The Father He Never Had

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One moment can last a lifetime.

As Derek stared at his bathroom mirror, he couldn’t help but grimace at his reflection. Standing in front of him was a strapping young man, with a sleek business suit fit tightly around his chiseled body. But what was dangling around his neck started to boil his blood -- it was an untied tie.

Derek didn’t know how to tie a tie. No one ever taught him how. For the last 15 minutes, he was binding it together, desperately hoping a knot would magically appear. But by now, fiddling with it for even one more minute would make him miss the train. And there was no way he was about to be late for his job interview.

So Derek dashed out of his apartment and pierced through a stream of people who were all bolting past each other, mindlessly following the path that leads them to work every day.

As he rumbled past his fellow city goers and shuffled down the stairs to the train station, Derek clasped both ends of his tie to shield it from the gusts of wind trying to snatch it away. He was determined to catch this train. But after he slipped past the ticket gate, Derek suddenly stopped. Someone had just clamped their hand down on his shoulder.

“Whatchu doin’ son?” remarked a weathered, middle-aged man.

“I’m ... going to Mattapan,” Derek answered, slightly confused.

“No, no, your tie son. Whatchu doin’ with that thang?” asked the man.

“Oh...” replied Derrick, quietly. “I don’t really know what I’m doing here”.

“Here, son,” declared the man. “Let me help you out”.

The man gripped both ends of Derrick’s tie and fastened it faster than his mother could wrap a Christmas bow. The knot was taught and precise. The tip barely grazed his belt. The tie laid perfectly on his torso.

“There you go, son,” said the man. “You look much better, now.”

Just then, the train to Mattapan whooshed past them, flapping Derek’s freshly fastened tie in the same direction.

“Thank you so much, sir” said Derek, who was as shocked as he was touched. “I, I can’t thank you enough.”

“Don’t worry about it, son,” the man responded, with a smile. “It was my pleasure.”

Derek and the man clasped hands like they were old friends, freezing the moment in time.

But when the train slowed down to a stop and its doors slid open, Derek had to loosen his grip and walk into the car. As he turned around, he locked eyes with the man again. And for a few fleeting seconds, they rekindled their moment through the car’s glass window. But when the doors closed and the train started chugging toward Mattapan, the man slowly slipped out of Derek’s sight -- and became his most cherished memory.

Photo by Pavel Anoshin on Unsplash

Clifford Chi