Cassie Jobman

First Trip to Walgreens with my Father

My father goes to Walgreens, everyday,
Without fail.
It’s always “something”.
Toilet paper, Advil, bugspray, cereal,
lint roller, hair ties, cat food, Diet Coke, oatmeal,
Prescription pick up, screwdriver, laundry detergent.
Shaving cream, hair spray, razor blade…
It’s always “something”

He spends his sunsets, wandering through the empty aisles.
Back and forth,
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

I am twelve years old.
It is my first time accompanying my father on his nightly adventure.
I watch him.

Aisle 1:
My father’s gaze is fixed.
Scanning each brand of fabric softener, top to bottom
Like models in a line, frozen smiles,
And my dad could have them all.
Rows of choice,
Contrary to the structured childhood he was raised in,
that he is still trying to escape from.
It will take him minutes to choose just one,
His eyes are searching.

Pass action figures, board games, jump ropes, and walkie talkies

Aisle 2:
My father brings a tentative hand out of pocket,
Shaking only slightly,
He glides calloused fingertips along the curves
of the dish liquid with an intimacy,
of a close friend, hinting at something more,
His eyes beg for a return of the affection:
Longing.

Pass toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss

Aisle 3:
My father is choosing cat food.
I sneak off into a shelter of t-shirts,
a game of hide-and-seek he doesn’t know we are playing.
My eager head pokes out from among the clothes, watching.
He is searching.
A worker approaches him,
“Do you need help finding something?”
On cue, I leap out from among the racks,
Climax of the act,
“Dad, I’m right here!”
His gaze does not shift from the cat food, choosing.
He says, “No thank you. I’m just looking,”

Pass diet coke, juice, milk, and smoothies

Aisle 4:
I stand at a distance,
watching from hidden view.
He is searching
Eyes dancing back and forth, back and forth.
Searching, searching, looking, looking, longing:
I run to him, “Dad! I’m right here! Dad, dad.”
His head does not turn.
I wonder if I am invisible.

Pass knitted hats and gloves, fuzzy socks

Aisle 5:
My father is not crazy.
He is not a shopaholic.
He is not a Walgreens fanatic.
He is lonely,
He is empty,
He is searching.

Pass happy families, rattling carts, conversation laughter

Aisle 6:
I can still see him in my mind,
as on that first day,
looking. With the fixed gaze, and shaking hand, dancing eyes.
And an eager me,
waiting to be found from among the racks,
waiting for my absence to be noticed,
waiting for my father’s looking eyes to settle when he looked upon me.
4 years later, I still utter the eager “Dad!” when I see him searching the aisles
But it has taken 4 years since to realize,
He was never searching for me.