One of our regular stops was The Bistro. I usually ordered the breakfast special, Maya always ordered the hummus wrap, no tomatoes. She almost never finished it, half going home for lunch the next day. We had a few standing jokes there. The best one was a self-deprecating routine after a specific waitress called me “honey.” I made a big deal about it with Maya, like I was flattered, and she liked me. Of course I knew she called everyone “honey”, but it was a fun joke. And of course Maya would say “yeah dad, she really likes you, never mind you are old enough to be her father, she is really hitting on you” with that great sarcastic voice. And we laughed together. It was a predictable joke, and we always played it out. Once she did not call me “honey” and I feigned hurt feelings. We had fun with it, expanding the story to fit the day.
Yesterday Adin and I went to the Bistro for breakfast with two friends of ours. Of course, the place in and of itself holds a charge for me. All those jokes with Maya came back to me, the sadness and the joy all tumbled together.
“What can I get you Mathew?” She had never used my name, not once, in all the years. Now she knows my name. That moment, that single sentence, held so much, was so resonant for me. The whole story was in that one question.
In the first few weeks of October, I did not go out much. One time I did and I saw, from across the street, a woman turn to look at me. I saw it all in her eyes, the sadness, the compassion, the caring. The whole story in her one glance.
So now you know my name, so many of you. And it means I have a story too, a narrative that comes with me. I know that story is mine now, and in some way I embrace it, in others I still cannot believe it. I struggle to live as “the father of the girl who took her own life”, and to know that I am more than that, although right now it feels like that is all there is. I wonder how and when that will fade, and will be integrated into other narratives, other roles, other stories. Now you know my name, and that is all there is.
Maya in Florence, Making Marble Paper, 2011