I’ve got that tickle, like I need it. I’m breathless, like the air can only come again if I feed it. I’m restless, because even though the blood in these veins have never tasted cocaine, it came from a man who couldn’t stop it. I’m pacing, all he gave me was his genes like a hand-me-down without bothering to sew in patches. There are still stains in the form of his hands, as if he was all he could hold onto, and sometimes I lose reality, too. Splits in both of the knees from every time he wore them thin, unable to stand. Only I’m wearing them now, and the holes he left mean if I fall, I’ll hit skin. My throat is getting dry, too. Not from thirst, but with that insatiable need to feel the burn. I won’t pretend I don’t understand why he would have rather been numb. Numb… I wonder if that’s what it felt like when the drugs took root in his stomach that last time. I wonder if it was easy, if he was so far gone that he couldn’t feel his organs falter. I wonder if he was seeing so many meaningless colors… or if he was writhing, his useless limbs thrashing for a way to cry out as a last chance. I wonder if the pain in his dying muscles flared as he vomited onto himself, body giving anything to try and stop the inevitable. I wonder if he felt himself die. I wonder if he even knew when it ended, and if his pitiful life flashed in front of his uncomprehending eyes, accomplishments I could count on one hand, so much pain he was reminded why he chose to die. I wonder if he lost a final tear, or if in his last moments, he conjured up an image of me.
I thought I might be mad. A hushed voice in my head thought with terror that I might be relieved. I felt nothing. Numb. When they brought me his things to sort through, I counted the boxes: one, two, three… one, two, three… one, two, three… why aren’t there more?! Eight days. That’s how long it took someone to find him. Decide for yourself what kind of person can be missing but not missed for so long. I wonder if the person who found him read his letter. I wonder if they could finish it, or if my father’s bitter hatred of everyone and everything made their stomachs churn until it forced them to stop for fear of losing their lunch. 12 pages. That’s how long it took him to write out the last things he needed to say. I didn’t even read it because I couldn’t bear to give him the satisfaction of blaming me, and don’t think for one second he wouldn’t have wielded his closing words like a rusty weapon to cut into me. It might be the only way he could prove that he could still win.
I thought it was over. I thought so many insects and so many hot coals had taken away the only man I’ve ever truly hated. I didn’t go to his funeral, didn’t even know the man in the pictures, didn’t politely accept the condolences from so many onlookers who thought I should be hurting. I thought I’d never have to confront him, until one day I looked in the mirror and the eyes that looked back at me were so empty of emotion I was afraid to place them. I have his shoulders. I have his cheekbones. I have his eyebrows and his ears and a piece of him is in every wrinkle of my fingertips. And every time I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if this is all there is, I can feel in the back of my mind how easy it would be to just give in, because I guess I inherited his heavy heart, too. Every heart beat is a labor and every breath is an atrocity because I can never be clean of him! I thought I’d never have to face him again, but I find him in my own face every morning. He told me I could never be anything, but I had one thing in my favor all along, one hope for my future, one chance to prove him wrong. There’s one reason I will be better than he had ever been.
Because I had a father like him.