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II: HER WORDS • Fiction


I know because it’s the same one dad uses as a screwdriver whenever the vent in my room comes loose. He kept it in the top drawer of the table on what used to be mom’s side of the bed. I think he’s talking again, but it


sounds far away. Behind a few closed doors, maybe. Or in the back yard. The window is closed and suddenly I’m acutely aware of it. The air starts to reek of disinfectant and mint gum. I tap my foot to make it go away. It only gets stronger. I drive my face into my knees and slam the flat of my palms over my ears. I can still smell it. I can still hear him. I force my eyelids as close together as they can go, trying to disappear. ________


“We’ve got everything under control, sir. He’s fine”


My father wears an oversized


leather jacket everywhere he goes. It has a pocket on the inside where he used to hide his cigarettes from mom. He quit smoking after she left. Pitch black eyes look down on me. The pillow under my head turns hot and rock hard. That same almost-white colors the ceiling. I close my eyes and pretend it isn’t there. When I open them, I see the doctor’s glasses on the table beside me, barely registering his slumped figure in the chair. He rests his head gingerly in the palm of his hand, eyes peaking through fingers. The clock on the wall behind him is an hour later than it should be. Dad pulls a dusty chair up to the


couch. We’ve been through this. I can’t remember when but this has happened before. Time and time again. He reaches for my hand. The tears don’t make sense to me.


________ “I love you.” I was five years old the first time


that I knew my dad was my dad. Before then, he was just a strange figure attached to mom, but one day she left. I sat on the couch as she walked out the door with a suitcase in her hand. He followed her out, yelling words I don’t remember with these same tears running down his cheeks. He came back inside after a while. The door stood open for days. Finally, my father closed it and approached me. I saw his face clearly for the first time as he sat me on his lap. Mommy was going on a trip. She didn’t know when she would come home, but she loved me. I tried to believe him. That was one long vacation mom


took. It wasn’t until I was ten that I noticed her signature on the birthday cards she sent me was the identical to the one on my dad’s. She stopped writing notes after that. My mother could never find me when I disappeared. I would wake up in my bed alone and make my way down to the couch. She was always fast asleep next to a bottle; dad slouched next to her looking tired. The mornings after I went away


were always the best. Dad decided he needed to overcompensate. I never remember where I go, but I can still smell the pancakes that lingered in the air every time I found my way back. I would walk down the stairs to the kitchen and plop myself on one of the terribly pink paisley chairs around our table. A heaping plate of pancakes and sausage would appear before me. It was as though nothing had happened. As though there were not two or three extra days crossed off the landscapes calendar that hung next to the stove. Sometimes there was a whole new picture up. I would always examine it closely; worried that this might be the only chance I have to look. _______


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