Midnight Sun
by Ishafel

In Detroit in December the sun never sets because it never rises; the city is dark when Em wakes up and it's dark when he goes to bed and he thinks sometimes of chucking everything, heading west to California or east to Florida or even north to Canada. He thinks sometimes of raising Haile somewhere different, somewhere where the sun shines year round, somewhere near the ocean. But there is nowhere on earth he can go and hope to escape what he has become. They know him in California and Florida and Canada, the monks on their mountain in Tibet know him. Anywhere he and Haile go she will still be his daughter and he is too selfish to give that up.

In Detroit in December the sun never sets because it never rises; Em has Haile up and dressed and eating breakfast--there's school today, and she's still young enough to be happy about that. Even though it's after seven the world outside the windows is gray and black, the kind of day that's depressing just to look at. Haile spills her juice all over the table, onto the floor and her jacket and her shirt, and her lip trembles and he knows she's going to cry. She doesn't understand what's going on but she knows that Kim is gone and she tries so hard to be good, and right now half of him wants to hug her and half of him wants to scream. What she needs is something in the middle; she needs him to be normal and he's never been much good at moderation.

When the doorbell rings, he's actually relieved--what kind of shit is relieved to get away from his own daughter? The girl on the other side of the door is familiar, like a backup dancer or a friend of a friend, one of those indistinguishable blondes he can live without. He almost just ignores her, but there is something about the way she looks at him, sad and lonely and eager all at once, that makes him think of Haile and without a second thought he opens the door to her.

"Paris," he says, and she throws her arms around him awkwardly. She is taller than he is, her body thin as a boy's, and she smells faintly of an expensive perfume he recognizes but can't name. It makes him think of a joke he heard, one he can't quite remember. It had something to do with the difference between Paris Hilton and the Paris Hilton, and the punchline had been that not everyone could afford to sleep in the hotel. He laughed at it, when he heard it. But the Paris in his arms is a person and not a joke, fragile and unhappy and easily hurt. The saddest thing about Paris is that she means well--that she tries so hard to please everyone.

Em wipes the tears off her face with his fingers, doing his best not to smudge her makeup. He leads her into the kitchen to meet his daughter, and he does his best to forget about the other blonde he's found on his doorstep on other mornings. Paris and Kim have nothing at all in common. Haile is on her hands and knees trying to mop the orange juice off the floor, and she's trying so hard not to cry her whole body's shaking. She breaks his heart, Haile; he knows he's not done right by her and he regrets it more than anything. But before he can say anything Paris is kneeling on his sticky kitchen floor, holding her hand out to his daughter.

It had never occurred to him to wonder how old she was, the times he met her in New York and L.A., but here in Detroit Paris looks maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. She's just a kid, just another unhappy rich kid with parents who let her run wild too young. Haile seems to recognize this--he can see her responding to Paris the way she would to someone her age, and Paris trying to help clean and not being any good at it. But she's a thoroughbred, Paris Hilton; she keeps trying and so does Haile, and watching them almost makes Em cry. He holds out his hands to them and pulls them to their feet, and he watches as Paris smiles bright as the sun, as it spreads to Haile's face and finally to his own.


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