Sonya Larson

God is Love is Love is Love

His lover suggested a lunchbox, plastered with spaceships and trucks, and at that moment Donald wished he’d come alone. He had brought along Morris to shop for his daughter, sensing that if he was going to mingle the two of them—like two unknown chemical compounds—then he’d better provide a distraction, something to focus the disaster. And so: here was Target. Morris was kind and eager and Donald felt weirdly responsible for him as he disappeared down the aisles.

“How about some Springsteen?” Morris shouted from somewhere unseen. “They’ve got your favorites. All that driving into the sunset…”

“No, no, no, no,” Donald muttered. He wandered after the voice, concentrating on the white tile of the floor. Molly was his only chance at a daughter. He needed to think.

He found him in Home Appliances. “How about a Dust Buster?” said Morris, examining a travel-sized one in a box. “This could also be for kids.” He shook it by his ear, assessing its durability. Morris was from an almost-poor family in an almost-poor neighborhood; he was a man of practicalities. Last Christmas—their second ever—Morris gave him a battery charger and a rain poncho. Batteries and a poncho. Why should Donald expect more now?

“She’s six,” he said. “She needs something memorable. Something unique.”

“Unique…” said Morris, scanning the shelves. “Like a car alarm?” He was grinning, being funny, but Donald couldn’t laugh about this. Not about his daughter.

Morris quieted. “Okay, okay,” he said, squeezing Donald’s arm. Donald held his fingers there—the rough, warm grip of them. “I know that you’ll pick something wonderful,” said Morris, and he left to look for alarms-for-the-lawn.

Donald wandered the perfume aisle, feeling sick. He might as well have been shopping for a pen pal. Living apart from his daughter gave him only a Greatest Hits knowledge of her tastes; his efforts felt hopelessly obsolete. Finally he stood before the bins of jellybeans—who doesn’t like food?—and selected the most exquisite flavors. He eased the bag into the glove compartment and drove them to her school.

There she was. His Molly. Standing in the parking lot like a chessman, rotund in her coat and thick scarf wound under her eyes. She pried open the back door and rolled onto the seat with a cold gust of air. Donald twisted to watch her, past Morris in the passenger seat, his smile aching his face. But she didn’t look at them. Just pulled at the scarf, revealing her hardworking cheeks. Donald reached over the shifting column and offered her the jellybeans, feeling more of a lover than a father. His continuous trying.

“What are these?” she said.

“Juicy pear and toasted coconut,” said Morris. “Your dad picked out each and every one.” He winked at Donald.

Which was irritating. Donald turned away and looked squarely at his daughter. “You remember Morris?” said Donald.

“Hi Morris,” she said, examining the jellybeans that hung limply in her hand. Donald wanted her to tear it open, to swallow them hungrily, but she only slid them in her backpack and zipped the zipper. She lowered her head to the seat. She closed her eyes.

Okay: no beans. Didn’t want to spoil her dinner. A good kid—he should be grateful. Donald faced the windshield and drove speedily to his suburban stucco, far from his ex. It was no Faye’s Playland, sure, but there was the park nearby and the neighbor’s dog and the garage he was proud of. They could have their own fun, couldn’t they? Their non-Tyco Toys, non-Faye fun!
He got everyone inside. “What shall we do first?” he said. “Boggle—your favorite? A round of Pictionary?”

Molly dropped her backpack and sighed. “Mom says I’d better nap,” she said. “After that I’ll come down and we can play Boggle then.” Donald forced a knowing nod. That made sense. That was logical.

She dragged her little body up the banister as Donald called up. “Just yell when you’re ready for scampi alla lilli! With fresh Roma tomatoes! From the garden!”

“Maybe she would’ve liked the car alarm,” said Morris in his ear. He saw Donald’s face and corrected himself, frowning. “Relax, Father Donald.” He rubbed Donald’s shoulders, kissed his cheek. “Practice relaxing.”

“Don’t call me Father,” said Donald. “It makes me sound like some sort of priest.”

“I’m sorry,” said Morris. “I would never insinuate such a thing.” Donald felt a smile in the kiss touching his neck. It made him want to cry—Morris soothing him like this.

In his study Donald leaned over his desk. He’d written letters without sending them, bought books without giving them. He was out of touch with his daughter; there was no need to make it obvious.

The term was coming out, which made it sound like a party. A liberation. But if it had been that easy, he would have done it so much sooner. Before finding himself with a wife and a daughter and a job researching T-cells. Donald loved them all: that was his problem. He loved their home. He loved Bruce Springsteen. When Molly was a baby, Faye would make videos of her thrashing giddily with wrapping paper, his “Thunder Road” record playing in the background. They could watch the videos ceaselessly; they were parents seized with love. It shook him alive, this happiness like a drug.

He was accustomed by then to almost-truth, to seventy and eighty percent truth. After a while that began to feel like t