Sandoval drank alone with the television on. His ex-wife had called earlier to scold him, demanding to know if he was proud of himself for raising their daughter to make a fool of herself on television. He taped the ESPN segment his wife had complained about and watched it over and over.
In the clip, Sherri wore nothing but a pair of mirrored sunglasses and a skimpy green bikini. She moved over the sand with other girls to smack a volleyball back and forth over a net.
Sandoval felt heat on his face watching Sherri leap into the air, her breasts nearly flopping free of the sparse fabric that contained them. He winced each time the camera zoomed in on his daughter’s backside while she unknowingly tugged at the lower lines of her tiny bikini bottom.
After pouring himself another drink, Sandoval rewound the tape and watched it again. When the camera panned a crowd of ogling college boys, he felt his stomach clench and shut the television off.
All around the house were little signs of Sherri’s personality. The crayon sketches held to the refrigerator by Disney character magnets. Her weathered baseball glove tucked on the bottom shelf of the pine bookcase next to the Silverstein book with the worn cover. How many times had Sherri begged him to read those humorous poems out loud? On the laundry room door there were seventeen faded height lines. Sandoval tried remembering each time he stood in front of her and ran the marker over her head. So many changes. And not all good, either. It had not been easy raising his daughter mostly on his own.
Still staring at the height lines on the laundry room door, he realized those seventeen slash marks represented achievements and failures. Both his and his daughter’s. Measurements he’d had to make alone. No, he had no reason to be ashamed. Proud of their accomplishments, he suddenly wondered who Sherri’s mother – absent throughout most of her daughter’s childhood – thought she was attempting to measure Sherri now? Moreover, Sandoval thought, what gave her the right to measure him?
She solicited him from an upstairs window. He climbed the weathered steps, left his boots baking outside her door. When he tried to describe his loneliness, she shook her head and raised a finger to his lips. His visits grew frequent. Her modest desires and simple dreams enlightened him. Family and friends noted his happiness. “Dakota Street,” he revealed, when pressed for details. But their collective scorn shamed him into abandoning her. With rain came nights of sleepless lamentation. Come spring he returned clutching an armful of roses, only to discover shoes – not his – resting outside her door.