An unexpected friendship

Dad came into Credo with the intention of bonding with his daughter. He sat down opposite me at the big table, poking at a bowl of chow mein with his folk.
“So, what’s news with you?” Dad asked, earnestly.
“Oh, you know, the usual.” I launched into a vague description involving my studies and my work.

While I was talking, a man with a red face and a fluff of white hair sat down beside me.
I turned to the man. “What’s your name?” I asked, also quite earnestly.
“I’m John.” John didn’t seem to have any teeth and his voice was soft and muffled.
“So John,” I began. “What brings you here?”
John turned out to be a particularly candid person. “I want to find someone who can live with me.”
“Like a girlfriend?”
“Yes.”
“Oh. Right.”
“I’m very lonely. Maybe you can come and visit me?”
“No!” I said, smiling. “You’ll want me to move in with you!”
John grinned. “You can if you want!” he said.

I decided to change tact. “John, I’d like you to meet my Dad, Frank.”
“Hello there,” said John.
Dad looked up from his bowl. “Pleased to meet you,” he said, a little unsure as to whether he meant it.
“Where do you live?” asked John.
“Ah, Whittlesea.”
“That’s near me.”
“Oh really?”
“Yes – I live in Mill Park.”
“Oh yes well I suppose…that’s not too far from where we are…”
“Will you come and visit me?”
Dad cleared his throat and threw me a slightly startled look. “Oh well I’m not sure if…”
John pulled out an old docket and scribbled some words and numbers on the back. “He’s my address, and my phone number as well.”
Dad reluctantly reached across the table to take the piece of paper. As he did, John grabbed his hand. His eyes spoke desperation. “Please visit me.”
Dad tucked the paper into his breast pocket, saying nothing.

“So will you visit him?” I asked later as I walked Dad out to the laneway.
“Well – you know how it is – you say yes once and you have a friend for life!”
I laughed. I knew exactly what he meant.
We walked slowly to the end of the laneway. When we got to Little Collins we kissed and parted ways.

I watched Dad as he walked a little way along the narrow street. He pulled the folded docket out of his pocket and opened it up. He stopped walking to read the scrawled words. Then he carefully refolded it and put it back in his pocket, before setting off again to his car.

I stopped watching and wandered back to Credo. John had gone. Somebody had turned the music up loud. I filled a bucket with soupy water and began wiping down the tables, humming along to whatever was playing.