|If he was in the ground, in a wooden box lined with satin, it would be like he was suffocating. It would be like he was slowly being pulled apart like the rotten wood around him. He would be unimportant and superficial like the satin. His memory would be pretty and sweet to look at, but not real.
If she had set the house on fire, and burned him down in it, then he would still be drifting in the wind. His ash would flitter on the air and his blood, a salty vapor, would condensate in the rain. He would be drifting like dust that comes up under your door and makes little trail. It’s like secret code to decipher the secrets of where the dirt came from. I could walk outside in one of the orange sky dust storms and breathe him in. For a little bit, he would be in my lungs filling up with air that would touch part of my body. He would hug me from the inside. would be alive again. The dirt specks that the wind flung hard against my cheeks would be his lips kissing them.
If she’d had her way, he’d be in the top of some musty closet with her eighties shoulder padded clothes and boots with pointy toe tips. Sitting in a blue enamel urn with silver doves on it. He’d be dust collecting dust. Her screams echoing in and vibrating his ashes. Then almost certainly, though not determinable when, she would take him inside of the urn and smash it against the wall and snort him up and get mad at him all over again because he still couldn’t satisfy her craving.
He’s not though.
I tried to try the blame on her about a thousand different ways. I tried to drape it all over her shoulders like a cloak. It is a heavy black garment that is soggy with warm blood. But the blame didn’t fit and it fell off of her when she moved. She was so small. I put it on her like a rope on her neck that I tightened a little bit each day, but the rope snapped apart one day because it wasn’t very strong. I put it on her like a t-shirt with a screened image of the smoking gun on her chest. Behind her, on her back, there were words and names that I called her. Behind her back she was “WHORE,” “MURDERER,” and “LIAR.” Except, after so many years the words and the gun washed away and the shirt was just clean.
She is heinous and innocent. My young pure mind was corrupted in the realization of her status as evil and blameless. The drug dealer doesn’t give the addict an overdose. So, in the same way, the adulteress doesn’t put the gun to the distraught husband’s head. I am so certain that he would still be alive if he hadn’t found out that she was cheating, that I am obliged to thank her for admitting it so that he didn’t have spend another moment with a woman that would go to bed with his friend the night of his funeral; his baby girl, nine years old, crying in the next room for her Daddy in the urn by her bed.
I would hold my left temple of my forehead and press hard into it in order to replicate the sensation of a bullet slipping into it. With my finger nail I would scratch a round hole into my skin so that it would bleed. I would look into the mirror and see my head bleeding and hanging low into my chest like his did when I found him with his eyes open.
And I cried into the urn every night and watched the dust turn to silvery mud and swirl around the top. He was a little man and I wondered if a bigger man would have filled up the urn and left no room for my tears. And she was gone most nights and I was alone. Every time I did something bad, or got on her nerves she would threaten to take the blue urn away. So every morning, I would put the urn in my backpack before I went to school.
One day, about three years after Daddy died, I came home and my room was taken all apart. My mattress was on its side and all my drawers were out. My curtain had been senselessly torn down. The white painted aluminum frame bent in half. My clothes were off of their hangers. She wasn’t home, and I knew she wouldn’t be tonight. It was Friday and there were men at bars to fuck. I sat in the ruin for a while. Things were broken, and I knew that it would never be completely back together again. A little woman can do a lot of damage when she has the strength she bought in a little baggy two trailers down.
And as I held the object she was looking for in my hands, trembling I saw more clearly an item which was still intact. A stuffed bear that Daddy and I had made at a stuffed animal work shop store in the mall. It was old. Its velour ears were matted down and no longer soft. The hunter green sweater was snagged on the sleeve and one of its black plastic eyes had a white smokey scuff mark over the cornea. I grabbed the tan corduroy toy and turned it over. There was a zipper on its underside that stuck at a few spots from years of grime matted into the teeth. It eventually came apart and I shook out the tiny Styrofoam ball stuffing. A glob of matted glitter confetti came out with it. Carefully, I unscrewed the top of the urn, and slipped the unzipped bear’s ass over the top of it. I turned it over and listened to the ashes rustle into the bear’s stomach. It sounded like wind sipping at a window sill. I zipped him up again. Under his baseball cap, I took a red marker and smeared it in a circular motion repeatedly on his left temple.
When mom got home the next day at around noon, I had my room mostly back together, and most of the trashed items in the dumpster on the side of the trailer. I put the empty urn on the kitchen table and she picked it up and carried it to her room. She couldn’t tell that it was empty. The urn was heavy steel and unless you had been intimately familiar with it, you wouldn’t know that it was void of its contents. And she could barely walk and was so high she probably wouldn’t have noticed if I had filled it with Kool-Aid.
She did notice eventually though. She came in to my room one night and pulled me out of my twin bed by my hair and put my head through the thin wood panel walls. My eye was bleeding when she pulled me up and again and slapped my face.
“Where is HE?” she spit stinking tobacco saliva at my face not on purpose, that’s just how she talked.
I didn’t answer
“You think he loved you?” she asked. “You think if really loved you he’d a put a bullet in his head? He knew I what I were. What did he leave you with a meth head like me for if he really loved you?”
So then, with one eye shutting out the warm blood, and the other slowly adjusting to the bright lights, I saw the blue urn in her left hand. And as it came closer I noticed the one of the doves, which I always thought was kissing the other, was actually biting it. Then as it collided with my jaw, everything went black. But, Daddy, inside the teddy like a ghost in a sheet saw it all. He saw as she took a needle and put it in my arm and emptied it. And then he just watched as she put her lit cigarette out on my back.
One night, when I was thirteen, she brought a fat man with a black eye patch home while I was watching Saturday Night Live in the living room. He was wearing a leather vest, and jeans that were too small to zip, so he left them unfastened. They were held up by a belt which was almost hidden under his hairy round belly. He had an untamed tumble weed beard and his ears were pierced.
They went into her room and I could hear them screaming and laughing. I didn’t know if they were tripping or fucking, but then later, after she had passed out, he came in my room. I pretended to be asleep, but I could hear him standing over my bead. He was breathing heavy and his throat was phlegmy. He coughed a little bit every time he exhaled. I could hear the entire process of his life happening inside of him. From his heartbeat, or maybe it was mine, to his stomach gurgling and strangling his food. Then he put it hand on my neck. He stroked it and then turned me over. He rubbed me on my breasts and then took my clothes off and folded them neatly on the floor. He was gentle, but uncompromising. He didn’t ask, he didn’t kiss me, but he was empathetic of the pain. When he was on top of me, and when I began to bleed he slowed down, and was softer. This validation of my humanity and the soundness of my feelings was the only such exchange I had ever experienced.
And I was in love with him. I put my arms around the brute and felt my body melt into him as I cried into his wiry chest hair which smelled like garlic. My senses were estranged from my logic. I was no longer being attacked, I pretended that I was being loved. A quiver ran up my spine and vibrated like the end of a rattlesnake’s tail between my cheeks. This was affection that I longed for, bought cheaply with my innocence, which I had previously assessed as soiled anyway. It was ecstasy to be touched, if only it was to be of use to someone else. In this catastrophic pleasure, I succumbed to the joy of being engaged in any intimate contact with another person.
Only when I moaned he became angry. He was offended that I should find any experience other than evil in his action. He was anger caused by confusion. He hit me hard in the jaw and then put his arms on my neck. He held it and pressed his hooven thumbs into my throat and I gagged, and coughed. Water oozed out of my eyes and my nose and merged together, caught in my ear lobe. Then, as my head began to pound I faded out of consciousness.
I awoke the next day and my clothes were on again. The covers were pulled to crisply to my chin. The sheets and blankets had been thoughtfully tucked in around me. I shifted my body and felt the sheets unadhere from me like papers which had once been wet being separated. I opened my eyes and felt the scab on my lips separate. I pressed my fingers to it and fresh blood what traced on them. I got up and went to the mirror above my dresser. My eyes were both swollen black. There were red and purple marks on my neck which were faintly similar to the chubby hands that had pressed into it. I lifted my shirt and found scratches on my ribs. In the mirror, behind me I saw Daddy in his bear suit. He sat at the foot of my bed, looking into the mirror.
I walked over to him, took him in my arms to my chest. Then, more easily than I expected because the glue which bonded them was old and weak, I removed his eyes.