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Dad: A Ghost

Maybe it was seeing his hand pass right through the plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table for a handful of baby carrot sticks on the veggie tray, or the crumpled tissues he left everywhere: in the armchair, on the coffee table, next to his shoes in the entry hall, like the footprints of a live ghost. Or maybe it was the young man’s shoe he wore that didn’t match his soft planetary glow and hurt his bony feet. In any case,

We are at home now, the two of us watching Monday Night Football. Christian man that he is, teetotaler, slugs wine out of glass like he’d just run a mile, tells me to “go check her dresser.” By her, he means my mother. By checking the dresser, he means for me to see for myself that her wedding ring is there, not on her hand. I knew this was coming. I wonder to myself why she didn’t put it in her jewelry box instead. His dinner plate rests on the window sill, the steak cold and untouched, a foreshadowing of his impending fast.

The doctor told him his poor cholesterol had finally caught up with him. Time to get those numbers down. No more ice cream. Red meats. Potato chips. Buttered popcorn. Up the exercise, not just a few minutes on the elliptical now and again. Why don’t you try hot yoga?

He lost 30lbs by cleaning out the freezer and filling it with microwavable black bean burgers and salmon filets that come in a box. Individually packaged bags of brown rice and quinoa and lidded tin containers line the top shelf: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, granola. On the shelf below, trail mix bars: flax seed or sprouts. “Jess, you gotta try these burgers, I’m tellin’ ya,” he says before sneezing and an eye forces itself loose from his head, falling into his tissue. I pretend not to notice as he tosses it back into its socket like he used to tip his head back and catch olives in his mouth.

How long does a man need to be boiled to become a puddle or a mist? One health study finds human fat begins to melt between 90 and 100 degrees. Skin can be boiled off the bone. DNA dissociates at 140 degrees. My dad starts to practice Bikram four days a week in a small studio kept at a constant 105. He drives home slick with sweat, several pounds lighter, his whole body soaked up by two beach towels draped over the driver seat. The car fills with steam rising from his bald head, fogging the windows. However, the body isn’t a solid to begin with, one study contends. He’s not a solid to begin with, Hebrew studies reiterate.

Abraham collects my father’s co-pay and asks him to take a seat in the armchair across from his. Having just returned from Mount Moriah, Abraham is tired and thin like my ever-thinning father, similarly attenuated by disillusionment and the interminable lifespan of his soul. “By faith,” the old man says abruptly, as if interrupting, “does one abide.” My dad tells him he knows, that he believes Lynn is still the one, but he thinks she wants to leave. What do I do? “Our God is able to raise the dead to new life,” Abraham says as he struggles to cross his tired knees. “Figuratively speaking,” he adds, his arms still remembering the significant weight of a small boy. He wants to avoid any misunderstanding of what can and can’t be done. The limits of resurrection. A dead marriage is a dead marriage. A dead man is a dead man. Resurrection: a witch’s trick, a photograph, a memory. My dad understands and cries soft enough that you can hear his shoelaces shaking. Can hear the sky closing.

Jesse Lawhead is a bootless, hatless graduate student at Texas Tech University.