“I’ve noticed more similarities between young people and pets since I turned 35,” he said.
“What?” I shook my head. I was trying to read messages on my phone.
“The eyes. The mouth. The way the bottom lip seems to always hang lazy. A lack of real expression. The way they hold their arms. It’s even more obvious when you watch them sleep.”
I heard his chair creak. His coffee cup hit the table with a light clink.
“Do you always drink coffee with the spoon in the mug?” I asked.
He laughed. “It’s better than putting it on your table, isn’t it?”
My daughter walked behind me and to the sink. I could see his eyes track her across the room. “Good morning, Cherrie,” he said.
I could hear her stop and sense her looking at him for the first time. “Morning,” she said. I watched her walk past me to the cupboard with glasses and bowls. Breakfast or a drink? She took a glass.
“Do you remember me?” He leaned back in the chair and faced her fully. I said nothing but lit a cigarette.
“Of course,” she said a little too snidely.
“Don’t you have a hug for your uncle Henry?” he asked, his voice sinking a bit deeper. He winked at me. Before she had a chance to get too uncomfortable, “I’m just kidding, haha!”
She drank the last of the milk from her glass, and turned to walk out of the room, “Ha ha.” She waved over her shoulder.
Henry slouched in his chair and looked at me again, “She’s turning into quite a piece of work, huh?”
“Oh, she’s ok. She’s just, you know.”
“Hmmm.” He drank the last of his coffee, head askance to avoid the spoon.
The night before, the door opened without warning to let him in. “I’m sorry,” he’d said. He hugged me and I felt my heart resurface from the dullness it had submerged into for just a second. “It’s ok,” I said. We said nothing more about it.
“I got hired as a painter, believe it or not.”
“No no. I am a detail artist. I paint in the details.”
“Look at my hands.” His hands were covered in light smears of different coloured ink.
“Beautiful. Want to do my nails later?”
In the afternoon, he got back in his Jeep and drove away. He gave me a small envelope. “Here,” he said, “Open it later.” He kissed my cheek.
I didn’t watch him drive away.