When I imagine the story to tell you, I taste a loveliness and a madness at once—a special potion allowing the smog of a colorless aroma, but if you’re weary, then perhaps I could liken the scent to not a an orange, but rather, it’s dried peel resting on a windowsill under a faded light. The shadow of a fullness—your father often thought of himself the same way.
Where do I begin then? Maybe with your mother—a cheeky woman I would find her to be at times. She would be the type to remind both you and me who first kissed who, which would hurt your father’s ego in a way he found adorable enough to be dismissable. She would be the kind to take you around the park before you had yet a voice of your own to argue back in trivial ways. Humming a tune, she would muse about a time in her life when she felt hopeless, as life had been drowning her in doubts about money, family, love, and happiness at the center of it all. She did not feel herself, or rather, she did not know what she had felt, if not the absence of feeling—and that had terrified her. She dreamed of living with no worry, but she understood that to be a childish dream, and the fear of losing a semblance of hope stole her solace of sleep. Laughing to herself awkwardly in public, she would say to you, knowing that you’ll never remember, that mommy had thought about killing herself quite a lot, but never did it because she could not bear the idea of inflicting pain to everyone she knew—a great amount, she never realized, until after a moment of contemplation.
And maybe mommy would rest at a park bench in nostalgia, before relaying to you how she met daddy: an irritating day, her university roommate had a guy over, which meant she would have to move elsewhere until a few hours had passed—the musk of their aftermath made her feel nauseated and gross. She had retreated to the dorm’s basement where there was a study section no one ever used, and not too far away from the laundry room echoed the melody of her favorite japanese song being hummed in an off-beat. And at that point, mommy might laugh again, when she tells you she found daddy dancing like a demon—and upon being discovered, had attempted to play it off with a confident bravado, beginning with the statement that he had been listening to his favorite song, and had gotten quite into it.
Fate? No, mommy would never allow herself to believe so. A grand coincidence she could only consider such to be, which made her recoil with manic giggles at the ridiculousness of both her sight and the situation, the novelty of an oddity to a day she knew to be a day because everything she expected to happen happened—except it didn’t, and the abnormality—half-naked and staring at her, was indeed real, and finding the feeling to be unfamiliar—a whimsical levity she had lost somewhere along the adult road, she allowed her instinct to take over—and instinct told her to merely face what life presented, instead of retreating away once again.
Then, mommy might take a deep breathe of fresh air—a reminder of who she was, and speak to not only you, but also herself, and say that if fate existed, then fate had told her it was in her hands alone, and that she was proud she had taken that baby-step—a baby-step into a world foreign as she had saw it to be—foolishly misunderstood. She would say ‘I love you, Derek,’ in a way she would never say in front of me, and she would bring you home, ‘another nice day at the park’ her response when I ask, and seeing me skeptical at the way she said it—as she always did, she would grin with boundless certainty, and descend into a nap with no issue at all.
Forgive your dad, then—as all dads should admit, for the sins he committed in his youth. For the only thing I will ever owe you is my honesty—perhaps a tad to ask, as your dad was never an honest man. I was a black feather drifting delirious, the remnant of a fallen angel drinking asunder somewhere—and I had often floated in that liquid amber the same. Unfortunate people would pick me up in curiosity at times. Sometimes the wind would blow me to bad places. Other times a rabbit would nip me by the base and carry me to her burrow. A feather doesn’t choose where he goes, and that makes him a feather—even when he tells himself relentlessly that he’s not. Excuses are easy for a feather—feathers carry a hollow spine. And when your mother found me for the first time, a timid hand—I was uncertain of the intention, as a feather always believes there to be so. A naive caress—yet it was not her naivety that reached my soul, but a pureness: a spilled coffee by the déjà vu of another sleepless night, an almost comic: alcohol? Oh god, I just pass out, a daring movement near my cheek, and a due reminder that I was not a feather, but just a boy; a childish boyish boy masquerading otherwise—the proof of boyhood, a blanket weaved from the loose strings of my sanity—your mother was that magic. A love flooding somehow a ravine; waves wrapping around a burnt ankle; always remember, my child—a wincing light brings a delight in doubt, and if fear persists, then let the gleam as well: the monstrous silhouette of the sundial will never follow forever.
Let me be a father then, and speak to you, as I can:
If so, my son, if at any point in your life you believe you’re evil—you aren’t wrong, never doubt yourself. All men are evil—this is our unavoidable fate. But imagine, yes—imagine, my son, that is your greatest power: a coin spinning, and perhaps you could watch it twirl a faux circle endlessly, and as a circle, you might believe in the permanence of its infallible force—don’t. A volatile finger or a slamming palm all the same: the coin stops spinning the moment you desire it so. A coin at rest is much easier to flip to your content—is it not? I cannot tell you which side to choose, all men will eventually make that decision, I can only prepare you, that is all I can truly do—or attempt, a different life you’ll live from me—such is the discord of time, after all. If my words fail you, then know that I tried, son—I tried.
If so, my daughter, never feel shame for seeking a freedom in an open meadow—what is freedom, if all the world’s a cage? But it can also be a stage—I’m paying the original it’s due; only the greatest to compare for you. My iridescent actress, what will you show to those that doubt your heart—your soul? I will be here for you, no matter what you may ever think of me, I will be here. Life will be hard, but maybe, I can hope, that there will be a time when you can walk the streets alone—fearless to any rat or raccoon, and as you kick them aside with a high heel, we’ll share a laugh about it, and perhaps hopefully, on your part, you’ll find that I no longer see you as a child, but a woman, and I, unable to ever do so, as I will always be your father, will watch from afar until I die—the promise I make to you, and will eternally hold, I will always hope.
If so, my child, who believes themselves to be both, either or, or neither, I will remain faithful to the world as it is; a non-fluid circle—and a life of difference yours will be, but none so to me if that brings you the happiness you seek. Don’t allow shame to mask the elegance of identity as identity means to you as it does to both grains and God—the sense of being, the reclamation of hope, and the capacity to love. You are not a vile human—no one is born vile.
To my child, when the time comes for conversation, it will be no conversation at all. The worries that plague your heart I may never solve, and the ache of that oblivion will bear a weight on me you won’t ever understand. When I try to help, I’ll make things worse. When I treat you as my child, as you always will be, I’ll make things worse. I will only make things worse—the tragic irony of a parent, to effect the contrary of our desire. A desire to see you happy—a simple love is true, all it can be.
When I think of my own parents, I can’t say I had been the best son. Nothing abnormal I suppose, as they weren’t the best of parents either; answers never met to a desperation for help shaded as a question. But no one is born ready to become a parent—the sentiment is antithetical, in a way, now that I think about it. I relay this story to you, these words—my words, a parent never too young to think too much about you—for when I’m finally rested beneath wilting roses, or scattered among whispers, white trees, or the sea; my fruit all gone—I will know that you have read this, and understood it, the proof of my feeling immortal, my love for you, and for life as I choose to see it—a journey endless until none, and you’re no longer a child, and my life finally complete.