Dad says we can go anywhere. I’ll be gone soon, and he wants to spend the day with me. I choose Splashville Waterpark in Maine. We had so much fun the last time we went, Dad, Maggie, and me. My favorite slide was a yellow and black striped funnel slide where the three of us sat in a giant tube and sped through a tunnel into the main part of the slide, shaped like a funnel on its side, where we rocked back and forth from one side to the other until we finally exited into the splash pool. I remember at the end Dad exclaiming, “Holy shit!” and Maggie and I laughing, because for the first time our father felt like our friend.
In the car, I ask Dad if he remembers the slide. “Not sure, Kit,” he says. “How long has it been? Eight years? Nine?”
“Eight. Maggie got her hair hennaed right before she started high school. That was eight years ago.”
“Right,” he says, nodding. “That’s right.”
Mom doesn’t come because she’s busy exterminating, not that she would come anyway. Maybe she would have, years ago, back when she still went to lunch with friends and colored her hair, when she and Dad still touched each other. She bought all new linens and mattress covers for the beds, and today she’s using her stiff new cleaning brush to scrub the mattress seams before vacuuming the house head to toe. It doesn’t matter to her that Joe from Bedbug King told her the house is clear.
Yesterday, she thought she spotted a bedbug on her pillow and cried. Dad went to inspect. “It was a piece of black thread,” he said to me like it was a punch line. I laughed to make us both feel better.
“Bedbugs are teeny, Mom,” I told her. “You can’t even really see them.”
“That’s not true, Kit,” she said. “I’ve researched this.” And she had, for several hours a day on the computer for the past three weeks. At the breakfast table, she told me signs to watch out for: blood stains on sheets or pillowcases, spots of excrement on mattresses and walls, itchy red welts on my skin. As I did my homework at the table after school, she told me places bedbugs could be found: in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, even carpets and curtains and dresser drawers! “I’m not crazy,” she told me.
Before this, it was lead paint. Before that, mercury vapors. I can’t say for sure when things changed; who really can?
At the park, Dad and I rent a locker and stuff our bags and clothes and sandals into it. I wear my new red bikini with the push-up top. I can’t remember the last time Dad saw me in a bathing suit—two summers ago? Three?
“Sunscreen?” he asks.
“Sure.” Dad squirts lotion into my hands and I rub it on my shoulders. The sunscreen smells like the beach and it reminds me of being a kid. Dad turns away. I wonder if he realizes the way boys look at me now. Strange I hadn’t thought how this moment would feel earlier; when I’d looked at in the mirror this morning, I was too excited by the fullness of my breasts to think about what Dad would see.
“I want to find the yellow and black funnel slide,” I tell him.
“We’ll get to them all,” he says.
We get in line for the first slide we see. Dad grabs me a tube and bops me on the head with it. I screw up my face in mock objection. It’s weird without Maggie here, but we’re determined to make it just as fun.
The line spirals up a big set of stairs to the top of the slide. There are lots of little kids holding their parents’ hands, groups of teenage kids flirting with each other—no other teenage girls with their dads.
“Are you excited for the big move next week?” he asks.
“I guess so,” I say.
“Do you like your roommate?”
“She seems nice.”
“And you registered for classes?”
“Yeah. During orientation.”
Two guys waiting in line on the steps above us hear Dad mention the name of my new college and turn around. They go to a rival school the next town over, they tell me. The one doing most of the talking eyes my breasts in my red push-up top. I think he’s cute; I’m not really sure though. Maggie says if you don’t lose your virginity in high school, then you have to lose it your freshman year of college, or people will think you’re weird. I wondered if the guys think it’s weird for a teenage girl to be at a waterpark with her dad.
On the way down the slide Dad hollers “Yeehaw!” like he used to do on rides when Maggie and I were kids, and I hope those two guys can’t hear him. I laugh along with him though, because I really do want to have fun. The slide goes by so fast considering how long we waited.
“Do you think Mom’s okay?” I ask him as we move on to the next slide.
“Not sure, Kit,” he says.
I had a dream last night that bedbugs were all over my room. They looked like daddy longlegs, and they crawled all over my arms and chest and face. I told Mom about the dream this morning.
“I wish you hadn’t told me that, Kit,” she said. “I don’t know why you’d think I wanted to hear that.”
The next slide requires a double tube. I sit in front and Dad puts his legs on either side of me. His toes are hairy. I try to remember the last time I went sledding. Dad yells “Yeehaw!” on the way down again, and I wish Maggie were here.
After two more slides, we take a break for lunch. I’m tired, and I can tell Dad is too. Dad gets two slices of pizza and I get a banana.
“You don’t want anything else?” he asks.
“I’m not hungry.” I don’t tell him that I don’t want to look bloated in my new bikini. Boys have been looking at my breasts all day. It makes me excited for college, where I can wear those tank tops Mom hates. Where I can have sex with boys, maybe.
We sit outside under an umbrella. I watch an older guy smoothing sunscreen onto the shoulders of a pretty freckled woman at the next table.
Dad sighs. “I’m going to miss you when you’re gone.”
I turn to look at him. “Are you and Mom going to get divorced after I leave?”
“Not sure, Kit,” he says.
After the lead paint but before the bedbugs, Dad told me he wasn’t sure he and Mom would stay together. Mom told me she and Dad were going through a “rough patch” but they were going to “work things out.” I can’t remember the last time they slept in the same bed. I’m not sure whom to believe.
Once we finish lunch, I want to find the yellow and black funnel slide. We use a map to find it at the edge of the park, but it’s not like I remember. It’s red, not yellow and black, and the funnel part is smaller than I imagine. Maybe this isn’t the slide I remember at all.
It doesn’t matter, because the slide is closed anyway. The lifeguard tells us the pH levels of the splash pool are too high.
“It’s contaminated?” I ask.
“It should be fixed within the hour,” the lifeguard says, but I don’t want to go on the slide anymore.
We move on. Dad and I ride down one more slide, and he doesn’t shout “Yeehaw!” this time.
“Up for more?” he asks me.
“I think I’m done,” I say. He looks relieved. We return to the car.
On the ride home, I wonder if Maggie knows how bad things have gotten. How lucky she is, to live so far away. I wonder if I, too, will stop caring so much once I’m gone.
“Did you have fun today?” Dad asks.
I smile and say, “Yeah, just as fun as last time,” and he smiles, too, even though he knows it’s not true.
“Why don’t you call your mother and tell her we’re on our way home?”
I take out my phone, trying to remember when she became “my mother” instead of Mom. I call her, and I can’t tell if she’s sad or okay. When I hang up, I suddenly remember and I exclaim, “Dad!”
“I remember where the yellow and black slide was!”
“It wasn’t at Splashville. It was at Water Nation in New Hampshire. You, me, and Maggie went there right after she got braces. Remember?”
His eyes are far away. “Not sure, Kit,” he says. “Not sure.”
Corinne Sullivan lives in Bronxville, where she is an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She has been published in The Allegheny Review and has work forthcoming in Rougarou, Saturday Night Reader, and Knee-Jerk Magazine.