“Okay, okay.” Marco smiled at the admonition from his daughter and covered his eyes with his hands. Sarah loved this game, loved to play hide and seek, loved it with every fiber of her 5-year-old being, and Marco loved her, loved having her over his small condo unit, loved the weekends when he could be her
“Okay, ready to count?”
“One,” Marco began counting, as Sarah shrieked with delight. He heard the patter of her steps, turning first one way then another, looking for a place to hide. It was inevitable, he knew, that she’d hide behind her favorite spot, crouching in the tiny nook between the bookcase and the wall, and also inevitable that he would loudly look everywhere else, all the time pretending to be dismayed, before he finally found her.
“Find me, Daddy!”
“And 10! Ready or not, here I come!” Marco lowered his hands and opened his eyes, seeing only the locked door of his one-bedroom unit. He turned around and bent down to peer under the dining table, took a few steps toward the ref, then the couch, before opening the door to his bedroom, all the while calling for his daughter.
“Oh no, where could Sarah be?” Marco extended the hunt, making another round of the small space, deliberately ignoring the place where he knew she was hiding, no doubt trying her hardest not to laugh or make a noise. He upturned pillows on the couch, searched the small fridge, looked inside the microwave, calling her name. And when it was time to find her, he slowly walked to the nook where he knew where she was, anticipating her delight.
“Aha! There you are!” Except she wasn’t. Marco took a step back and looked again, calling her name. He did a quick search of the main room, checked every place where she could be hiding, before doing the same in his small cramped bedroom. He looked in the two closets, under his pile of dirty clothes, behind the box that served as his laptop table, before going back out, going on his knees under the table, and over and over again at the nook, pushing the bookcase out of the way. He unlocked the main door and ran into the hallway, calling her name as he made a circuit around his floor, rousing his neighbors. They joined the search, looking into their own units, as the guards below, alerted by the near hysterical Marco, combed first the ground floor before expanding their search upward to the higher levels and downward to the basement parking.
In the days that followed, Marco retraced his steps, with his ex-wife, with the neighbors, with the police, looking at every place he could think of, calling her name until he lost his voice.