My legs keep moving forward but my mind is left behind. There is no explanation to my actions; everything is driven by instinct.
Walking through the garage, I see a mix of my father’s things: The car we used to take longs rides in, the couch where we spent hours watching Star Wars marathons, even his tattered guitar that he gave me my first lesson on. Nothing stands on its own, everything is just in one big memory concoction. The entirety of this assemblage shares the same heartbeat.
Suddenly, the garage is behind me and I’m now in the living room with a perfect view of the backyard. What I see next shoots years of dread through my veins. It’s him, my father, standing perfectly centered in the backyard; a gun in one hand and my heart in the other. The look on his face is terrifying. He is drained of anything human, and what is left behind is something incomprehensible. He raises the gun to his temple with such confidence it almost seems like he was born to do this. My heart drops out of his other hand and I feel my whole world crumble to pieces right beneath my feet.
“No! Dad stop! Don’t do it dad! PLEASE don’t do it!” my voice holds a lifetime of aching but it’s still not loud enough to stop him. It’s still not loud enough to erase what he did. Powerless, we both drop at the same time. Not only did he take his own life, but he took mine with it.
What to celebrate:
Because of him, I do not get this day to myself. This day is trapped with him inside of his grave. This day is written on his tombstone. This day means everything to him and nothing to me.
Today feels nothing like a birthday at all. Today feels like becoming the bullet he used to take it away. It feels like holding the gun for him.
The celebratory atmosphere does not mask the resentment that lies beneath. I can try and put sprinkles on my past but that won’t make it any less evident. I can open all of the presents in the world but he won’t be in any of them.
You’re more like a ghost
than a tenant
to my mind;
You do not live in my thoughts,
you haunt them.
Light the candles:
“Make a wish hun’!” my mother sounds like she’s been possessed by an unnatural positivity. She has this odd way of eradicating my father’s suicide from today. My birthday is the only thing that can resurrect him for her, the only day she can close her eyes to the graveyard keeping us apart.
I haven’t “made a wish” in eight years. I could never decide if I wanted him back or not. I mean, how selfish of him. It’s been eight years and all that my father has done is take away eight wishes.
I close my eyes and inhale all of the agony that surrounds me. I open them and what I exhale is numb. I let the numbness put out the flame and suddenly I don’t feel like the melting wax on the candle anymore. I carve a smile into my face and adjust my party hat. Another candle on the cake; another bullet in his head.
Party of One:
I open my eyes after blowing out the candles but instead of my mother’s hollow expression, I am faced by a greater empty, the bottomless pit of my father. Our sunken eyes cross paths and I can only think of one thing to say. One word that holds the eternity of the past eight years. “Why?” no reply. “Dad, why the hell did you do it?” I can hear the anger rising in my voice and the control slipping out of my hands. “Dad, Answer me! Why did you have to do that? Why did you have to leave me?” I release an explosion of rage and melancholy along with the words I’ve held captive for eight years. “Answer me you coward! Why? Why did you do this to me? Why are you DOING this to me?”
He looks down and I am left in a void of his misery and no response. Our tears begin to synthesize, bringing harmony to the sorrow I never understood. All of a sudden, I am holding his gun to my head and it makes perfect sense.
There is No Escaping You:
My mother places a box in front of me, hesitantly. Her normal shakiness is substituted by a disruptive trembling. I look around the dining room uneasily. Whatever is in that box is going to hit me like a car, I know it. Suddenly I’m in New York City and there are no red lights to save me.
I carefully lift the lid of the box and bite my lip to release some of the torment that resides inside of me. I peer into the box and inside of it are my father’s old guitar and a photograph of me and him from my seventh birthday, ruthlessly staring back at me. I look back up at my mom with utter confusion. Why would she spend all of these years trying to hide his grave just to dig his corpse up and give it to me?
Party of None:
Fate drags me into the dining room, disregarding the voice inside of my head telling me to turn around and sprint. It then forces my attention over to the table, where he’s sitting. Across from him is my mother, eyes closed and hands folded neatly on her lap. In-between them is a birthday cake with sixteen candles perfectly placed in the center, mocking me with their inferno.
“Son! What’s up? How’ve you been?” he says these words and my heart breaks all over again. I do everything I can to reply but my mouth won’t budge. Even the thought of speaking feels like a foreign concept.
Every part of me wants to run to him and latch on forever. Every part of me wants to drown the both of us in my pool of tears. None of me wants to let go, but I am not his slave. I have to leave before his gravity sucks me back in.
“Wait! Before you go, there’s something I want to tell you. There’s something I want you to know.”
Before I know it I am completely submissive to his words. I swallow all of my resilience and turn around to face him. He seems farther away than he was before. I reach out to touch him and instantaneously we are miles away. I disintegrate into the familiar feeling of his absence.
Release and Remorse:
I close the lid of the box and look away. There is no way I can continue to conceal this grief. My mother will have to face the cloud of distain that has enclosed me for the past eight years.
She wraps her arms around me, the way mothers always do, and emits a sense of radical softness that I’ve been missing. I allow myself to defrost into her warmth for the first time ever. Years of shivery drip off of me and soak her clothes.
“I think it’s time we talk about your father,” she whispers delicately. I grin and nod my head subtly, ready to put an end to the isolation I’ve allowed myself to inhabit.