I began following you when you turned fourteen.  You were starting high school, you were just starting to become a woman.  Your father recognized it as a precarious time.  He decided you would need protection.  The day-to-day activities were like any normal job.  I followed you on your way to school in the morning, made sure you arrived safely.  The school didn’t allow students to leave campus, even for lunch, so I didn’t have to do much during school hours.  Your parents chose it for that reason.  Besides the fact that it was a good Catholic private school.  When school was over, I followed you to the nearby sandwich place or the pizza place or that grocery store where you and your friends bought snacks.  When you had your after-school activities on campus—the newspaper club, the poetry club—I waited outside the campus until you were finished.  I was meant to watch you until I could confirm that you were safely picked up by your mother or your aunt.  It was very difficult when some of your friends started to drive, and they began to offer you rides home.  Luckily, you were always a responsible child; you called your mother or your aunt ahead of time to let them know that such-and-such friend would drive you home, that you would be going to such-and-such place for an after-school snack, that you would be home at such-and-such time.  Though sometimes your mother or your aunt would not be able to contact your father in time, and I would follow you without knowing where you were going.  On several occasions I followed you to a friend’s home.  The one with the big house with the blue door.   The one who drove a Hummer.  The one who drove a Mitsubishi Eclipse: I was not happy when this friend drove you, he drove too dangerously, he was trying to show off for you.  The one who drove the green Accord drove very well.  I waited for you outside these friends’ homes, until they would drive you back to your own home.  I waited until you opened the garage door—you always entered your house through the garage door, never the front door, I know you even kept the remote control opener in your backpack—and walked inside.  I waited until the garage door closed again.  Only then, on those longer days, would I go home.

All this is told to me in a McDonald’s restaurant, by a man in a freshly bloodstained Adidas jacket, in my father’s language, which I have not spoken in ten years.

Shakira’s “She Wolf” is playing at a very tolerable volume, on loudspeakers I cannot see.

Your parents were happy you decided to go to Stanford.   In high school you had been mentioning the East Coast, they were very worried, they were worried that you would leave California, but they did not want to pressure you, they wanted to respect your wishes.  They were very happy when you decided, of on your own free will, to stay in the area.  Also, this meant I was able to continue watching you.   I expected this to be more difficult, but you were, as always, very responsible, very punctual.  I followed you from your dorm to your various classes, to your lunch breaks, to the library.  In the second year, when you moved into the apartment with your three girlfriends, I followed you on your walk to campus.  Your father sent me your class schedules and a map of the campus, so I would be able to predict your movements.  Some days your first class was only in the afternoon.  Some days you didn’t have class at all!  Those days I could expect to follow you to the library or to the bookstore.  Your father never required me to watch you on the evenings or on the weekends, which I always thought was strange, since, logically, that would be your most vulnerable time, any girl’s most vulnerable time; but then I realized that you rarely went out in the evening or on the weekends anyway.  A studious child.  I think your father knew this, and was graciously sparing me unnecessary work—giving me a weekend.  Still, I sometimes stayed later.  I followed you to that one party you attended, with your friends, at the big house on the hill with the strange letters over the door.  It was the first time you had gotten drunk, or at least the first time I had seen you drunk.  You were very, very drunk.  You were nearly unable to walk.  One of your friends and a young man I did not recognize took you home.  The young man was practically carrying you.  There was another young man there, he was not carrying you, but he was watching you very carefully.  I was very concerned, but I didn’t know if I should report it to your father.  But I later discovered that you yourself told your father, on the phone the next day.  Shortly after that, he asked me if I would consider occasionally watching you on the weekends as well.  I agreed.  I did not tell him that I had already seen you that night.  Because you often told your parents if you were going out for an evening, and even who you were going out with—and you never lied!—your father would know if you needed protection and would be able to notify me.  Ah, but you were a very responsible child.  You were a very responsible child.  You were very easy to watch.  You were really very easy to watch.

He calls me another word whose equivalent in English I do not know, smiling.

The blood on his jacket has begun to dry.  He also has dried smears of blood on his hands, blood or dirt under his nails.  He is opening the box of a Filet-O-Fish sandwich, lifting the bun, using a napkin to wipe away some of the tartar sauce that covers the fish.

When you were twenty-one, your father said I did not need to follow you anymore.  He said you were an adult now.  He said that you were moving to England, because you were going to go to Oxford to study literature.  England seemed like another planet to me.  I should not have been shocked; I knew you had considered going to the East Coast and yet you had stayed in the Bay Area.  And your father had told me once that you disliked California in general.  He said it was his fault, that because he himself was so vocal about California not being his ‘real home,’ you absorbed that sentiment and made it your own.  Your father was very worried that he had given you his unhappiness.  He said you were like a sponge for things like that.  He told me the story of how you cried more than he did when you received the news that his brother in Batac had died.  He told me how when you were a child you collected tiny little boxes of the exact same style collected by his own mother, who died when he was fourteen.  What is that, forty years before you were born?  Of course, you know that.  But he insisted to me that he never once told you about the little boxes!  He had kept the memory of those boxes in his heart all his life, and then suddenly he had a daughter who collected the exact same ones herself.  He was always so surprised by you.  Enchanted, and surprised.  I think also because he was so much older than you, old enough to be your grandfather.  You were the child he was not expecting.  The child from his second life.  I think sometimes he thought you were a ghost; a reincarnation or something.  I myself often thought you were a ghost.  Strange, I know, since of course I was the one who would more logically be the ghost.

The man has not started eating the Filet-o-Fish yet.  His chin and his head feature the exact same half a milimeter of stubble.  I ask him how old he is.  He does not look that much older than me.  He says he was twenty when he started following me.  So that makes him thirty-two now.  Shyly, he says he is turning thirty-three in two months.

So I should not have been shocked by the news, I should not have been shocked.  But I was terribly, terribly shocked.  You were not only leaving California, you were leaving the United States.  It was so strange to me.  Why would you leave the United States?  And I thought you were so American.  With your backpack, with your shoes, with that jacket that you often wore.  In that jacket I thought you looked like Cary Grant.  It’s rare for a young girl to wear jackets like that, isn’t it?  You even wore a shirt and tie sometimes.  Everything about you was so American.  I couldn’t imagine you anywhere else.  But then I couldn’t really imagine anywhere else, at all; the only other place I had in my imagination was the Philippines, and I definitely could not imagine you there.

Now the song playing over the loudspeakers is Amerie’s “Gotta Work.”

So you were leaving, and I didn’t have to protect you anymore.  Well, I couldn’t say anything, of course.  What could I have said?  And of course I would never speak out of turn to your father.  So I said only, I understand.  Your father said it to me in a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose.  We both had the steak pho.  We finished it and left in separate cars.  That was the last time I saw your father.  That was only a few months before April.  Although until he died, he still called me every now and then, just to ask how I was, to ask how my new job was going, to tell me to go back to school, to ask me if I needed any money.  He bought me the car that I had been using to follow you.  And it was him who got me the security guard job at Exar.  That computer chip place.  I worked grave-shift, and your father worked the shift from three until eleven.  Sometimes I saw you come in with your mother and bring him dinner.  When you would call him on the phone around nine o’clock, I was often next to him, listening to your conversations.  I thought, what kind of kid is this, that talks about all this kind of stuff?  Death and philosophy and goodness and forgiveness, these very advanced things.  I even remember the day you cut your hair.  Your beautiful hair, that went down all the way to your back!  Your father called you Maria Clara because of this hair!  I will never forget the sensational way you surprised your father.  You came in with your mother, wearing a big hooded jacket.  You had a paper bag in your hands.  Your father was at his station.  I was just arriving at work, to relieve him.  I was walking towards you from where I had just chained my bike—at that time I rode a bike to work—when I saw you.  Though you and your mother never saw me.  You must have been twelve years old.  I could hear your voice.  You said, Papa, I have two things to show you.  The first thing is this. You pulled something out of the paper bag.  It was a long ponytail of black hair.  And the second thing is this!  Then you ripped the hood off of your head.  A year later, he asked me to start following you.

I see the man suddenly notice the blood on his own hands as he is eating.  Ah, ah, he says.  Sorry, sorry.  Let me clean this.  Do they have those wet wipes, like baby wipes?  I say to him, They might, I’ll go check.  He says, No, no, please, I’ll go.  He stands, leaving his quarter-eaten Filet-o-Fish.  I watch him leave.  On the back of his track jacket, the word ESPAÑA.

He stops at the napkin station, searches.  Ketchup, mustard, various packets, straws, spoons, forks, knives.  He does not seem to find the wet wipes.  He takes a handful of napkins.  He turns his back to me, so that I will not see him spitting on his hand and wiping vigorously with the dry napkin.  Then he makes his way back to me, still wiping.  Sorry, he says.  In his other hand he is holding at least seven unused napkins.

I ask the man why he would say yes to my father’s request.  He has finished the sandwich and is now beginning to eat the fries.  Again he offers me some.  Again I decline.

Well, the simple reason is that my family owes him everything, of course.  Our entire lives.  You know who your father was in the Philippines.  Maybe he had no more money when he came to the States, I don’t know about all of that, and I never asked.  But he was still a very powerful and connected man.  And many people owed him many things.  Anyway, because of all these things, he knew that on such-and-such date, the military would be coming for such-and-such families.  I don’t know if you’re aware of everything that was happening in that time.  You are.  Okay, well, yes.  People who were part of NPA, especially; but even farmers, students, journalists, activistas.  Anyway, my family was one of those families on the list.  Because of my parents.  My uncle was your father’s driver— maybe you don’t know that.  Anyway, so your father sometimes came to the house and played pusoy with my father and my uncle and the neighbors.  They always said about your father that he was so down-to-earth, he wasn’t snobby like the rest of his family, he was not a totally bad man.  I was still a very young child at this time, you know.  And your father was already quite a bit older than my own father.  So he was like a god to me.  With all his white hair.  Is it true that his hair went all white when he was sixteen?  That’s what he told me.

I say that my father told me the same thing.

He always gave me Belgian chocolate.  The one that looks like shells.  Once he gave me a book that I still have, even though I never really read it.  The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Haha, I still remember that title, because it was so strange!  My father said he didn’t want to like your father, logically he was the enemy, but he admitted that he liked your father very much.  People would say terrible things, but my father never joined in.  He would say terrible things about other people, about some of your father’s friends and relatives, but not about your father, not even years later.  Anyway, your father knew the very night that they would be coming for my father and mother.  And so your father came to the house very early in the morning and said to my father, Take your wife and your child and come stay at our house tonight.  I met your older sisters, or half-sisters, I suppose.  They live in Vigan now, I heard.  Have you ever met them?  They were older than me.  They were very bratty, they were ordering their maids around like princesses.  I thought you might be like that, too, when I first heard about you.  But you were not like that.  Your older brother was a little nicer to me, but very quiet.  Anyway, I remember that night.  We stayed in your father’s house.  We even stayed in one of the nice guest bedrooms!  Your brother and I watched Lethal Weapon 2 in your house.  Your brother gave me that candy, Kit Kat; that was the first time I ever tasted it.  He was very nice to me, very polite.  I’m sorry about him.  I’m very sorry.

I say I never knew him.

Then the next morning, early in the morning, my uncle drove us to the airport in your father’s black Audi.  I was in the front seat, my father and my mother were in the backseat, keeping their heads down.  They told me it was a game.  That day we took the plane to Canada.  Your father was the one who paid for the tickets.  From Vancouver we moved to San Diego.  I don’t know how everything else happened after that.  My father found a job as a postal worker, probably also through your father.  Then, maybe five years later, after I graduated high school, my father told me that your father had also moved to California, only a few years after we had.  But to the Bay Area.  He said your father had gotten re-married to a much younger nurse who had already immigrated to the States fifteen years earlier, who used to care for one of his sisters.  That he had gone through a lot; that he was poor now, in exile now.  That he had a daughter with this nurse, born only a couple of years after we left the Philippines.  The child was born in the States.  My father had written a letter to your father, I don’t know what it said exactly, but it was probably another letter of thanks, offering his help if ever your father needed it, that kind of thing, I’m sure.  Are you sure you don’t want any of the fries, I’m finishing it?

Now the song playing over the loudspeakers is Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”

After I graduated high school in San Diego, I was just working the same part-time jobs I had worked at while in school.  At Kinko’s, back when it was still Kinko’s.  I hadn’t applied to any colleges, I didn’t want to go, and also my grades were very bad.  I never liked school.  But I told my father I wanted to try and go to college up north.  I think he knew that I was lying, that I was going to look for your father.  But I was eighteen now, he couldn’t stop me.  I came to California with nothing, no job prospects, no friends, nothing.  I was staying in a motel with some money that I had saved up from my part-time jobs.  I had a girlfriend in high school but she broke up with me because she was going to Santa Clara University.  So I could have visited her!  But I didn’t, the thought didn’t even cross my mind.  I was just thinking about how stupid I was to come all the way to San Jose—I had taken the Amtrak, it was my first time on a train.  The train arrived three hours late in San Jose because of a freight derailment ahead of us.  I still remember that.  It was the first time I realized a train can go off its rails.  It sounds stupid, but I really didn’t realize that could happen, I thought trains were glued onto the rails somehow.  I was really stupid.  I thought, I’ve come all this way just to see your father, but why?  The last time I saw him I was maybe five years old, he probably won’t even remember me, it will be so awkward for him.  And he has a whole new family, he left the Philippines, if he sees me maybe it’ll bring back bad memories, anyway, who do I think I am?  So I stayed in that motel for the whole week.  I almost didn’t go out at all.  I only went out to a little convenience store next to the gas station to buy food.  I just watched television.  I watched Lois and Clark, right after America’s Funniest Home Videos.  I watched The Wayans Bros. right before The Jamie Foxx Show.  I watched Moesha.  I liked that show.  The girl was so pretty.

I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I was starting to convince myself that the right thing to do would be to go back home, to get a job at the post office like my father, or to maybe try and go to community college.  Then, at the end of the week, somebody knocked on the door, late at night.  I thought, Who is this, it can’t be housekeeping.  I opened the door.  It was your father.  He hugged me and said, Jun, Jun, you’re a young man now, my God.

I do not recognize the song they are playing now.

I invited him into the room.  I was already crying a little bit.  I remember he sat down on one of the armchairs, across from the bed.  And I sat on the edge of the bed.  He looked very elegant, even though I found out later that he was dressed in his security guard uniform.  But it was a very smart look!  He had on the black blazer, the gray dress pants, the white shirt, the navy blue cardigan.  And he was wearing a red silk tie, and in the middle of that red silk tie was a gold tie-pin.  He was wearing gold cufflinks.  He said, You have to go back home, your father is worried about you, he wrote me a letter.  I said, I’m not going back there, I want to try and go to school here.  Your father said, Your father doesn’t believe you’re going to school here, he thinks you came to find me.  I didn’t say anything.  Your father said, He told me that you were coming to find me, that you were very hard-headed and wanted to know if you could be of any use to me at all.  Still I said nothing.  Then your father said, What do you want to do?  What do you want to do with your life?  Do you really want to stay and work here?  I can find you a job if that’s what you want.  Is that really what you want?  Yes, I said.  Yes, yes, yes.  So your father found me a job at his own workplace.

For a while we both worked grave shift, but he didn’t enjoy working grave shift.  He said if he worked grave shift, his daughter would stay up late all night to talk to him on the phone.  Which I witnessed myself.  At one in the morning, the phone would ring.  And then you two would talk for hours.  Talking about things I couldn’t understand, words I couldn’t even recognize.  I was thinking, “What kind of child is this?”  So he changed to the shift from three to eleven.  And so I would be the one to relieve him, at eleven.  I was able to rent out a little apartment with my savings plus that salary.  All of the Exar security guards were Ilokanos, except for one Vietnamese guy who kept reminding everyone that he used to be a lawyer.  Every other sentence out of his mouth began, Well, since I was a lawyer.  So we were all speaking Ilokano to each other all the time.  I sometimes wonder if all of us were given jobs by your father for that purpose.  Nobody ever talked about their past.  Your father especially.  I think it was fun for him to be just another Ilokano security guard.  We just talked about baseball when it was baseball season, basketball when it was basketball season, football when it was football season, where to buy the best fishing rods, what lotto numbers everyone was picking, whose daughter or son was getting into trouble.  You would think we were all born in San Jose.

Now the song playing on the loudspeakers is the by Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.”

I say, So then, how were you able to be there tonight, if you stopped following me five years ago?

The man looks at me.  He starts wiping his hand again, though it is perfectly clean.  It is even clean under the nails now; he must have scraped.

I heard from my father who heard from a co-worker who is the father of one of your old classmates that you were moving back to California, that you were going to do some research thing at Stanford again.  It was purely by chance that I saw you again.  I was in the pho place where I had eaten with your father the last time.  I go there often.  Well, a few weeks ago you came in with your mother, whom I had never seen there before.  I hadn’t seen you in five years, and suddenly both of you came in.  At first I could only see the twelve-year-old you, wearing a hood, holding a paper bag of your hair.  I really thought I was seeing a ghost!  But then I realized that you were really there, and you were an older version of yourself, even though you didn’t look that much older.  Actually, you looked younger than you did in high school, somehow.  Even now you look younger than you did in high school.  You were wearing one of those jackets that made you look like Cary Grant—look, even today, you’re sort of wearing one—and you and your mom ate pho.  I wasn’t alone, I was actually with a group of co-workers at that time.  By that time I was working as a security guard at NASA.  And you looked sad.  I think you and your mom were fighting about something.  At least, you weren’t really talking, but then again, you and your mom never talked that much.  When you left, I left also.  I actually held the door open for you!  You said thank you very politely to me, without looking at me.  Your mom didn’t recognize me of course, she never met me in person.  Then I saw that your mom had driven you in your father’s old Mercedes.  So without thinking, I followed you.  But she didn’t bring you back home—or back to your home in San Jose, anyway.  She brought you all the way to Palo Alto.  So I drove, following you guys.  She dropped you off at your apartment.  I saw that you were living alone.  And since that day, I’ve been following you, on and off.  Not every day, not every evening.  Just when I had the time, when I thought it might be helpful.  Although this week, it was more like every day, I made more time this week.  I just felt—this will sound strange—like my duty wasn’t over.  Like I had to protect you again.  It was just instinct.

And well, wasn’t it good I was there tonight, at least?  I knew that man was planning on doing something to you, I knew it when I saw him in the bar, I knew it when I saw how he looked at you.  I kept thinking to myself, if he puts something in her drink, if I see her lose consciousness.  But of course you did the right thing.  You walked away, you removed yourself from this kind of situation.  But I thought he might follow you on your way home, and I was right.  Men like that are the worst.  And they deserve to be punished.  I’m only sorry you had to see.

The man has now finished the Filet-O-Fish, the fries.  He has gone through several napkins, yet there are still many napkins that remain.  The used napkins he folds into tiny squares, then places these squares inside the now empty box.  Then he lays the unused napkins atop the box.  Then he places the box to the side.  Now he begins sipping from a large container of Coca-Cola through a straw.  He asks, Are you sure you don’t want something to drink?   I say I am sure.

To tell you the truth, I never intended to meet you.  I didn’t want to meet you, to talk to you, even to look at you face to face like this.  I don’t think I ever even spoke to you once.  To me you were really like a ghost, or like an alien from another world.  I don’t mean that as an insult, I’m sorry if that sounds strange.  But I didn’t even think of you as having an age.  I’m surprised right now to look at you.  You seem as young as you did in high school, but I also know that you’re older now, you’re a woman now, you’re not even that much younger than me.  But I couldn’t even imagine you getting older.  I just saw you eating pizza with your friends, getting into your aunt’s car after school, saying thank you so politely with your American voice, walking back to your dorm late from the library.  The only voice of yours I could imagine was the voice on the telephone that I could hear next to me at work when your father would talk to you.  And even that voice sounded like a ghost.

The McDonald’s is going to close soon.  It is already quite late at night.  The man has not quite finished his soft drink, but still he stops drinking, gathers the rest of his refuse in the other hand, and brings everything to the waste disposal area.  When he comes back, I see that his pockets are somewhat bulging with new napkins.

He asks me, Were you planning on walking home?  I say, Yes.  He hesitates, then asks if I would prefer that he drive me home.  I ask him if he is going to follow me anyway.  He hesitates again, and then nods.  I say he can drive me home, then, but I would like to make a stop on the way at a convenience store to pick up some things.  He says, Of course.

The song playing on the loudspeakers now is Drake’s “Best I Ever Had,” but it is cut short.  The McDonald’s is now closing.

We leave together.  We are the last customers.  Three men are mopping the floor.  One of them opens the door for us, says, Have a good night.  We both reply, Good night, at the same time.

The man’s car is a 1998 blue Honda Civic.  I ask if this is the car my father bought for him.  He says it is.  He opens the door for me, quickly sweeps things—CDs, a sweatshirt, two empty potato chip bags—from the passenger seat to the backseat.  He apologizes profusely for the mess.  I say, It’s fine, thank you.  When he turns on the engine, the radio turns on immediately.  It is tuned to FM 96.5, KOIT Lite Rock.  It is now playing, rather loudly, Mariah Carey’s “Emotions.”  He apologizes again and reaches forward to turn the radio off, but I say, It’s fine.  He nods and begins driving.  I tell him the convenience store is very close to my apartment.  He says he thinks he knows which one I’m talking about.  We say nothing more to each other.  The blue rosary hung on his rearview mirror is swaying.

He parks in front of the convenience store, which is indeed the one I had been talking about.  I say, You can stay in the car.  He says, No, of course I’ll accompany you.  In the convenience store, a Chinese man and his wife are watching television behind the counter, in front of a wall of liquor bottles.  A woman wearing goggles and a bikini is going to jump into a pit full of snakes.

I point behind them and ask for one bottle.  The Chinese man asks for my driver’s license, which I show to him.  He looks at the license.  He looks at me.  He looks at the license again.  He returns the license to me, turns around to retrieve the bottle.

Behind me, the man says nothing, but I can feel his gaze.  Next to me, another young man wearing sweatpants is filling out a Lotto form.  The man comes up from behind me to place himself between the young man’s body and my own, clearing his throat as he does so.  The young man continues filling in the bubbles on his lotto form, does not move or even look at either of us.

I pay for the bottle.  The Chinese man asks me if I need a bag.  I say I do not.  His wife laughs at something on the television.

Walking back to the car, the man says, So you like whiskey.  You really are your father’s daughter.

Before I can respond, he adds, By the way, I wanted to say that your Ilokano is pretty good.  I didn’t expect that.  I thought you would speak only English, maybe a little Tagalog.  Since your mom isn’t Ilokana.

I say, Thank you, but it isn’t that good.  He insists that it is very good.

Now the radio is playing the end of Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet.”  The man does not have to drive very far to my apartment building.  He parks next to my usual parking space, where my own car is still parked.  He turns the engine off, but the radio is still playing.

Staring straight ahead, without looking at me, he says, I’m sorry, I really never meant to meet you, I never meant for you to find out about me.  But when I saw what was happening tonight I had to step in; that was why I was doing all this, after all.  I’m sorry I had to tell you all of this.  But I hope I’ve explained myself.  I hope you can understand, you can see why I’m doing what I’m doing.  But now that you know, I have to confess to you—I can’t promise you that I won’t continue.  Now I’m more certain than ever that this is what I must do.  Your father asked me what I want to do with my life before, and I think this is it.  I think this is it.  I often wondered what my life was for.  I wouldn’t even have a life if it weren’t for your father.  You were the most precious thing in the world to him.  It’s only logical that I would want to devote my life to protecting you.  But please believe I will do everything in my power so that you will never notice me, you will never know I am there.  It worked before, didn’t it?  I will not do a thing to disrupt your life or hold you back or anything like that.  I only want you to be safe.  And I want to say, also, even though I have no right to say this—that I am proud of you.  I am very proud of you.  And I know your father is very proud of you.  Your father would have been so proud of you.  With all your accomplishments.  You know I attended the Stanford graduation.  I saw you on that stage.

Now the radio is playing Madonna’s “Into the Groove.”

What was it they were awarding you with?  I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying.  But I knew that you had gotten some award.  It was the last time I saw you, too, until a few weeks ago.  Because a few months later you moved to England.  I remember you.  Your hair was down, for once.  You were wearing high heels, which I never saw you wear before.  You were sitting there all alone, with the other adults.  And then you stood up at the podium, and gave your speech, which I also didn’t understand.  I was sitting near the back, and you spoke so softly; and of course you know my English is only okay, even after all this time.  But I knew you were being celebrated for something, for accomplishing great things, for being a great student, something, of course, which was not very surprising.  Everyone was applauding.  If your father had been able to be there, he would have been very proud.  He would have been very, very proud of you.  I know it must have been terrible for your family—so shortly before your graduation—it must have been difficult for you to enjoy your own graduation—but you know, I think he was there that day, watching you.

After his death I often thought I saw him.  At work, in a crowd, at a movie theater, in a restaurant, driving a Mercedes on 101 South.  Still in that black blazer, those gray dress pants, that red tie with the gold tie pin.  I saw him waving at me, winking at me.  The day of your graduation, I saw him again.  But he wasn’t waving at me.  I could only see his profile.  His white hair.  He was looking at you.  Still looking so surprised by you.  This child.   This wonderful child.  You know, your father spent a lot of time trying to—what is the word—to make reparations.  I’m not even sure myself of the details, he never talked about them, and my father never did, either.  Even what he did for my family must have been part of that.  But you, you.  When you were born.  You changed everything.  And you have done him so proud.  Do you understand?  You have done him so proud.  You have done him so proud.  Do you understand?  Do you understand?  Do you understand?

It is at this moment that I lift the bottle and smash it over the man’s head.  Glass breaks in a shower over his head and shoulders, raining shards and whiskey from the top of his skull to his lap.  The blow has knocked his head into the side window, but his hands are still frozen on the steering wheel.  Now, with the splintered part of the bottle still in my hand, I begin to stab him in the throat, just above the collar of the Adidas track jacket, which is once again freshly bloodstained.  His head resting against the window, the man continues to stare straight ahead, as though he is seeing someone else.  As though he is listening to something someone else is telling him.  He looks confused by this person’s speech.  He looks as though he is trying to hear, but cannot quite make out the words.  His eyes wide open in wonder and labor.  Inside the car it begins to smell sweet.  Then I am quiet.  Then I am quiet.  Then, I am quiet.