Air Hockey with my Father Gail Bello
Belly full of mac and cheese and soft serve ice cream,
my dad would take me down the halls of the mall
to the arcade
for our post-buffet tradition.
Cup of tokens from the counter
the table breathing to life from its pores,
timer and score counter lit up with the sound of the buzzer.
It was me vs. Dad-liath once again.
I’d clutch the striker with my small hand
ready to wreak upon my father a crushing defeat.
I felt unstoppable acting as forward, defense and goalie all at once,
sliding the plastic puck zig-zagging wall to wall with what felt like perfect precision,
over and over until time ran out.
I took a victory march around the video game machines.
On a player-abandoned screen I watched a muscley shirtless man
down a stone pit to his death on a bed of nails.
Here in my present, I know he let me win.
I know that both the arcade and the buffet will close,
and that, in only a few years’ time, my dad’s tremors would begin.
I have learned that the strong and consistent will fall
And I will have to surpass them.
I will have to let them go like air.