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I remember when I was five years old and my father tried to teach me how to ride a bicycle. It was exhilarating - he’d run with me for a moment while I pedaled the two-wheeler as hard as I could. He would hold the bike steady for just a moment, and then, with a thrust, he would push me off to pedal on my own. I would do so – but soon the momentum would run out, and I had never really learned how to balance. I’d wobble, still moving at six or seven miles an hour, and then I’d fall. I would see the black pavement rushing towards me, see every detail on every individual pebble, realize that I would have those same nicks and indentations imprinted in my forehead in a couple of seconds. I’d open my mouth to scream, “DADDEEEE-” but there was no need to. My daddy would run alongside me the entire time and catch me when I fell, catch me when I wobbled, catch me until I didn’t need to be caught anymore.

There’s no daddy to catch me now.

I remember when I was ten and there was that test that I didn’t study for (but I did, I did!), and it came back with a big red 52 circled in the top right corner. I could almost see the criticism, the burning disappointment in my nice teacher’s blank face as she passed, saying silently, “You could have done better and you know it.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of all the people I let down – my parents, who wanted me to go to a nice university even though I was just ten; my teacher, who had the ability to induce shame without even looking at its subject; my friends, whom I had helped and who had probably gotten better grades than me. I took the test home and I stuck it on the corner of the kitchen table for my parents to see (I couldn’t trash it; they had to sign it). Then I ran up to my bedroom and sobbed as I heard the patter of their feet downstairs. When I finally mustered up the courage to come back down my father smiled at me, but there was something accusatory in his eyes. I flushed, and my feet were the most interesting things in the world that evening. I thought I would never live down the same of failing that one test. But I did. My next exam came back with a 95 and a smiley face, and everything was good again.

There’s not another test to ace now.

I remember when I was fifteen and I got caught drinking vodka. One of the drunks outside the liquor store had bought it for me upon my request; I’d used my allowance for the week. I wasn’t a budding alcoholic; I wasn’t self-destructive; I wasn’t looking to rebel. I was just curious. After a couple of mouthfuls I poured the rest of it onto the grass behind my house. But I kept the bottle, and a couple of weeks later my parents found it. They screamed at me, raged at me, said how could you ruin your life like this? And I apologized and told the truth. I said I was curious, because that’s how it was. Their faces were red with anger and burning hatred at their child who would do such a stupid thing. But finally, the calm came. Their faces relaxed into ones of exhaustion. “Just don’t do it again,” my mother said, “please.” And I didn’t. Not for almost ten years.

There’s no forgiveness now.

I remember when I was twenty, and I met and made love with the most beautiful person I had ever met. I’d been a bit of a pig before that. I only saw looks. But Sam was intelligent and funny and introspective – and aware. Sam made me think. But one day I left Sam, left for someone I thought was more beautiful in the way I had considered beautiful before – I started to take Sam for granted and that caused me to relapse. But Sam waited for me. I don’t mean Sam stayed up at night wishing I would come back, no. Sam dated other people, made love to other people, maybe, but Sam always knew that I would come to my senses and apologize. And when I did, Sam forgave me. And made sure I was serious by proposing marriage. Which I accepted. And I had never been happier.

There’s no waiting now.

No daddy.

No test.

No forgiveness.

No waiting.

Just this gun. This knife. These hands around my throat. This gas chamber. This syringe. This club. This white powdery ring around my morning coffee.
This death.

There’s nothing to prevent it from coming. It’s seconds away, blasting aside all hope, all second chances. And as death envelops me, all I can think about is how this daddy, this test, this forgiveness, this waiting is being taken away from me.

The only comfort is that it isn’t my fault.




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