He was going to meet his father. Darryl wasn't nervous, he was feeling brave. Things were moving quickly but he wasn't nervous and that was a good thing. After the Christmas holidays, Darryl and his mother had strategized and planned all the angles to ensure their mutual success. He had never felt so powerful, he had never pulled as a team like this before with this mother and it was fantastic. He wished that their relationship could have always been like this. Fearful that a sudden confrontation would shock his biological father, or put his scholarship at risk, they decided to approach through none other than the original law firm where Wanda used to work. They had an initial free consultation with a lawyer specializing in adoption cases and discussed sending a letter to his counsel. The costs were reasonable and the benefit seemed to outweigh any fears that he had, but his mother was less sure. She had been clear that she did not want to meet his father again and Darryl understood. She also had a strange fear that his father would take him away and she would never see him again. Darryl understood, or thought he understood, but probably he didn't. He just wanted to get back to normal, his new normal. With his professor girlfriend ...and meeting his father. He was rationally aware that his father might not respond. It had been covered by the lawyer and again in private conversation with his mother. He expressed neutrality for how it turned out. But this was a lie. He knew he would be devastated if his father rejected him. He knew this, but he wanted to move forward anyway. Darryl was feeling very brave. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Micah entered his father's home office and sat down. The room was empty but his heart was beating so hard he was worried he might fall down. He hung his head between his knees with his fingers clasped behind his skull, the way his father had showed him as a little boy when he was feeling nauseous. He was starting to unravel. The Christmas holidays had been so bad he dared not think of them. As a result his clothes hung off his body, having forgone food for all the vodka in the world. He was unshaved and his fingers shook. His skin glistened with the sickly green pallor of a desperate man. He was still handsome, but it was a beauty shared by those on the brink of death. How had he gotten here? Following the episode at the hospital, Micah had been released by the police and driven into the night. It was a blur but somehow he had arrived at the frat house ahead of everyone else, ahead of the story. He threw some things in a bag and headed for the door. His phone had rung so many times that the battery died before he was finished. He left it behind in the trashcan like everything else. He took a look around the room, first quickly, then more slowly as it really hit him. He would never see this room again. He thought about tearing things down, he thought about setting it on fire, but all he did was find a fifth of bourbon in his underwear drawer and start drinking. Together with his bottle he drove into midtown, then downtown, just trying to think. He ended up a strip club he frequented infrequently and parked his BMW 5 series with the windows down and the cold wind blowing outside the grim exterior. The neon lights flashed in silence. His pulse matched it. Maybe the car would get stolen, he thought happily. He tossed the keys on the seat and tucked his bottle into his jeans pocket. The bouncer did not ask to see ID - Micah vaguely remembered dropping a huge amount of cash here with his frat brothers not that long ago - but flicked his eyes to the vehicle and then back at Micah. "Evening", said the bouncer and pushed the steel doors open. The music pushed its way out at Micah and matched the pulse of the neon lights beat for beat. Micah marveled at the synchronicity. The universe was speaking to Micah and he nodded in response, taking a delicate sip of his bottle as soon as he was inside. Something inside him relaxed, moved to the side and came loose; it was his heart. The darkness, the vibrating noise were far more intoxicating than the alcohol. But it was still early and he was alone. On stage a single key light angled toward the mirrored back wall drawing his attention. The mirror was marred with a million fingerprints of the women who had pawed it. Using just the location of the prints he was able to imagine all the various angles and poses the woman had made on this very stage. The exact trajectory of a leg or the height of a heel would change how the taut flesh might ripple. It was a pornographic ballet and it filled him with hope. From the centre of this mirrored back wall a door swung open silently. Outside was a parking lot, much like the one he had just come from. But beyond the cracked pavement, was green grass, dark in the evening gloaming and beyond that: a sky unlike anything Micah had ever seen before. The colours were majestic. Every colour in the world was represented. It was kind of sky you would see in a hot country after a brutally hot day. It was out of step with where he was; it was a desert sky. He could even smell it; dry and empty with spice on the wind. Micah was worried that he was the only one who could see it. He took another sip of his bottle and the glass edge clicked against his teeth. The door swung shut as quickly and silently as it had opened and he realized that it was not a sunset at all but a tall women on stage dressed in a costume of the most marvelous rhinestones. She was as bright as a parrot, or a peacock, or both of them combined, with a long feathered tail and her every move cast a million million glints of light around the room like a coloured disco ball. Down the long arm of the stage she marched toward him with purpose, passing each pole and making eye contact. This was a first, he had to admit. He gazed at her gently, around the edges his vision was blurring. She was taller than he initially thought. Peacock-Parrot Woman proceeded toward him until she blocked out everything else. Lifting her arm she pointed directly at him. J'accuse!, he thought amusedly. Where did that come from? He made to shuffle out of her purview but his legs were heavy and staring at her was making him so happy. He wanted her to love him, he knew he could make this happen. He could be better. Peacock-Parrot Woman finally reached him and with her giant finger extended from her giant arm touched him with just the tip of her brightly painted nail in the centre of his forehead. The heat hit him like a sledgehammer and he was gone. He woke up late the next afternoon in the back seat of his car. The parking lot was empty and his was the only car in it. He wasn't hungover, he was still drunk. His bottle and his shoes were gone, so was his wallet, but the keys were still there and he drove him craving a drink and trying to piece together what had happened. But it was no use. It wasn't until he got to his parent's house that he learned he had been gone for two days. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Micah's father entered the office and walked by him reading a lawyer's letter sent by what looked to be registered mail. Micah stood up quickly and then reeled with the effort. "Dad... I-" His father ignored him, this is how it had been for the holidays. His mother silently crying and loudly blowing her nose, and his father avoiding him. "Dad I need to tell you that I'm leaving." That got his attention. Micah's father looked up and dropped the letter on his desk. He sighed. "The school won't have you back, son" "No, I know-" --the need for alcohol made him literally weak. He struggled even for breath. "Your mother and I have been talking about what to do and we think that you should take a year off." The words hung in the air. It was so shocking he was momentarily rendered speechless. The world as he knew it was crumbling, and he was the only one who was aware. He felt like dancing. "Rehab?" "No, not rehab, son." His father scoffed. "What are you addicted to?" This is how little he knew about me, Micah thought. The arrogance of it all gave him strength. He took a deep breath, his skin felt like a straight jacket. "Dad, I've joined the army, basic starts in a little while but they will take me sooner and it will give me time to sell my car." Sell your car? he replied stupidly Was that the only part he heard?