Heâ€™d called her his final night alive and left a message on her answering machine. â€œHey, Chita, itâ€™s your old man. Just wanted to tell you I love you and am missing you. I hope youâ€™re doing all right. Iâ€™m praying for you.â€
Heâ€™d seemed like he was doing so much betterâ€”no trace of sadness in his voice; then again, he always tried to hide his depression.
Seeing her father lying in his casket during the viewing, Conchita couldnâ€™t help but look at him. His face was tanned as if heâ€™d been at the beach in Brazil. Heâ€™d told her his boyhood stories of going to the beaches. â€œChita, my buddies and Iâ€™d go to all the topless beaches. You shouldâ€™ve seen your mom, well, maybe not, but I sure enjoyed it. She had the finest body.â€
He was wearing the dress suit sheâ€™d helped him pick out when she was home over Thanksgiving break her freshman year. It was a wool, charcoal-gray suit with silver pin stripes. â€œIâ€™m not going to look like George Bush in this monkey suit am I?â€ Heâ€™d asked.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, Dad, thereâ€™s no danger of anyone electing you president.â€ They laughed while the sales clerk walked away with the measuring tape around his neck.
She took her eyes off him and looked at the black casketâ€”the top openâ€”lined with white stuffed nylon. She closed her eyes holding back tears.
To Conchita, the viewing felt like the opening of Pandora’s box: every negative emotion her father ever felt escaped from his casket, and buried itself inside her. Except the one thing Pandora trapped, hope, was going to be buried with her father.