Hello? I hope this
thing is on. I don’t think my voice will hold out long enough to do this again
if it isn’t. I used to act, did you know that? Of course, you didn’t. You don’t
even know who I am. I am… I was… I will have been… Malcolm Jones. Not ‘Mal’. Not
‘Mack’. Malcolm. Should I be so insistent on my identity at this point?
Probably not. Hard habit to break, though, you know?
Yeah, I acted, back in high
school. I could make my voice reach the very back of a thousand-seat
auditorium. I knew how to project! They never had me sing, though. No,
the point of a dramatic production is to bring audiences into the seats; not
drive them away with their hands clapped over their ears, screaming in a
desperate effort to drown out the insane sounds of horror. Maria was the only
person to ever ask me to sing, after having heard my atonal, pitch-resistant crooning
before. Even that request was made out of imagined necessity, though. The poor
girl must have really been terrified.
Voices are physical things,
you know that? Breath, blown across the vocal cords, resulting in vibrations
that float through the air. Those sound waves bounce off eardrums, or
voice-activation sensors in the case of this recorder. Voices have force.
Substance. Which is why I wonder if the recorder turned on… and I doubt that I
could repeat this story. I guess I’d better get to the point, then, and stop
wasting what words I have left. It was July when people started asking me to
speak up, or to repeat what I’d said. My guide dog lives for attention, but I
have to yell at the top of my lungs for him to hear me from the next room in my
cramped, little apartment. Right, the story. Sorry. It bothers me, though, you
know? Losing my voice was the first sign.
The last time I saw Maria
was at my niece’s tenth birthday party. Maria adored her cousins. She’d talk
about them for days before a visit. “Kylie lets me get gumballs from the
gumball machine!” and “Can I sit between Emily and Kylie at dinner?”. On and
on, she wouldn’t stop. It was like that after visits, too. For days afterward,
it was “Look what Ky-Ky showed me how to do!” or “Listen to the song Emmy
taught me!”. The day Kylie turned ten, though, Maria wouldn’t leave my side.
She clutched my hand fiercely, and only sat next to me on the porch swing.
“They have the Slip-N-Slide out, sweetie,” I encouraged her, but she only
scootched a fraction of an inch closer to me. I was surprised there was that
much room left between us. “Is something wrong, Maria?” I asked, but she
wouldn’t answer. When she left with her mother, I knelt to hug her goodbye. If
she hadn’t been a slender five-year old, the ferocity of her hug surely would
have choked me to death. I wondered what she was misunderstanding about the
situation, but didn’t want to talk about her parents’s separation during a
children’s birthday party. There would be countless other days to discuss it.
Heather and I had agreed to that. That was the main point that finally led me
to agree to a peaceful divorce.
When I married Heather, I
made a commitment to Maria that same day. She had turned two only two weeks
earlier. My first dance at the reception was with Heather, as is the custom. My
second dance was with Maria, when my father-in-law broke in for the traditional
father-daughter dance. I didn’t know where to go or what to do, so I picked up
my new daughter and had my own father-daughter dance. Maria liked the movement,
but looked appropriately concerned about being held so far up from the solid
floor by her clumsy new dad. Nothing bad happened, though, and maybe her trust
in me deepened a bit. She’d be terrified if I tried that in my present
condition, of course. Would I even be in my present condition if we were in
that situation again, though? I don’t know… I really don’t know.
I had met Maria a year and
a half prior to the wedding day, at a Mexican restaurant in my hometown of Wren
Lake. Heather and I had known each other for a couple of years by that time,
but were meeting up again after a six-month estrangement. It was late
September, and I was on my way to the first youth group meeting of the school
year. I had met Heather at my first event with that same youth group two years
before. St. Augustine’s had just hired a young, energetic Youth Minister, and I
had been searching for a career working with kids. I thought volunteer
experience with a youth group would help with that endeavor. I was given the
Youth Minister’s number, and called.
“St. Augustine’s, this is
Mickey,” came the slow, deep rumbling voice through the telephone.
“Hi, my name is Malcolm
Jones. I’m wondering if you could use some volunteer help with your youth
group. I’ve volunteered before, but-“
“That would be great! We
have a Lock-In this Friday. Would you be able to come by then?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “What’s a
“We gather in The Hall,
lock the doors, and play games, watch movies, and eat pizza until eight the
next morning. It’s a blast!” Mickey explained. The Hall was the building owned
by the church and used for school assemblies, church fundraisers like auctions
and spaghetti dinners, and youth group meetings.
When I stepped off of the
bus on the evening of the Lock-In, I wished I had worn gloves. And a hat. Maybe
strapped a portable heater to my chest. What I’m saying is, it was a wet, cold,
windy October night. I hurried to the big front doors of The Hall, and yanked,
anxious to get out of the weather. I actually took a step forward, and nearly
mashed my nose into the locked door. “Dummy,” I thought, “It is called a
‘Lock-In’, after all.” I could hear the kids inside yelling and having fun. I
knocked, and waited. It soon became clear that no one was hanging out by the
front door, so I walked around the side of the building until I came to the
kitchen entrance. The noise inside was even louder here, but I thought there
was a good chance that adults would be in the kitchen. I knocked, and was
surprised when the most beautiful girl I had ever seen opened it and bluntly
said, “Who are you?”. She was short, with thick, dark hair falling in waves
over her shoulders. Her brown eyes were flashing with intelligence and
suspicion, while her button nose and full lips made me wish I was still in high
school, as she was certainly still a teenager. High school kids sometimes
volunteered in activities for the junior high group, and I assumed this was the
case for her. I appreciated her caution, but her frankness made me laugh.
“My name is Malcolm,” I
told her. “Mickey told me to meet him here. Is he inside?”
“Oh! Yes, come in. Wait
here, though, and I’ll go get him.”
She returned long before
Mickey could break away from whatever activity he was leading, and I chatted
with the girl long enough to discover that she was barely a year younger than
myself, and rarely volunteered with the youth group. Knowing our proximity in
age would normally have caused me to clam up in nervous self-protection. They
can’t reject you if you don’t give them the chance, right? But whenever I tried
to interact with the kids, instead, I was reminded of young teens’s inclination
to not trust adults the first time they meet one. And I couldn’t get the
raven-haired beauty out of my head for even a minute.
She stayed until around
three in the morning. I stayed until the last kid had been picked up by his
parents. Until she left, Heather and I talked and ate pizza. We watched two of
my favorite movies, but even The Sandlot and The Princess Bride couldn’t
distract me from her. I’d never seen The Rocketeer before, and wanted to, but I
barely remember what it was about after viewing it that night.
For Christmas the year
before, my dad had given me a generous gift card to Sears, and I had bought
myself a leather jacket. It was my first leather coat, and I loved it dearly.
I’ve always been a man of few possessions, and I am well aware of their lack of
importance in the grander scheme of things, but I was proud of that coat… even
though I hadn’t earned it. It was only given to me. During the showing of The
Sandlot, Heather murmured that she was cold. I didn’t hesitate for a second
before shedding my beloved leather jacket and wrapping it around her shoulders.
After The Princess Bride,
Heather excused herself and took my coat with her to the restroom. She talked
with Mickey for a minute when she came out, waved to me, and exited through the
kitchen door. Several minutes went by, and I asked Mickey if she was coming
back. “She said she couldn’t stay up any longer and went home,” was his reply.
My heart sank. She had taken my coat. What’s worse is that I had neglected to
ask for her phone number.
I sat on the edge of the
stage. Most of the kids were sprawled on the floor, sleeping, but my head was
too filled with images of Heather, and replays of our conversations. I didn’t
want to sleep, in fear that the memories would fade in slumber. I heard the
kitchen door open a few minutes later, and saw Heather, wearing my black
leather coat, walk back into The Hall. She turned, looking for something,
causing her hair to wave and shimmer. When she saw me, she walked to me,
shrugged out of my coat, and handed it to me, laughing as she apologized for
leaving with it. Then she left, again.
I could have asked for her
number then, or offered mine, but for the young man she was leaving with. He
had entered after her, but I hadn’t noticed him until he put his hand on her
back as they left.
The collar of that coat
wore out about ten years ago. The one I bought to replace it is too heavy. It
just falls to the floor.
For an entire year, I
thought of Heather. I tried to forget her, of course. I dated a co-worker from…
well, let’s call them Toys ‘M’ Us to avoid legal issues. That experience was
the first time I was cheated on in a relationship, but not the last. Crushed
me. Ripped my heart out and tore it into little strips, like wet paper. And
made me long to see the dark-haired, friendly goddess who had almost stolen my
jacket. Who knows what might’ve happened if I had asked for her number? I might
never have had my soul crushed to gelatinous ooze, like a fistful of Jell-O.
I was still volunteering
with the youth group, and Mickey had been urging me to attend a Bible
discussion group that he was part of. I can’t remember why I resisted. Probably
because I was afraid of getting mixed up with a group of Bible-thumpers and
fanatics. Every religion has them. Having my heart and soul stomped on made me
weak, though, and I finally consented.
On a beautiful Fall day in
September, I arrived at the rectory door. It was locked. Looking back, there’s
almost a feeling of paranoia around St. Augustine’s. Distrust, at least.
“Are you here for the Bible
group?” came an anxious-sounding voice from my right. A young woman was
approaching, mouth frowning, and eyebrows narrowed.
“I am, but the door’s
locked,” I responded.
“I hope he hurries,” she
said, and checked her watch.
I didn’t enjoy her anxiety,
and wanted to relieve it, if possible, but didn’t know what to say. I was still
surrounded by my own personal darkness, and social skills aren’t my strong suit
in the best of times. I was still struggling to find a charming comment when I
noticed my fondest wish approaching from around the corner. The
girl-in-a-hurry, along with my depression, vanished from my awareness. Heather
wore blue jeans and a long, brown cardigan sweater that hugged and accentuated
her perfect curves.
“Hi,” I said.
“Still locked?” she
replied. “Father James is always a few minutes late.”
The aforementioned Father
unlocked and opened the door at that moment, and welcomed us all inside. At the
threshold, Heather turned to me, and asked, “Do I know you?”. I smiled my
crooked version of a wry smile, and reminded her. Then we ascended the stairs
to the meeting room.
Heather offered to give me
a ride home that night, and it became a usual occurrence. We talked about
music, values, and life. She introduced me to the joys of Led Zeppelin, and I
overjoyed her by singing sincerely misheard lyrics to many songs. Did you know
that David Lee Roth doesn’t say “See me standing here, got my back against the
record machine. I eat the words that you see” in Jump? No, it’s actually “I
ain’t the worst that you’ve seen.” Shocked the hell outta me, too.
Eventually, we both stopped
attending the Bible group, but we remained friends. I think she finally got the
idea that she was important to me at a Halloween party that she invited me to.
I didn’t know anyone there but her, yet I jumped at the chance to accompany
her. It started raining while we were there, and she wanted to go outside when
the marijuana started filling the air inside with its unique aroma. The front
stoop was a tiny square that only allowed one person to occupy its space at a
time. Naturally, I stood in the downpour so that she could stay dry on the
stoop, and didn’t mind it for a second. That was the first time I saw her look
at me differently. Her eyes narrowed, her lips turned up at the corners just a
touch, and she blushed. I’d never seen her look so angelic.
I don’t like the rain. My
hair, never particularly thick, has departed my skull long ago, and rain
bounces off of my pate like hail on the roof of an aluminum shed. Therefore, I
haven’t ventured outside to discover if it still does that. I think I’d hate
the result, no matter which way it went.
When Heather told me she
was pregnant, I was worried for her. I didn’t even know she was seeing anyone.
That guy from the Lock-In? According to her, he was only a friend, and I never
saw him again. She explained how she and her long-time, on-again off-again
boyfriend had set off fireworks of their own on the Fourth of July, then he had
ghosted her, before that was even a term, when she told him she was pregnant.
Oh, but she had a new boyfriend now, only he was going to school in Iowa or
Ohio, or was it India? It might as well have been. He wasn’t around when
Heather needed someone. When I told her, over a game of cards, that there were
plenty of schools here in Washington for her wonderfully supportive boyfriend
to attend, she showed me her fiery temper for the first time. With the benefit
of hindsight, I can admit that criticism of someone who’s going to school to
make something of himself and support the woman and her baby that he’s promised
to support and love, coming from a guy nearing his late-twenties with a nearly
forgotten thirty or so college credits under his belt, and no real prospects
for a meaningful career, seems a little hypocritical and far-fetched. I only
knew that I would never have left her if there had been any other option. I
couldn’t understand how this Mike character could do it… unless he wasn’t all
that serious about her. Heather knocked my deck of cards to the floor and stormed
out of my apartment. I felt terrible. People had been mad at me before, and I
was used to it, but this was Heather. I knew, right at the surface of my
thoughts, that I was deeply in love with this girl. She was my angel, my
goddess. To incur her anger was akin to suffering in Hell, itself. I panicked
for a few minutes, then. I couldn’t let her leave angry with me! But I reminded
myself that we were close friends. She would calm down and, while not
necessarily forgiving me, at least understand that I said what I said out of
love for her. Our friendship would survive this brief tempest. I picked up the
Over the next six months, I
lost my job, was kicked out of my apartment over an issue with mistaken
identity – the property management ran a background check and mixed me up with
another Malcolm Jones, who had a long criminal record and terrible credit – and
didn’t hear from Heather at all. I found another place to live, another job,
and a dark depression. I was living in an area where I knew no one, I was a
cashier at a gas station – which is not a bad thing, but it is minimum wage and
not where I thought I’d be in my late twenties – and missing Heather. She had
become my best friend and, of course, I still loved her as though I was some
character in a Disney movie.
January blew into Wren Lake
followed by snow and ice. Mickey planned a ski trip for the youth group and,
devoted as I was, I agreed to chaperone. I loathe snow and ice, and I’d never
been skiing, but some of the kids hadn’t been, either, and were talking about
staying in the lodge the whole time. I couldn’t allow that, so I bargained with
them, agreeing to strap some sticks to my feet if they would, too.
We were leaving on a
Sunday, right after the last Mass of the morning, and I was loading luggage
onto the school bus we had rented for the occasion. The sidewalks were thick
with ice, and openly treacherous. I looked up from my toils to witness an
overstuffed pillow with hands and feet at its corners slowly trundling toward
me. When I recognized the luxuriant hair and seductive eyes at the top of the
pillow, I realized that Heather was nearing the end of her pregnancy. “Heather!
Go inside the Hall! I’ll meet you there in a minute. I don’t want you to fall
on this sidewalk!”
“I’m heading home. I just
wanted to wish you a fun trip. Maybe we can talk after you come back?” she
“Of course,” I responded
without hesitation. “I’ll be home tonight. I’ll call you?”
I did exactly that, and our
friendship resumed as though it never suffered any interruption. She told me
about her struggles living with her parents through her pregnancy, and trying
to arrange to work and find childcare after the birth. She shared my happiness
at being promoted to assistant manager after only four months. That summer, I
decided to join the highschool youth group members who were going through the
sacrament of Confirmation, affirming their commitment to Catholicism. I had
declined the ritual when I was a teen, but felt ready to make the decision nearly
ten years later. I asked Heather to witness my commitment, and I could see the
pride in her eyes after the sacrament had been performed. Heather always made a
point of showing how Catholic she was. She learned that from her parents.
In September, I met her and
Maria at the Mexican restaurant. Todo Loco, I think it was called. Too bad I
didn’t see the symbolism in that, then.
“Shhh, she’s sleeping,”
Heather said, and lifted a car seat onto the table.
Babies are babies. I mean,
really, they all look pretty much the same. Other people’s babies, I mean. I
get that a parent will see their own child differently… but Maria was not my
child. To me, she looked like a baby. I had to admit, though, that Maria was
one of the cutest I’d seen. She slept peacefully, head turned to her right,
long eyelashes closed above her button-nose, and one tiny fist clenched around
her stuffed rabbit’s leg.
Heather and I agreed to
keep meeting up for social visits, and Maria was always with us. I started
changing diapers and spooning creamed mush into Maria’s usually eager mouth
early on. Heather was reluctant to let anyone else carry her daughter anywhere,
but I could often be seen pushing a stroller, with two diaper bags slung over
either shoulder. When Heather finally admitted in November that we were dating,
Maria didn’t notice any difference. I had been that guy who carried her things
and went to parks and museums with her and her mom long enough to be familiar.
As Maria grew, and Heather
trusted me more, I took over carseat-lugging duties more often. There were
times when I had the two diaper bags over my shoulders and Maria in her carseat
in one hand. I was solid, then. I don’t mean I was a bodybuilder or anything
like that. No, I’ve always had an average physique. But I was solid. I never
faltered with Maria in my arms. As time wore on, Maria gave me more and more
substance. Being her dad made me the most real I’d ever been. You ever read
that old children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit? Caring for Maria made me
understand the Old Skin Horse’s words about how being loved made a toy real,
except that it wasn’t being loved, but loving someone else that did it.
Okay, yes, being loved was
pretty fantastical. Is that a word? It doesn’t matter; it’s what it was. The
angel I adored and stoked the passionate flames in my heart loved me, and her
child, my child, loved me. I knew by how she hugged me, always
threatening to choke me into unconsciousness with her loving arms. I knew by the
pictures she drew for me at daycare. I knew by the faith in her wide, brown
eyes when she asked for my help, my protection, from the monsters that infested
Heather and I were watching
American Idol about thirty minutes after Maria had been put to bed, when a
shaky, timid voice asked from the living room doorway, “Daddy, there are
monsters in my closet. Will you sing to make them go away?”
Heather laughed. My musical
talent was a reliable source for humor. I smiled at Maria, struck by the realization
that my voice was so horrendous that it would scare the scariest things in my
child’s imagination away. The three of us made our way down the hallway to
Maria’s bedroom, and I urged the two of them to stand outside the doorway, so
as to protect them from any resistant monsters… or maybe panicky ones. Maria
nodded her vigorous assent, and clung to Heather’s waist, eyes wide with fear
and brimming with tears. I stole into the bedroom, warned the monsters of my
intentions, and slid the closet door open. That left half of the closet still
in deep shadow, and Maria, peeking around the corner, alerted me to the
still-present danger. “They’re still in there, Daddy!” she whispered. Everyone
knows that idle threats are counter-productive when dealing with monsters, so I
drew in a deep breath, poked my head into the shadowy depths, and sang. I
considered trying to make my voice even worse than normal, but decided that
Maria thought it was already bad enough, and I didn’t want to risk sounding
phony to my daughter. So I sang. I sang with the heartfelt intention and desire
to banish any slimy, scaly, or slobbering creature that remained to harm my
little girl. I sang,
vanquished, banished, and defeated.
girl no more
After a long, hushed pause,
Maria inspected the closet and declared it safe. I received an extra tight hug
for my bravery, and Maria gratefully went to bed. As Heather and I retreated
from the room, Maria turned her little head to look me directly in the eyes,
and whispered her thanks.
Several months later, during
a period of civility which marked the short times between our ferocious
arguments, Heather muted the television, and interrupted my reading by blurting
out, “I don’t love you.”
Unsurprised that she would
look for a way to hurt me, but stunned by the depths to which she would
venture, I marked my page and turned to her, curled at one end of the couch.
“Did you ever?” I asked.
She thought about this for
several seconds before answering. “I had love feelings for you,” she answered.
“You didn’t love me when
you said you’d marry me?” I asked, eyes wide with disbelief.
“No. I thought you’d be a
good dad for Maria,” was the cold response.
Heather and I fought and
argued almost constantly during the marriage, and the words spoken developed
sharper and longer thorns each time. Six months into the blissful union, she
discovered my poor credit rating, which I hadn’t been hiding. It simply didn’t
seem important. Judging by her reaction, though, my credit rating was the
lynchpin upon which the sanity of the universe depended. She asked for a
divorce. My fiercely Catholic, loving new bride wanted a divorce because I had
made poor financial decisions years before I had even met her. She finally
settled for me asking her father for a personal loan to pay the debts. I have
never been so humiliated.
Every argument following
that one resulted in a demand for divorce, always from her. The threat was
omnipresent, even during good times. In the bad times, our fights would cause
Maria to cry herself to sleep, no matter what time of day they occurred. As I
talk into this device, reliving those times, I finally see my fault in one of
Heather’s complaints to me: My pride, my
broken heart at being betrayed by my wife and by God, wouldn’t allow me to let
Heather’s criticisms pass, at least until Maria wasn’t around. I had to
confront Heather immediately, almost every time… and it caused my precious
little girl emotional harm.
That was the rub, as they
say, wasn’t it? She wasn’t my little girl. Oh, genetics have never mattered to
me, and that’s not what I mean, now. I mean that, from the day I proposed to
Heather, I planned to adopt Maria. I wanted to adopt her. I didn’t want
her to ever doubt for a second that I wanted to be her dad, and that she was my
daughter. Something always came up, though. First, it was the credit issue.
Then, we needed to find a better house to live in. When there were no other
real-world obstacles, Heather was too afraid to notify the biological father.
She convinced me to wait two more years – to strengthen our case that he had
truly abandoned them. It seemed logical to me, and what could it matter? He
obviously had no intention of being involved, and Heather, Maria, and I were
Twenty-two months later, we
Heather and I were having
some fight about something or other, and I succumbed to the urge to look at
other women. Infidelity was the furthest thing from my mind… but internet
pornography was only fingertips away. I don’t have any idea what I might’ve done
before that day to erode Heather’s trust in me, but she found my lapse into
weakness the following day by looking at the search history on the computer. It
was unforgivable. She was staunchly Catholic, remember. Porn is off-limits, of
course, and forgiveness is apparently not as valued as the Church would have us
I was kicked out of the
house, and the relentless pressure to agree to a divorce began in earnest.
I won’t abandon Maria like
her father did, I wrote in an email to Heather.
Of course not. I would
never take her away from the only dad she’s ever known, Heather promised in
I realized that my
beautiful Heather had never been happy married to me… and after four years, she
never would be. With tears splattering on my brother’s keyboard, I wrote to her
that I had always only wanted her happiness, and I hoped she would find it
The emotions are still
crystal clear in my memory, but I can no longer cry. Teardrops are too
I tried calling. I
attempted to schedule visitation days. I sent presents and cards and letters.
The calls were ignored, the gifts and letters returned. With a scrawl of my
name on the divorce papers, I was forcibly thrown out of Heather’s life… and
Maria’s, by association. To Heather, I no longer existed.
Five years passed, and I
never forgot my daughter. My plan was to wait until she was an adult, then try
to make contact again. But I couldn’t always control my curiosity, and I looked
for Heather on Facebook. She had always like photography, and had many pictures
in her photo album. Not many selfies – Heather never believed how beautiful she
appeared – but pictures of Maria’s birthday parties, pictures of her parents
and brother, and his family, abounded. Then, I saw a picture of Heather in a
long, white dress, holding a bouquet of flowers. Next to her, hands on her
waist, was a man I had seen photos of half a dozen years before. She had not
only remarried, but she had reconciled with Maria’s biological father, the man
who had run out on them both and never even attempted to meet his daughter.
My plan took a hit, then. Suppose
Heather somehow managed to keep from driving him away again… Maria would have a
dad for those turbulent adolescent and teenage years, and it would be her
natural father. What place could I hope to have in her life in that scenario?
Eight more years went by,
and I couldn’t think of a better plan than my first one. I just had to wait,
and try my luck.
Maria’s eighteenth birthday
came and went, and I remained absent. I would wait until Maria was likely away
at college, and out from under her mother’s spiteful eye. Obviously, Heather
remembered me, because at some point in the previous eight years, she had
blocked me from viewing her Facebook page.
Midsummer, I could wait no
longer. It had been thirteen years, after all. I found Maria’s Facebook page,
and sent her a message.
Hi, Maria. My name is
Malcolm, and I used to be married to your mother when you were very young. I
don’t know if you remember me or not, but I’ve never forgotten you. My best
memories of my life are from when I was your dad. Trying to convince you that
Santa liked macaroons and Coke far more than chocolate chip and milk; exploring
the backyard with you so that you might overcome some of your fear of spiders;
watching you swing from the monkey bars at the playground; seeing you pout and
thrust your foot at me when you were learning to tie your shoes, and were
having difficulties; your ferocious hugs; how furious you would become if
anyone said that you were funny… the list goes on and on. Anyway, I’m writing
to you to tell you that it wasn’t my choice to suddenly exit your life all
those years ago. She probably had her reasons, but that was your mom’s doing.
Not mine. I didn’t want to leave you, ever. Not for a second. I loved you,
then, and I miss you, now. I understand that your real dad is back in your
life, and I certainly don’t want to try to come between you and him. It’s just
that now you’re an adult, it’s your choice whether to have any kind of
relationship with me. It could be as a stepdaughter, or a friend… or nothing at
all. It’s your choice. I hope I hear from you soon.
I wished her a
happy Thanksgiving in November, but didn’t receive any response to either
message. At Christmas, I decided not to intrude on what was likely a joyous
family holiday for her. In the Spring, when her birthday approached again, I
logged in to Facebook, and looked in my message history for her, and found the
two messages that Facebook ironically labeled a “conversation”, but Maria’s
picture was gone. When I clicked on the conversation, three words appeared on
I sat, stunned. My hands
trembled, my chin quivered, and my eyes filled as I forced my inert brain to
put into words the realization that my mind railed against. My beloved daughter
had either deleted her account, or blocked me. Either way, I was left with no
way to reach out to her… and she had chosen that. Like her mother, she had made
the conscious choice to scrub my existence from her life, her reality. So I
thought at the time.
Two weeks later, the remote
control for the television fell through my fingers. A week after that, my socks
refused to stay up, and pooled around my ankles. Friends started having trouble
hearing me when I spoke. Sometimes, I have to blink once or twice before I can
see my reflection in the mirror. I’ve begun to question my existence.
The Velveteen Rabbit keeps
bothering me. The book said that you become real when someone loves you. I’ve
learned that you become even more real when you love someone else. What happens
to you when you try to love someone else, and they refuse it? And they don’t
love you anymore?
What does it mean when you
can’t hear noises anymore? I love listening to The Who. Roger Daltrey has the
perfect scream for rock and roll, but he doesn’t overdo it. He uses it just
enough so that when you’ve listened to a few Who songs that don’t have his
scream, you start missing it. Their song Who Are You was just playing,
but then it faded and disappeared, right before my favorite line – Ahh, who
the fuck are you?
I couldn’t taste my coffee
this morning. Coffee! I hated coffee all my life, but started drinking it
lately because if any taste could break through barriers, it’s the taste of
coffee. Couldn’t smell that pungent, disgusting odor, either.
I’ve been losing my
eyesight for years, so I don’t know if my inability to penetrate the fog that
has filled my apartment is related to this mess, or not.
But it’s the lack of sound
that’s loneliest of all. I’ve only been deaf for a few minutes, now, but it’s
devastating. I’m completely alone. I mean, even if there were other people
around, I wouldn’t know it. Of course, I know what’s happening. I only wish it
would hurry more!
If I’m going out with
nothing left to me but memories, I’m making my last one that night you had me
sing at the monsters in your closet. Your tears streaming down your round
cheeks, and your eyes threatening to let loose the flood that would wash your
whole face. Your shy, tremulous voice begging for help; pleading for me to save
you from certain doom at the hands…paws?... of unspeakable horrors in your
closet. That look of hero-worship on your joyous face after I drove them away.
Your heart-melting smile as I turned off the light and said goodnight. I- I can
… hear… a whisper… your whisper… I can-
“Thank you, Daddy.”
beeps when the
battery dies. On the dining room table, slowly being absorbed by the thirsty,
polished pine, lies one teardrop, exploded out of symmetrical form and bulbous
shape by the impact of its fall.
Richard Brown is a multi-genre author who has contributed to
Black Petals twice before (issues #91 and 96), and is currently working on two
novels – a dark psychological thriller, and a young adult fantasy/adventure. He
and his Guide Dog haunt the Pacific Northwest, rain or…well, rain.