgrew them, although he hasn’t outgrown his need for attention. Now he gets it by singing with his friends in a band, Siren’s Song. Young, lovesick girls flock to him like weary sailors who finally see their homeland shores.
I doubt Troy even remembers his father. I know for a fact he doesn’t remember wearing his underwear on his head. He believes it all to be a myth.
I don’t know if the Cheating Bastard moved in with the Other Woman or not. I don’t even know if he’s still standing by his life. I haven’t heard a word from him since that night. After a while, I stopped hoping he’d call. He didn’t care to know what was going on with me.
I’ve done well for myself, no thanks to him. I graduated high school with honors. Started law school. Mom is proud. She gushes about me to her next-door neighbor as they drink tea and watch people from the bay window.
Funny though, I still ask myself the question when I’m alone at night, searching for Orion in the sky, sitting in pajamas—my underwear firmly situated where it should be—thinking of Dad and why he never bothered to say good-bye to me or Troy all those years ago.
Where have you bean all my life?